Oct. 20 (GIN) – The British Royal Mint has released the first image of a limited edition coin honoring Walter Tull, Britain’s first black army officer who died on the battlefield. The coin is worth five pounds.
Tull, born in 1888, made history after enlisting in the army when the First World War broke out in 1914. He defied specific army regulations banning ‘negroes’ and ‘mulattos’ from being promoted. By 1917 he was commissioned as an officer and on March 25, 1928 led his troops to safety during a ferocious battle. He was 29 at the time of his death.
Grandson of a slave, Tull overcame the high barriers of race, class, education and personal tragedy, growing up in a children’s home after his parents’ early passing. Although his body was never recovered, his name is inscribed along with 35,000 others on the War Memorial in Arras.
Despite a recommendation by the Major General at the time, he never received the Military Cross.
Now, his face will appear on a new piece of silver with a backdrop of infantry going ‘over the top’ as a tragic reminder of so many men’s sacrifice.
Tull is being remembered during the UK’s Black History Month which began Oct. 1. A touring theatre production, The Hallowed Turf, will celebrate his achievements.
A film of the life of Walter Tull will be shot this year, with release planned for July 2016. A Walter Tull Scrapbook is available online through The Guardian newspaper website.
In addition to his bravery on the battlefield, Tull was a professional soccer player – the second black to play in Britain. He endured much racism on the field which was documented in newspaper accounts from 1909.
Pamela Cole-Hudson, author of The Hallowed Turf, said: “The desperate attempts of members of his platoon to retrieve his body, through heavy enemy fire, when he was struck down during the second battle of the Somme, led me to write a story of the last few weeks of Walter’s life.”