Just in

A worthy man remembered – then and now

Sometimes life and historical research combine to throw up seemingly puzzling or even random media attention and/or ‘issues of the moment’. Take the current splash of publicity surrounding the remarkable tale of the splendid Walter Tull – the black or, to be specific, half-black – footballer who became a British army officer in the First World War.

See here for a representative report upon his life – BBC SPORT

This year is the occasion of the centenary of his death, killed in action on the Somme. There is currently a campaign, supported by a number of MPs, to get Tull awarded a posthumous Military Cross and Phil Vasili (who has written his biography) has been doing a hectic round of commendable radio and television interviews expanding upon his life and times.

Despite its awful ‘war to end all wars’ WW1 context the heart-warming ‘good feel’ story of Tull’s rise from poverty and deprivation to sporting and then relative military prominence is undoubtedly worth telling and – in the modern ‘diversity’ of the 21st Century – a positive example of which the nation can be proud.

My only comment today is the impression being given that Walter Tull has suddenly and recently been rescued from obscurity. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been interested in – and indeed hobby-researching – the First World War for over forty years and, because of my love of sport, Tull’s was one of the first ‘individual soldier’ stories that I ever came across and/or looked into.

Here’s a link to the home page of one of the most fascinating websites that I’ve ever come across. I said that not only because it is an inexhaustible source of information about its subject but because of its admirable ability to keep every adherent who ever goes to it – be they high and mighty, a veteran expert or a nervous first-time visitor – humble and respectful. Not least because we are constantly reminded by it that the more we learn, the still more there is to know.



About Henry Elkins

A keen researcher of family ancestors, Henry will be reporting on the centenary of World War One. More Posts