Who was Walter Tull and what did he do in the war?

Walter Tull was both a professional footballer player and a soldier during World War One.

Walter had to give up his career as a footballer to help out in the war, but he then became recognised as the first black officer to lead white British soldiers into battle.

Watch this animation for a short summary of Walter Tull's life and career.

Childhood

Walter Tull was born in Folkestone, Kent on the 28 April 1888.

Walter came from a mixed-race family. His mother, Alice, was a Folkestone local. His father, Daniel, moved from Barbados to England. He married twice and had six children.

After Daniel's death in 1897, Walter's stepmother had to move Walter and his brother Edward to an orphanage in East London.

The city was busy and noisy. It was very different to the farms and countryside Walter was used to.

Walter Tull as a child pictured with his family

Walter the footballer

Walter Tull's orphanage football team

Walter discovered a love for football at an early age

While at the orphanage Walter played a range of sports, including football and cricket. He is pictured here with the orphanage football team.

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Walter goes to war

Walter had a successful career during the war.

He was quickly promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the Football Battalion.

In 1916 Walter moved back to England and began training as an Officer.

At this time, only a white, British-born person could be trained to be an Officer.

Walter became an exception to these rules and was allowed to continue his training.

Photograph of Walter Tull at a football ground in the early 1900s

What happened to Walter?

In May 1917 Walter was ‘commissioned’ to the rank of Officer.

Walter was highly praised for his role in battle, notably for leading soldiers over a river in Italy.

On the 25 March 1918, Walter led an attack on German trenches.

They had to cross 'No Man's Land', which was open ground and under fire from German machine-guns.

Walter was hit and killed. His body was never found.

German soldiers in No Man's Land
This image shows German soldiers preparing and loading their weapons in No Man's Land.

How do we remember Walter?

Walter Tull's name is inscribed on the Arras Memorial

Walter's name is on the Arras Memorial

The Arras Memorial in France commemorates around 35,000 servicemen who lost their lives between the spring of 1916 and the 7 August 1918, who had no known graves.

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Walter Tull quiz

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Where next?

How were soldiers recruited in World War One?
What did men do on the front line in World War One?
Who was Jack Cornwell and what did he do in the war?
World War One