**Military Figure and noted professional 'football' (soccer) star, Walter was the British Army's first black combat officer and a casualty of the Great War. His father Daniel, the son of a slave and a joiner by trade, had arrived from Barbados in 1876 and married Alice Elizabeth Palmer from Kent. The union produced six children. In 1895, when Walter was seven, his mother died. His father married her sister Clara Alice S Palmer but he died two years later. Clara was unable to cope with all six children and Walter and his brother Edward were sent to a Methodist run orphanage in Bethnal Green, east London. After finishing his schooling he served an apprenticeship as a printer.
--A keen footballer, he had a trial with Clapton, an East London amateur club. By the beginning of the 1908-09 season he was playing for the first-team. The journal, 'Football Star' praised his "clever footwork" and described him as being the "catch of the season". He was signed up by Tottenham Hotspur, being only the second black man to play professional football in Britain. In May 1909 he went on a tour of South America with Tottenham Hotspur and played matches in Argentina and Uruguay.
--Other clubs wanted to sign him up and in 1914 Glasgow Rangers began negotiations with Northampton Town F.C. for whom he had played more than a hundred first team games. However, before he could play for Rangers,war was declared. He immediately abandoned his career and offered his services to the British Army. Like many professional soccer players, he joined the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. The Army soon recognized his leadership qualities and he was quickly promoted to the rank of sergeant.
*--In July 1916, he took part in the major Somme offensive. He survived this experience but in December 1916 he developed trench fever and was sent back to England to recover. He had so impressed his senior officers that he was recommended for further promotion. After recovering from his illness, instead of being sent back to France, he went to officer training school at Gailes in Scotland. He received his commission in May, 1917, a remarkable achievement to rise from Private to Second Lieutenant in the space of 2 years. During the First World War, military chiefs of staff, with government approval, argued that white soldiers would not accept orders issued by men of colour and on no account should black soldiers serve on the front line.
*--The Manual of Military Law of 1914 had regulations regarding aliens and their enlistment into the British Army, which prevented them from holding any other than an honorary commission, [Special Reserve of Officers] but Walter was not an alien, he was a British citizen born in Kent. The regulations at the time however, required that to qualify for an active commission, [i.e to exercise any actual command or power] a candidate must be of pure European descent and, his father having been Barbadian born, meant that he did not officially meet the ethnic criteria. Now a Second Lieutenant, he was sent to the Italian front. He led his men at the Battle of Piave and was Mentioned in Dispatches for his "gallantry and coolness" under fire. He remained in Italy until 1918 when he was sent back to France.
*On 25 March 1918, whilst serving in the 5th Battalion, attached 23rd Battalion (formerly 17th Battalion), under the command of fellow noted footballer, Lieutenant Colonel Alan Roderick HAIG-BROWN DSO, he was ordered to lead his men in an attack on the German trenches at Favreuil. Soon after entering No Mans Land he was struck by a German bullet.
*He was such a popular officer that several of his men made valiant efforts under heavy machine-gun fire to bring him back to the British trenches. One of the soldiers who tried to rescue him later told his commanding officer that he was "killed instantaneously with a bullet through his head." His body was not recovered from the battlefield and he became one of the ‘Missing'
His brother, Sapper William Stephen Palmer TULL, also served and fell during the First World War.
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Died on 25/03/1918
Service: Middlesex Regiment
Division: 5th Battalion, attached 23rd Battalion [2nd Football]
(formerly 17th Battalion [1st Football])