Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source2
Photograph of Walter Tull of the 1st Football Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment
(Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Libraries, Archives & Museum Service))
  • Walter Tull was from Folkestone in Kent. His father came to Britain from Barbados in 1876.
  • After leaving school, Tull trained as a printer, but he was also a talented footballer. In 1908, he signed for Tottenham Hotspur, becoming Britain's second black professional footballer. This photo shows him in Tottenham Hotspurs kit. In 1910, he transferred to Northampton Town and was on the verge of a move to Glasgow Rangers when war broke out.
  • Tull immediately volunteered and joined several other professional footballers in the 1st Football Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. The British Army had a policy of trying to recruit soldiers who had a common interest or who came from the same area. The army believed that this created a strong bond between the men and made them better soldiers. Most military historians think they were right.
  • Tull showed impressive leadership qualities and was promoted to sergeant. He fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, but was sent home with a bad case of fever later in the year.
  • After recovering, Tull was sent to officer school and was promoted to Lieutenant in May 1917, the first black officer in the British Army. He served in Italy and then came back to France in 1918. He gained a reputation as a popular, brave officer who was cool under fire.
  • He was killed on 25 March 1918 leading an attack against German trenches at Favreuil, despite the efforts of several of his men to bring him back from no man's land under heavy fire.
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