Walter Tull

Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 1, Key stage 2

Time period: Early 20th Century 1901-1918

Curriculum topics: Diverse histories, Significant individuals, The First World War

Suggested inquiry questions: Why do you think Walter Tull is considered an important figure in history? Why are photographs and documents useful sources for historians to find out about individuals?

Potential activities: Write you own biography of Walter’s Tull life using the sources and further background research. Or, working in pairs, pupils interview Walter Tull about his life, taking it in turns to play both roles. Use the sources and time line for support.

How can we use sources to find out about him?

Walter Tull was born on 28 April 1888 in Folkstone, Kent. His father was from Barbados and his mother from Kent. His parents died when he was aged 9 years old. Walter and his brother were brought up in an orphanage in Bethnal Green, East London. From 1908 he started to play football and was signed by Clapham FC, then the following year by Tottenham Hotspur F.C. He was the second person of African-Caribbean mixed heritage to play in the top division of the Football League. He later moved to Northampton Town F.C. in 1911 where he played half-back.

At the start of the First World War Tull joined the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment as a Lance-Corporal. In 1915 he served in France and was later placed in hospital for shell shock. In 1916, he returned to action in September and fought in the Battle of the Somme, afterwards attending officer training in Britain then going back to serve in the 23rd Battalion of the Middlesex regiment as a second lieutenant.

Despite army rules which forbade a ‘person of colour’ being commissioned as an officer (a leader of men), Walter was promoted to lieutenant after officer training school at Gailes, Scotland. In 1917. Tull is widely considered the first African-Caribbean mixed heritage man to be commissioned as an infantry officer in the British Army.

Walter Tull died aged 29 in 1918 while leading an attack on the Western front during the Second Battle of the Somme in March. The Commanding Officer of the 23rd Battalion recommended him for a Military Cross for bravery.

The two original sources in this lesson can used to find out more about the life of Walter Tull.


Tasks

Look Source 1

Football team picture Tottenham Hotspur F.C. 1909, (Catalogue ref: COPY 1/538 f18)

  1. How can you tell this is a football team?
  2. Where was this photograph taken?
  3. Can you spot Walter Tull?
  4. What team did he play for?

Look at Source 2

Walter Tull (1888-1918) was of dual heritage, his mother was white British and his father was African-Caribbean. Tull was commissioned* as an officer in 1917 at a time when the army required officers to be of ‘pure European descent.’ This was an important challenge to a racist policy. For his army service he was recommended a Military Cross. This is his application for a temporary commission form, 1917, (Catalogue ref: WO 339/90293)

*A commissioned officer commands a military unit.

  1. What was Walter Tull’s full name?
  2. When was his birthday?
  3. Was Walter Tull married?
  4. Did he have siblings? Can you find out?
  5. Was he able to ride?
  6. What age was he when his parents died?
  7. Did he have any other job apart from being a sergeant? Can you find out?
  8. Did Walter eventually become an officer? Can you find out?
  9. How old was he when he died? Can you find out?
  10. Use this document to explain why he was important in history.
  11. How do you think he felt being the first African-Caribbean man to change history in this way?

Teachers' notes

This lesson has be created by year 5 pupils from Crane Park School Primary School, Feltham who spent time with The National Archives education web team as part of our ‘Kids in Museums’ day at The National Archives in November 2019. The pupils worked in a range of departments from learning how the National Archives keep documents safe for future generations to taking over the archives’ Twitter and Instagram accounts. The theme of the day was ‘Why do archives matter?’

In the Education Department, some of the pupils ‘became’ content developers tasked with creating their own online lesson on Walter Tull using an original photograph and document. All of the questions based on the sources provided in this lesson have been suggested by the pupils.

The work produced by students during our Kids in Museums takeover

The lesson shows how original sources can be used to by primary school pupils to develop their own enquiries. Pupils could work in pairs or small groups to study each source and report back to the whole class to discuss the answers to the questions. Alternatively, they can work through the questions independently.


External links

Tull100 – Football Remembers – information and resources about Tull, inspiring inclusivity in society today. https://www.big-ideas.org/project/tull100/

WalterTull.org – https://waltertull.org/

BBC Sport article – https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/43504448

BBC Bitesize (KS2) – https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/zqhyb9q/articles/zbgxbdm

Connections to the Curriculum

National Curriculum themes:

  • the lives of significant individuals
  • events beyond living memory
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Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 1, Key stage 2

Time period: Early 20th Century 1901-1918

Curriculum topics: Diverse histories, Significant individuals, The First World War

Suggested inquiry questions: Why do you think Walter Tull is considered an important figure in history? Why are photographs and documents useful sources for historians to find out about individuals?

Potential activities: Write you own biography of Walter’s Tull life using the sources and further background research. Or, working in pairs, pupils interview Walter Tull about his life, taking it in turns to play both roles. Use the sources and time line for support.

Related resources

Significant People

Who is who?

Letters from the First World War, part one

How did these men experience the conflict? (1915)

Letters from the First World War, part two

How did these men experience the conflict? (1916 - 18)

Significant Events

What happened then?

Significant Places

What's in a place?