Call for posthumous Military Cross for former Cobblers player from Rushden

Walter Tull lived in Rushden and played for Cobblers
Walter Tull lived in Rushden and played for Cobblers

More than 120 MPs are calling for a posthumous Military Cross to be awarded to Walter Tull – the first black officer in the British Army and one of the first black professional footballers.

Tull was one of the first black professional footballers who played for Tottenham Hotspurs before being transfered to Northampton Town in 1911 where he made 110 appearances before his career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War One.

The Walter Tull memorial at Sixfields in Northampton

The Walter Tull memorial at Sixfields in Northampton

During his time at Cobblers, he was befriended by fellow professional and Rushden man Eric Thompson who brought him to Rushden where he lodged in Queen Street.

Ahead of the 100th anniversary of Tull’s death on Sunday (March 25), David Lammy MP is leading a cross-party coalition of 126 MPs calling for Tull to be posthumously awarded the Military Cross.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, they are urging the PM to ‘right the wrong’ that denied Tull the Military Cross he was recommended for.

In May 1917, Tull became the first black commissioned officer in the British Army and the first black officer to lead troops into battle, despite military regulations at the time forbidding non-white soldiers becoming officers – a status reserved for servicemen of ‘pure European’ descent.

The Royal Mint's �5 commemorative coin for Walter Tull, ex-Northampton footballer who lived in Rushden and who was killed in action

The Royal Mint's �5 commemorative coin for Walter Tull, ex-Northampton footballer who lived in Rushden and who was killed in action

Tull fought in six battles, including the Battle of the Somme and at Ypres, and was mentioned in dispatches for leading his company of 26 men on a raiding party into enemy territory in Italy.

He was recommended for a Military Cross but this honour was never awarded to him due to his contradictory status as an officer in an Army that did not officially permit black soldiers to serve as officers.

He was killed in action during the Spring Offensive and his body was never recovered.

Tottenham MP David Lammy, in whose constituency lies Tull’s former club, is leading the calls for the posthumous award.

Mr Lammy, chairman of the Race All Party Parliamentary Group and leader of the campaign for Walter Tull to be posthumously awarded a Military Cross, said: “Walter Tull is a true British hero and he embodies everything that makes me so proud to be British.

“I think that everybody in our country should know Walter’s story and the 100th anniversary of his death is the perfect opportunity to right this wrong, recognise his achievements and celebrate his life.

“His strength and courage in overcoming such bitter prejudice and racism to become a pioneer and a trailblazer in sport and in our armed services serves as an inspiration to us all.

“Walter defied the discrimination that plagued all aspects of society during his lifetime and served our country with distinction.

“As we reflect on our history and recognise how far we have come, it is important to remember and celebrate those who have broken down barriers and led by example.”

Nia Griffith MP, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, said: “Walter Tull served this nation with courage and distinction, showing exceptional bravery during the First World War.

“It is high time to recognise his exceptional service and to award him the Military Cross.”

To read more about Walter Tull, click here