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'Walter Tull deserves Military Cross', says cousin


A RELATIVE of a war hero who was also Britain’s first black professional outfield footballer is supporting a campaign to posthumously award him a Military Cross.

Walter Tull who died in 1918, broke a British army colour bar to become a respected officer and serve during the First World War.

Graham Tutthill, a cousin of Tull told The Voice: “Walter stood up in the face of racism and represented his country with pride. His army superiors, back then, recommended him for the award of a Military Cross and it’s only right that he finally gets what he deserves."

The campaign, organised by Operation Black Vote (OBV) and Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac), has received more than 7,000 signatures via an online petition established to commemorate him.

Raised as an orphan in the National Children’s Home in Bethnal Green, east London, the attacking midfielder played in more than 100 professional matches for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town.

His achievements on the football field paved the way for a later generation of African-Caribbean players.

Tutthill, 64, only learned of his family link to the iconic figure three years ago. He believes that Tull’s military achievements were just as important as his success as a footballer.

“He was a great man who was described by his army commander as a leader with the utmost courage and bravery,” Tutthill said.

He added that the Military Cross would be a perfect tribute for Tull in 2014 to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Noted for his "gallantry and coolness" by commander Major General Sydney Lawford, Tull lost his life in battle in Pas-de-Calais, northern France on March 25, 1918. His body was never recovered.

Defying specific army regulations which excluded ‘negroes’ and ‘mulattos’, the Kent-born footballer earned the respect of his colleagues and was commissioned as an officer in 1917.

Rod Liddle, associate editor of The Spectator, said: “While Tull was a victim of war, and most likely a victim of discrimination, it is not as a ‘victim’ that we remember him. We remember him for what he did, against the odds.”

With racial prejudice still an issue in the UK, Tutthill said Tull is a role model for young people: “Unfortunately, racism still remains in society, but the numerous triumphs he achieved in the face of such issues, provides great lessons for the youth of today.”

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