Walter Tull

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…..

12 thoughts on “Walter Tull”

  1. First off: if he died at 29 in WW2, he would have had to be on the Somme at about 7 at the oldest.

    Even my Grandpa wasn’t on the Somme that young. Is the 29 correct?

  2. As you say, it depends what you mean by ‘black’.

    At the time that intermarriage in India was at its greatest (mid-18th century), the number of King’s troops stationed there was pretty small. The main army was that of the East India Company’s, which wasn’t fully merged into the regular army until 1857, when the Crown took direct control.

    There was also a policy of separate ranks for Indian officers, with a Subedar classed as an officer, but one that could only command other Indian troops. After 1866, the higher rank of Subedar-Major was created, but still again, the debate hings on definitions.

    I shall investiagte the children of the nabobs though.

  3. jus'askin(french edition)

    You really shouldn’t question the narrative in cases like this, Tim. It’s the truthyness of the story that counts…….

  4. Walter Tull’s club Northampton Town (who he joined after playing for Spurs) will have their Annual Remembrance Service on Friday 7th November 2008 at their stadum’s memorial to Walter Tull.

    “Northampton Town Football Club will be holding a short poppy wreath laying service at the Walter Tull Memorial at 3.30pm on Friday, shortly before the Sixfields Travel and Trust Travel coaches depart Sixfields for the FA Cup tie at Leeds United.

    Chairman David Cardoza will be laying a wreath on the club’s behalf.

    In previous years, the club have staged this service ahead of a home game, but the current season’s fixture list has not made this possible.

    It is hoped this service will revert to a pre-home match service – fixtures permitting – next season.

    Any supporter who is free and who wishes to attend is more than welcome.

    Gareth Willsher
    Head of Media
    Northampton Town Football Club
    http://www.ntfc.co.uk

  5. I just hope that tomorrow 11/11/08 @ 11.00hrs we all remember Walter and the millions of other brave young men and women (of all races and creeds), who gave their tomorrows, so we could enjoy our today’s….

    ….I know what I will be doing at 11.00 – 11.02 tomorrow.

  6. Hi there

    Like most of us in the country I didn’t know anything about this person until last night a case of a good cover up in those years .
    Like so many from that war forgotten .
    I think we all need to get Walter Tull’s medal presented to his nearest famliy members .
    And stay on a similar point we need to ensure we give the right for the brave Gurkha Soliders to remain in the UK . We should press the government on this point as well .

    Yours
    David

  7. my grandfathers name was Henry George Winch , he served in the middlesex regiment 1916-1918 , i wonder if he knew walter Tull
    does anyone know any of the soldiers names in his battallion?

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