Walter Tull: Gone but not forgotten

As we remember the war dead 100 years after the First World War started in 1914, let’s spare a thought for Second Lieutenant Walter Daniel John. Tull was the first Black outfield player in Britain, which means he played outside goal, and the second Black professional footballer after Ghana-born Arthur Wharton.

Walter Tull (c) waltertull.orgh

Tull also enjoyed a six-year footballing career which included playing at Clapton and Northampton.

He also toured Argentina and Uruguay while playing for Spurs He gave up football to fight for his country during the First World War.

As a soldier, he also rose through the ranks to become the first Black infantry officer in the British army. His achievements came at a time when people of colour were not allowed to assume such positions due to military law.

Tull’s bravery and skill was such that he was even recommended to receive the Military Cross for heroism on the Western Front in the First World War.

But his military and footballing achievements remain largely unrecognised. Because of the colour of his skin, Tull never received his military cross.

This is why the likes of former Spurs and Arsenal footballer Sol Campbell and ex-Spurs striker Garth Crooks are pushing for the British Prime Minister to recognise him posthumously.

An e-petition pushing the Ministry of Defence to recognise his achievements closed on 6 November 2013 after gathering 3,031 signatures. But four times as many have been collected through Operation Black Vote and Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) via campaigns platform Change.org.

Months before the war ended in 1918, Tull was killed in battle at the tender age of 29.  He had fought in the notorious Battle of Somme, in France.

This battle is widely believed to be one of the bloodiest battles in human history with over a million soldiers from all sides killed or wounded, according to historical website First World War.

Tull was the product of a union between an English woman and a Barbadian man. Tull’s grandmother had been a slave in Barbados. Following the death of his parents when he was young, he and his brother Edward were put in an East End orphanage. His brother, who was later adopted, went on to become on of the first Black dentists.

Check out a picture of them both here and learn more about the Tull descendants here. For more about Tull, click the Walter Tull Association (WTA).

By Kirsty Osei-Bempong

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