Walter Tull was only the second black man to play professional football in England and the first who was an outfield player to play in the Football League.
His father Daniel was a carpenter and had come to England from Barbados, where he settled in Folkestone and married a local woman. The grandson of a slave, Walter was orphaned at the age of nine, being put into a Methodist orphanage in Bethnal Green, East London with his brother Edward. While Edward was adopted soon after the move, Walter remained in the children's home and was required to attend school in the morning and in the afternoon, clean shoes and wash floors.
Walter began his career at nearby Clapton Football Club and was signed after good displays in the successful East London side by Tottenham in 1908. Tull cost Spurs £10, but was on top pay for the time of £4 a week. At the time he was only the second black player to grace the First Division and the first outfield player. With few black people in the country, Walter faced abuse from opposition crowds just because of his colour and this was especially true in areas outside of London. In an away game against Bristol City, he received racist abuse from the home crowd and was disturbed by the treatment he received.
However, Tull was soon left out of the Tottenham team and did not regain his place in the first XI. He stayed at Spurs for two years, making ten appearances at centre forward, before transferring to Northampton Town in 1911.
At the onset of the First World War, Tull volunteered for duty in the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment in 1914. He was promoted quickly to the rank of sergeant, being posted to the Front and in 1916, he suffered severe shell shock. However, his bravery in his duty at the Somme brought commendation from his senior officers and despite the rules of the military services at the time "forbidding any negro or person of colour" from being given a commissioned rank which he achieved in 1917. Having got through the first offensive on the Somme and led his men at Piave in Italy on the Italian Alpine Front, Walter was commended for his "gallantry and coolness" under fire, earning a commendation for a Military Cross and was revered by the men under his command.
He was killed, with a shot to the head, after leading an attack on enemy trenches at Favreuil on the Western Front in on 25th March 1918 at the age of 29. Like so many of those who died in the Great War, his body was never recovered, but his name adorns the war memorial for those lost in battle at Arras in France. At the time of his death, Walter had achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant.
However, his colour still played a part in his story, as it prevented him being awarded a posthumous Military Cross.
In memory of his achievements on and off the field, a statue of Walter Tull stands outside the Sixfields stadium in Northampton.