I went home, hit Google and suddenly realised that I did know a little about Tull after all. I had seen a brief segment of Ian Hislop\’s Channel 4 documentary Not Forgotten, which featured Tull in his capacity as one of the first black professional footballers in Britain. However, when I discovered that Tull had also been the first commissioned black officer in the British army, that he\’d fought in the first battle of the Somme and died at the tender age of 29 in the second, my hunger to write his story grew.
You know, I\’m really not sure that this rings true. Professional footballer, joined up as a private, made sergeant, commissioned, yes, got that.
But first black commissioned officer in the British Army? I suppose it rather depends upon what we mean by British Army and Black. For example, the early years in India were marked by a great deal of inter-marriage and I\’d be astonished if one of the sons of the early nabobs didn\’t end up as an officer. But would we consider such to be black? In today\’s parlance, perhaps….although I\’m not sure about whether we might consider some of those regiments to be "British Army".
Skinner\’s Horse for example, the man who founded that was, to use an old phrase, a half caste wasn\’t he?
Anyone actually know more about this though? I can imagine that Tull was the first in WWI, possibly the first since the late Victorian period, but I really would be rather surprised if he was the first overall. There\’s a few centuries of British Army before that…..