One hundred years after his death, the achievements of Walter Tull, the first man of black heritage to become an officer and lead men into battle in the British Army and one of this country’s first black professional footballers will be commemorated through a series of community engagement projects, backed by the governing bodies of football in England.
Born in Kent to a Barbadian father and local British mother, Tull was orphaned at the age of eight and spent his formative years in east London children’s home. After making his mark as a talented local football player, he went on to become one of Britain’s first professional players from a black heritage, playing first for Clapton F.C before being signed by Tottenham Hotspur and later transferring to Northampton Town in the then Southern League.
Abandoning his career and enlisting in the ‘Football Battalion’, Walter Tull rose through the army ranks to become an officer despite the explicit restrictions to promotion at the time. After serving on the Western Front, then in Italy, Walter Tull was killed in action at the second battle of the Somme in March 1918.
Northampton Town and the EFL will work closely with the Tull100 project supporting its nationwide network of clubs and community trusts to take an active role in ensuring there are “No Barriers” to inclusion and diversity in modern-day football. In addition the Cobblers will be taking a leading role in local commemorations.
EFL Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey said: “Walter Tull was an extraordinary individual and his story is deeply rooted in the heritage of the EFL through his career at Northampton Town, with the Walter Tull memorial proudly positioned at Sixfields stadium.
“It is important that his life continues to be recognised and the EFL is therefore proud to commemorate his achievements at this landmark time, coming one hundred years after he lost his life during the second battle of the Somme.”
Northampton Town chairman Kelvin Thomas went on to say: “Here at Northampton Town we are very proud of our rich history and heritage, which of course includes Walter Tull making more than 100 appearances for the club.
“He was an extraordinary man, not just on the football field but for his work breaking down barriers that continues in his memory to this day. The memorial to Walter stands proudly outside Sixfields and is the focal point for our annual service of remembrance each November.
“We are working with Northampton Borough Council to take part in a number of events in and around Northampton in March to mark the centenary of Walter’s passing in the second battle of the Somme.
“Those achievements have created a wonderful legacy and here at Northampton Town we are very proud that Walter was a ‘Cobbler.’”
The Tull100 project launches on the centenary of his death, 25 March 2018, and will work through football clubs, youth groups, schools and community networks across the country to undertake innovative projects. Small-scale funding will be available to support activity.