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In part one of a week long tribute to Walter Tull, Kelvin Thomas and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink visit Beaumont Hamel

19 March 2018

Sunday March 25th is the 100th anniversary of the death of former Northampton Town player Walter Tull, who was killed on the battlefield in France.

Recently, Chairman Kelvin Thomas and manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink joined war historian Jon Cooksey, BBC Radio Northampton's Graham McKechnie and the BBC TV Football Focus team in heading out to Northern France to visit the field where Tull was killed and various other sites as the club paid tribute to Tull and his colleagues.

Coming up on Saturday March 24th, Northampton Borough Council are holding a Centenary Memorial Service at the Guildhall with a 1pm start. On Sunday March 25th, a Walter Tull Commemorative Service will be held at All Saints Church in Northampton at 5pm, lasting for just under an hour. All Northampton Town supporters are invited to attend Sunday's service wearing club colours.

The focus of the club’s own commemorations will be the Charlton Athletic game on Good Friday. At 2pm at the Walter Tull Memorial, chaplain Haydon Spenceley will conduct a short service while the big screen will play a pre-match tribute to Walter at around 2.50pm. There will also be a special edition of the match programme on Good Friday. We will also mark the occasion with a period of silence in memory of Walter just before kick off.

Before then, all this week, here on and across our social media channels, we will be producing some very special content as we pay tribute to Walter, his legacy and his memory......

If you haven’t been to the Somme region, it is hard to imagine. This is an area of Northern France dominated by green fields and quaint villages, but also, poignantly, cemeteries, lots of them. Cemetery after cemetery contains hundreds if not thousands of gravestones, all immaculately kept and many of them remembering young men, most of them in their early twenties.

To put the events of March 1918 into context, this was the start of a major German push called the Spring Offensive. They were pushing hard to smash through the Allies resistance, knowing the America were on the verge of joining the battle and with their overwhelming resources being almost impossible to overcome, this was Germany’s last chance of victory. This led to a series of bloody battles in this region at this time 100 years ago.

The first stop on our trip was Beaumont Hamel, a preserved battlefield which is a few miles from where Tull was killed. There we visited the Newfoundland Memorial Park, which is one of the largest areas on the Western Front where shell-holes and the trenches of both sides can still be clearly seen and even entered and walked along. Kelvin and Jimmy were taken through the trenches and they were very different to how we'd imagined. They were deep, and zig-zagged and as the excellent Jon Cooksey explained, the zig-zag helped break the force of any enemy fire that may have dropped into the trenches. A straight trench would have seen the explosion travel much further and kill many more men. Behind each front line trench was a network of supply trenches that allowed troops and equipment to be transported to the front line.

This helped give Kelvin and Jimmy a real understanding of what conditions were like for Tull and his colleagues.

Later in the week we will cover our visits to the field where Tull lost his life and the Arras Memorial where both Kelvin and Jimmy laid a wreath for Tull on behalf of the club.

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