Walter Tull was born in Folkestone in 1888, His father, Daniel Tull, came to England from Barbados in 1876. Daniel’s father was enslaved on a sugar plantation. Walter’s mother, Elizabeth, died when he was seven; he was brought up in a children’s home. His brother, Edward, was adopted by a family in Glasgow. Walter played for Clapton FC until he joined Tottenham Hotspur in 1909.
Fame and Prejudice
Walter Tull made a good first impression at Tottenham, seen as a star of the future. But he suffered from racist behaviour by fans of opposing teams. In a match against Bristol City, Walter was described as “the best forward on the field”, but there were newspaper headlines about “Football and Colour Prejudice”. Tottenham dropped Tull from the team and he moved to Northampton Town. When war broke out in 1914, Walter was one of the first footballers to volunteer for the British Army.
Walter Tull served in the “Footballers Battalion” of the Middlesex Regiment, and fought in the Battle of the Somme. In 1917 he was made lieutenant, the first mixed-heritage commissioned officer in a British Army regiment. He hoped to re-start his football career once the war was over and signed a contract with Glasgow Rangers; but he was killed in action in March 1918. At Sixfield Stadium, home of Northampton Town FC, there is a memorial in honour of Walter Tull.
Walter Tull was the third player of mixed heritage to play top/level football in England, after Arthur Wharton and Billy Clarke. He was also an officer in the British army during the First World War.
Educators could look at the life story of Walter Tull and work with young people to consider these questions:
- What does the story of a boy from Folkestone whose grandfather was enslaved in Barbados tell us about colonial migration?
- How has the story of Walter Tull been used for remembrance in the 21st century?
Find out more
Find out more about Walter Full on the special World War One Centenary project website: Football and the First World War. Also you can see how this story has been further reported on by Nick Blackman on The Guardian. Educators may wish to use the resources developed by The National Archive or explore the wealth of resources gathered by Phil Vasili. Northampton Town Football Club opened a memorial to Walter Tull at Sixfields Stadium in 1999.
LIFE STORIES To discover now
Do you wanna know more?
HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS
Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.
Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.
Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.
In the wake of the 2015 migration peak, activists and volunteers across Europe have been involved in supporting refugees, sometimes with the simple act of offering space and friendship to participate in football through grassroots clubs to help newcomers integrate.
Fergus Sutter was one of the first (semi)professional footballers, playing against aristocratic players. A story of origins.
LATEST POST You may also be interested in
Although there have only been ten female referees in the top leagues of men’s football in Europe over the last 30 years, seven of them are currently active.
Where are the women’s football quartet cards?
Teaching students about the causes of football hooliganism through the analysis of case studies and development of potential solutions.
What moments in football history have we highlighted in the last month? How do they provide us with historical mirrors to the present?
On this day in 1981 a game that never happened took place. Or: How can counterfactual history help us shift perspectives?