ENTERTAINMENT

The mystery of the grave of one of Britain's first black officers, Walter Tull, may have been solved


Walter Tull's father Daniel came from Barbados, but emigrated to Great Britain in 1876 at the age of 20.

He found work as a carpenter and four years later married a local girl, Alice Palmer, before having Walter and his brother Edward.

His mother tragically died of cancer when Walter was just seven years old, and his father died of heart disease in 1897.

At the age of nine, Walter and his brother Edward were taken to the Bonner Road children's home in the East End of London.

Walter Tull overcame adversity at an early age – he was orphaned as a child and grew up in a children's home – in order to make a name for himself as a professional footballer and then to die a hero who led troops out in the First World War. Pictured left with other officers

Two years after entering the house, Walter and Edward were separated when Edward was adopted and moved to Glasgow.

Despite the adversity he faced early on, Walter impressed the Boy Scouts playing football for his children's home and in 1908 signed with Clapton, the best local amateur team.

The following year he signed as a professional for Tottenham and made his first team debut against Manchester United. During his short career, he endured racial abuse by the crowd during the Games.

He was transferred to Northampton Town in October 1911 and played over 100 first team games before the war began.

He joined the newly formed 17th (football) battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. Part of the Army's "Pals Battalion", which consisted of more than 120 professional footballers.

Walter signed as a professional with Tottenham (picture in white) and made his first team debut against Manchester United in the 1909-10 season

Walter signed as a professional with Tottenham (picture in white) and made his first team debut against Manchester United in the 1909-10 season

At the time there was a military rule that excluded "negroes" from exercising command because it was believed that white soldiers did not want to fight black soldiers.

But Walter bucked this trend and became a black combat officer in the British Army. He was promoted through the ranks and became second lieutenant on May 29, 1917.

He fought on the Somme, in Passchendaele and during the Italian campaign in the winter of 1917, where he was cited for "bravery and coolness" for bringing his 26-man company to safety during two night missions.

In November 1917, Walter's battalion was sent to northern Italy to help fight Austrian and German forces along the Piave River northwest of Treviso.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, Walter was commemorated on a postage stamp from the First World War for his contribution to the war effort

To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, Walter was commemorated on a postage stamp from the First World War for his contribution to the war effort

Walter volunteered there more than once to cross the river Piave under cover of darkness, on which elements of the German army were located.

These dangerous night-time operations involved both gathering evidence and carrying out an attack.

On both occasions, Walter not only returned unharmed, but he did so without suffering a single sacrifice among his men, which greatly impressed his commanding officer, Maj. General (later Sir) Sydney Lawford.

Mjr Gen Lawford mentioned him on postings and recommended him for the award of the Military Cross, which he never received.

His incredible story was also captured on a specially designed mailbox for Black History Month in September

His incredible story was also captured on a specially designed mailbox for Black History Month in September

Walter died a hero at the age of 30 when he led his men on March 25, 1918 in a counterattack against German defensive positions near the village of Favreuil in the Pas-de-Calais region.

His men tried to recover his body from the battlefield, but were unable to reach him due to the sheer enemy fire.

His body was never found. He is remembered at the Arras monument.

Years after the conflict, historians have revealed his significant contribution to the war effort, which has been recognized in various ways.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the war, Walter was remembered on a postage stamp from World War I, and the last month was recorded on a specially designed mailbox for Black History Month.

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