Tull100 — Football Remembers
One hundred years after his death, the achievements of Walter Tull, the first man of black heritage to become an officer in the regular British Army and lead his men in battle, will be commemorated through an engagement project celebrating inclusive community action today.
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Walter Tull’s life was extraordinary, and there have been many calls over the years to acknowledge his unique story. Born in Kent to a Barbadian father and local British mother, Tull spent his formative years in an east London children’s home. He went on to become one of Britain’s first black professional footballers and a First World War hero rising through the ranks to become an officer despite the explicit restrictions to promotion at the time. He was killed in action at the second battle of the Somme in March 1918.
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About Walter Tull
Walter Tull was born in Folkestone in 1888 to a local woman and a Barbadian carpenter. He was just nine years old when he was orphaned and placed in a Bethnal Green children’s home. A great success story, Tull thrived in the world of football playing for Clapton FC and then in 1909 signing to Tottenham Hotspur. He was making history.
By 1911 Tull had moved on to play for Northampton and when war broke out he enlisted in the Football Battalion in the autumn of 1914. He made history again in May 1917 when he was commissioned as an officer in the regular British Army, in direct contravention of the Manual of Military Law which stated officers must be of ‘pure European descent’. He was the first person of black heritage to become an officer in the regular British Army.
On 25 March 1918, Walter Tull was killed in action. His body was not recovered from the battlefield. He is commemorated on the Arras memorial.
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Castle Museum (Haringey Archive and Museum Service).
No Barriers medal challenge
In recognition of Tull’s unprecedented achievement in becoming an officer despite the explicit barrier to his promotion at the time, the Tull100 project will award medals to those who make their communities more inclusive. The project has ‘No Barriers’ as its central message, and will work to counter discrimination by promoting equality and inclusion, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or age. Commemorative medals will be awarded to those who stand up to make their communities more inclusive. The No Barriers medal challenge launched on 26 March 2018, the day after the centenary of his death, and will activate through football teams, youth groups, schools and community networks across the country to undertake innovative projects.
Activities are suitable for football teams, primary and secondary schools, youth groups, the voluntary sector – everyone is welcome to join the project and to earn a Tull100 No Barriers Medal for their work. Visit our take part page to find out more.
Watch our video launching the No Barriers medal challenge with England football players Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose, as well as members of the FA Youth Council:
Tull100 – Football Remembers is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Big Ideas have a National Lottery grant from the Big Lottery Fund to make the project UK-wide. Tull100 – Football Remembers is part of Remember Together, which brings diverse communities together to commemorate shared – and often sidelined – heritage, bringing significant marginalised heritage into the mainstream.