Within the Clapton FC Archive, held at Bishopsgate Institute, is the story of forgotten British hero, Walter Tull. Discovering a love for football at an early age, Walter went on to become a professional footballer and was recognised as the first black officer to lead white British soldiers into battle.
Walter Tull (1888-1918) was a professional footballer and WWI soldier. Beginning his football career at Clapton FC at the age of 20, he was soon spotted and signed by professional club Tottenham Hotspur. Here he became the first black British Outplaying professional football player. Having faced much discrimination at Tottenham, Tull moved to Northampton Town where he played 110 games for the first team.
When war broke out in 1914, Tull responded to recruitment posters and signed up, joining the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. Despite resistance by the Ministry of Defence at the time, Tull rose through the ranks. Throughout his military career, he was recognised for his bravery and courage and as a result was recommended to receive the British Military Cross.
On 25th March 1918, during the Second Battle of the Somme, 2nd Lieutenant Walter Daniel John Tull was shot and killed while crossing ‘no man’s land’. He was 29 years old.
Walter Tull’s incredible story is highlighted at Bishopsgate Institute through the archive of Clapton Football Club, where he is still remembered as a hero and pioneer in both the football world and beyond. He has inspired TV documentaries and dramas, publications, projects, and zines, all of which have helped to ensure that his remarkable story is not forgotten. Much of the material inspired by his legacy can be viewed as part of the Clapton FC Archive.