Stephen Bourne: Black Poppies

Many of us didn’t fully recognise the role black people played in WW1, author Steven Bourne attempts to change that.


Most of us have a basic understanding about World War One. For many though (including myself), that understanding may be limited to secondary school history classes.


If you have found it hard to discover what role black people played in the Great War, then there is the author just for you. I was lucky enough to bump into Stephen Bourne signing copies of his latest book Black Poppies at the Imperial War Museum.




Black Poppies serves as an accompaniment to some of Stephen’s other books. It looks at the contribution that black men and women made to the war effort both on the frontline and the home front. Stephen told me he wanted to write the book to counter the whitewashing of British history that had surrounded the First World War. He also told me of his first-hand testimony that he got from his adopted black aunt Esther Bruce, the focus of another of Stephen’s books The Sun Shone on Our Side of the Street: Aunt Esther’s Story. This family history helped inspire Stephen to document the true contribution that black people made to Britain, especially during the two world wars. He described this as “a gap in history, a gap that needed to be filled” so using first-hand accounts and original photographs he set about to ensure that the contribution black men and women made to the war effort would be permanently remembered.


Stephen Bourne originally trained as a journalist but graduated from the London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication) in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in film and television. His next book titled Fighting Proud is about gay men’s life and service in both world wars, it will be released in July 2017 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which decriminalized homosexual acts.




More information about Stephen’s books can be found at his website 

Elephant & Castle Wiki


The area of Elephant & Castle is located in the London Borough of Southwark. It lies within 5 separate wards; Chaucer, Newington, East Walworth, Cathedrals and a very small part of Faraday. The tube station of the same name is situated at the heart of Elephant & Castle in the Newington ward.



Elephant & Castle Underground Station


There are several landmarks, attractions and notable places in Elephant & Castle. Most notable among these is the Imperial War Museum. The area also includes two Universities; The London College of Communication and a large part of London Southbank University. The Cuming Museum and the Ministry of Sound also fall under its boundaries.


The area has struggled with deprivation over the years. The Borough of Southwark was ranked 41st out 326 Local authorities in England for deprivation (1 being the lowest). In the, Elephant and Castle in particular was noted as suffering very high levels of poverty. One of the wards that Elephant & Castle partially covers, East Walworth ranked in the 10% most deprived areas in the country with parts of Faraday and Newington ranking the top 20%.


Deprivation may be a major reason as to why the average house price in the Elephant & Castle postcodes (SE17, SE1 and SE11) are significantly lower than neighbouring areas and the Southwark average. According to a 2015 report, the average house price in Elephant & Castle was £383,000 significantly less the Southwark average of £742,000 and vastly less than Westminster’s average of £1,145,000.