Against All Odds
Walter Tull would have been a remarkable individual no matter when he had been born, but to achieve what he did, during the time that he did, makes him even more remarkable.He was an orphan at just six years of age, and despite not wanting to, his step mother, Clara, had no choice but to place him and his elder brother, Edward, in to a children’s home in the East End of London. As neither Walter or Edward had ever travelled outside of Folkestone before, the upheaval must have come as quite a shock. Two years after entering the home, Walter and Edward were split up when Edward was adopted and went to live in Glasgow.
Walter’s sporting prowess saw him play for top local amateur side, Clapton Football club, signing for them in 1908, but it was to be a short lived affair, as by the following year he had signed as a professional for the prestigious Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, making his first team debut against Manchester United.
In October 1911 Walter was transferred to Northampton Town Football Club, where he would go on to play over one hundred first team games, before the First World War brought a premature end to his career as a professional footballer. With the outbreak of war, Walter wasted no time enlisting in the British Army, initially as a Private in the newly formed 17th (Football) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. Further promotions followed and in no time at all he had reached the rank of Sergeant.
He was put forward for a commission and passed out as a 2nd Lieutenant on 29 May 1917. He went on to become the first black officer in the British Army, to lead white troops in to battle, and was fondly regarded by the men who served under him.
Walter was killed in action whilst leading his men in a counter attack against German defensive positions on Monday 25 March 1918. He died a hero. He was well liked and respected by all who knew him. Like many men of his generation his life was cut short for the greater good whilst in the service of his country, so that others might prevail.
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