Walter Tull


Walter Tull was born in Folkestone in 1888. By 1900, both his Barbadian father and his English mother were dead. Walter and his elder brother Edward were placed in a children's' home in Bethnal Green.

Spotted while playing for the children's' home team, he was invited to join Clapton, a top amateur team, in 1908. Helping them to victory in the FA Amateur Cup, the London Senior Cup and the London County Amateur Cup that same season, he was soon attracting the attention of other clubs. It was Tottenham Hotspur who moved in for him, trialling him in their 'A' and reserve teams throughout the season. Still an amateur, Walter Tull was invited to tour Argentina and Uruguay with Spurs, signing as a professional on his return. After only seven first team games, he was dropped. This may have been a consequence of the racial abuse he received playing at Bristol City. Rather than stand by Tull, the Spurs management consigned their young star to the reserves.

Wartime service

In 1911, Herbert Chapman signed him for Southern League Northampton Town where he stayed until, like many of his contemporaries, he joined the army in September 1914. Serving in the famous 'Footballers' Battalion' the 17th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, he reached the rank of Sergeant. Still able to play football when on leave, he guested for Fulham in 1915.

Recommended for a commission, Walter Tull became an officer cadet in 1917. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 23rd Battalion in the Middlesex Regiment, he was mentioned in dispatches early the following year. At a time of both an official and an unofficial bar on black officers taking charge of white men, his promotion was very surprising.

In 1917, Tull signed for Glasgow Rangers. Unfortunately, Walter Tull didn't live to make an appearance for the Ibrox side. He was killed in action during the German Spring Offensive of March 1918 whilst serving with the 23rd Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment.

Biography of Walter Tull

In late 2009, a biography of Walter Tull was published. 'Walter Tull, 1888-1918: Officer, Footballer' is written by Phil Vasili (author of 'The First Black Footballer: Arthur Wharton 1865-1930' and 'Colouring Over the White Line: The History of Black Footballers in Britain') and published by Raw Press. Copies of all these books are available in the Football Unites library.