Tag Archive | "Armed forces"

Facebook Petition for awarding Walter Tull a Posthumous Military Cross

Walter Tull


An MP has begun campaigning for the Military Cross to be awarded posthumously to a former Northampton Town footballer killed in World War I.

Walter Tull, the first black infantry officer in the British Army, was mentioned in dispatches for “gallantry and coolness” on the Italian Front.

He died in action in 1918, but because his family was from outside Britain, he was not entitled to a military award.

Northampton South MP Brian Binley said it was an injustice he was not praised.

The MP has tabled a Commons motion saying: “This House remembers Walter Tull for his contribution to British sport as a professional footballer for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town football clubs.

Spurs player

“It also notes that his commanding officer mentioned him in despatches for his ‘gallantry and coolness’ on the Italian Front and recommended him for a Military Cross.

“It regrets that he was not awarded the cross because, as a British citizen of non-European descent, he should not have been commissioned at all.”

The motion calls upon the government to right this “sizeable injustice by posthumously awarding him the Military Cross for his gallantry”.

Mr Tull had previously played for Tottenham Hotspur where he was the first black player in football’s top flight.

The footballer, who was born in Folkestone, Kent, in 1888, was the first black person to be made a British combat officer in 1917.

Walter Tull

Tull Family

Tull Family

Walter Tull was born in Folkestone on 28th April 1888. His father was a carpenter from Barbados who had moved to Folkestone and married a local woman. By the age of nine, Walter had lost both his parents, and when he was 10 he and his brother Edward were sent to a Methodist orphanage in Bethnal Green. His brother left the orphanage two years later, was adopted by a Scottish family and became a dentist. Meanwhile, Walter played for the orphanage football team, and in 1908, began playing for Clapton FC. Within a few months he had won winners’ medals in the FA Amateur Cup, London County Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup. In March 1909 the Football Star called him ‘the catch of the season’.

In 1909 he signed as a professional for Tottenham Hotspur, and experienced for the first time spectator racism when Spurs travelled to play Bristol City. According to one observer, ‘a section of the spectators made a cowardly attack on him in language lower than Billingsgate.’ The correspondent continued:

“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 whether they be amateur or professional. In point of ability, if not actual achievement, Tull was the best forward on the field”

In October 1911 Tull moved to Northampton Town where he played half-back and scored nine goals in 110 senior appearances. When the First World War broke out, be became the first Northampton player to sign up to join the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, and in November 1915 his battalion arrived in France.

The Army soon recognised Tull’s leadership qualities and he was quickly promoted to the rank of sergeant. In July 1916, Tull took part in the major Somme offensive. Tull survived this experience but in December 1916 he developed trench fever and was sent home to England to recover.

Tull had impressed his senior officers and recommended that he should be considered for further promotion. When he recovered from his illness, instead of being sent back to France, he went to the officer training school at Gailes in Scotland. Despite military regulations forbidding “any negro or person of colour” being an officer, Tull received his commission in May, 1917.

Lieutenant Walter Tull was sent to the Italian front. This was an historic occasion because Tull was the first ever black officer in the British Army. He led his men at the Battle of Piave and was mentioned in dispatches for his “gallantry and coolness” under fire.

Tull stayed in Italy until 1918 when he was transferred to France to take part in the attempt to break through the German lines on the Western Front. On 25th March, 1918, 2nd Lieutenant Tull was ordered to lead his men on an attack on the German trenches at Favreuil. Soon after entering No Mans Land, Tull was hit by a German bullet. Tull was such a popular officer that several of his men made valiant efforts under heavy fire from German machine-guns to bring him back to the British trenches. These efforts were in vain as Tull had died soon after being hit. He was awarded the British War and Victory Medal and recommended for a Military Cross.  Telegram He was the first British-born black army officer and the first black officer to lead white British troops into battle.

To Lend your support to the Facebook group campaigning for Walters Medal please click this link.


Military Cross For Walter Tull – Facebook Campaign

Posted in Black Britain, Black Soldiers, Black Sports StarsComments (3)

Soldiers 'tried to scrub black trooper white'

British Army

British Army

A black British soldier was subjected to brutal racism, including physical assaults in which his room-mates tried to scrub him “clean and white”, it was alleged last night.

The British Army said it has received allegations from Rifleman Clive Walker of the Royal Green Jackets that he suffered both racial abuse and assaults at the hands of some of his white colleagues.  A spokeswoman said some soldiers had been detained by Military Police but were later released pending further investigation, and that the Army’s Special Investigation Branch had launched an official investigation.

The spokeswoman would not confirm or deny newspaper reports that Rifleman Walker’s skin was scrubbed raw by the soldiers, his clothes were cut up, the contents of his locker were smashed and he was kicked out of his dormitory. Rifleman Walker is still serving with the Royal Green Jackets.

Last week the Ministry of Defence received a final warning to show real commitment to racial equality or face legal action. The Commission for Racial Equality said not enough progress had been made in overcoming discrimination in the Army since the M.o.D signed an agreement in March last year. The C.R.E gave the Army a year to put matters right. After such time, the C.R.E may then issue a non-discrimination notice requiring the MoD to take specific actions or be taken to court.

The C.R.E cited the report from the Office of Public Management, released in March.  the report gave more evidence of the “deeply entrenched problem of racism within the British Armed Services”. The commission was concerned that the M.o.D was aware of, and was in possession of that report since last September before it was released, and that it should have been implementing steps outlined within the plan,  which it had agreed with the CRE during that time.

Original article
The Independent
Matthew Brace
Thursday, 3 April 1997

Related Links

Army Halts Racial abuse Trial

Posted in Black Britain, Black History, Black People in Europe, Black SoldiersComments (3)