Post by bluetornados on Mar 27, 2018 13:18:37 GMT
He was one of English football's first black players and the British Army's first ever black officer to command white troops.
But 100 years after he died aged 29 on the battlefields of World War One, the name Walter Tull means little to most people.
Tull was an orphan who had to overcome adversity all of his life, including being racially abused while a pioneering forward for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town.
His death received little media attention at the time, and it is only in recent years that his powerful story has started to be fully recognised, in large part due to the work of historian and biographer Phil Vasili.
Second Lieutenant Walter Tull died while engaged in combat near Arras in Northern France. He was 29.
In the early hours of 21 March 1918, a fog hung over much of the British line on the Western Front in France.
At 4.40am, a German bombardment began. It was of a different order to any that had come before it.
It marked the start of what became known as the German Spring offensive - a last throw of the dice to turn the war in their favour and score a decisive breakthrough.
Over the next five hours more than 6,600 German guns fired 3.5 million explosive shells on British positions. The sound could be heard as far away as London.
Walter excelled at sport and went on to play for amateur team Clapton FC.
Spotted by Tottenham Hotspur, he was soon playing at White Hart Lane in front of crowds in the tens of thousands.
One of the first black players in the English game, he was subjected to terrible racial abuse. One newspaper report at the time described how, during a match at Bristol City in 1909, "a section of the crowd made a cowardly attack on him in language lower than Billingsgate".
The reporter wrote: "Let me tell those Bristol hooligans that Tull is so clean in mind and method as to be a model for all white men who play football. In point of ability, if not actual achievement, Tull was the best forward on the field."
His career at Spurs drifted following the racial abuse he suffered. Confined to the reserves, his fortunes were revived when Herbert Chapman signed him for Northampton Town in 1911 for a "substantial fee".
He went on to play 111 games for the club before the outbreak of World War One took his life down a radically different path.
It was here he was cited for his "gallantry and coolness" by Major-General Sydney Lawford, after leading 26 men on a night raid against an enemy position. He and his men crossed the cold River Piave into enemy territory before returning, all unharmed despite coming under heavy fire.
Major Poole, the commanding officer of the 23rd Middlesex Regiment, and 2nd Lt Pickard said Tull had been put forward for a Military Cross. Pickard wrote Tull "had certainly earned it".
His family are still waiting for that medal to be awarded but Tull's great nephew Ed Finlayson is keen that a renewed focus on Tull's life focuses on more than the issue of the Military Cross.
A range of projects are taking place across the country backed by the Football Association, the Premier League and the EFL.
Tull's death was therefore not the end of his impact on British society.
But he was not to know this in the chaos and confusion that followed the enormous German offensive of March 1918.
On 25 March, Tull was shot and fatally wounded.
It is reported Private Tom Billingham - a former goalkeeper for Leicester Fosse - attempted to drag Tull's body back to the British position so he could be buried. His efforts failed and Walter's body lay in the soil of northern France, like so many that fought and died in the Great War.
Tull's life is now commemorated at the Arras Memorial, meticulously maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves. His name is engraved along with 34,785 other soldiers with no known grave, who died in the area between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918.