Walter Tull should get Military Cross, says Tottenham MP David Lammy

By Richard ConwayBBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent
Walter Tull: The incredible story of a football pioneer and war hero

Walter Tull - one of England's first black professional footballers - should be awarded a Military Cross 100 years after his death, says Tottenham MP David Lammy.

Tull, who played for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town, died aged 29 when he was shot on the battlefields of France during World War One.

He was Britain's first black Army officer to command white troops.

"His service on behalf of this country was immense," Lammy said.

Tull, who was orphaned at the age of nine, began his football career with Tottenham, and played more than 100 times for Northampton.

After joining the army, he rose to the rank of second lieutenant, despite laws at the time preventing it, and was recommended for a Military Cross - a medal for gallantry.

In the winter of 1917-18, Tull led 26 men across a fast-flowing river on a night raid into enemy territory, and returned them unharmed.

Sunday is the 100th anniversary of Tull's death, and Lammy has written to the prime minster and secretary of state for defence asking for his Military Cross to be awarded to mark the centenary.

Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier - the latest generation of black and mixed-race players to follow in Tull's footsteps for Tottenham and England - back Lammy's call for him to be recognised.

The MP's letter has been signed by more than 120 colleagues from all sides of the House of Commons, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

"I think now it is time to give Walter that Military Cross," Lammy told BBC Sport.

"His service on behalf of this country was immense. The records suggest great gallantry, great bravery and a kind of coolness. He saved people's lives, he fought incredibly hard, died young.

"I think he should be remembered, and the only reason he's not remembered is because at that time there was extraordinary prejudice towards even having a black man in our armed forces, and certainly towards that black man being a second lieutenant and leading other men.

Walter Tull, footballer and British black war hero

"Walter's story can inspire a generation. I think giving him that Military Cross will reach young people all across this country and say a tremendous amount about the United Kingdom at this time."

Rose and his two Spurs and England team-mates learned about the life of Tull at a presentation at St George's Park this week.

Rose said: "It's a shame that, growing up in England, I'd never heard of Walter and what he'd been through.

"It's a pretty emotional, moving story. I'm a bit embarrassed I hadn't heard of him before today. I'm going to do my research and find out as much as I can."

Alli added: "It was strange I hadn't heard about him before. Such an amazing story and all the things he had to overcome. It's an amazing achievement."

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