As we approach the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, many schools will face the dilemma of how to translate the scale of casualties into something meaningful for young children. Focusing on an individual is one solution, and it would be hard to find a more remarkable hero than Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British Army. Presented as an imaginary scrapbook, illustrated with artwork, photographs, maps and memorabilia, the device allows the story to be told through Tull’s own voice. The grandson of a slave in Barbados, he was orphaned before he was ten and brought up in a children’s home in London’s East End. Life there was hard, but Walter’s skill on the football pitch was soon recognised. Through training and dedication he ascends through the club leagues, eventually being signed as a professional player by Tottenham Hotspurs. His colour made him the target of jeers and insults at matches, but he refused to be distracted. On the outbreak of war he volunteers for the Footballer’s Battalion, part of the Middlesex Regiment. Once at the Front he describes his experience of life in the trenches, recounting the ‘Christmas Miracle’, when German and British soldiers crawled out of their muddy holes to shake hands and start a game of football. Tull survives an extended period at the Front before being invalided out for a period of recuperation from Shellshock. Returning to the Somme later that year his account paints a vivid and shocking picture of the nightmarish existence of mud, explosions, barbed wire, machine-gun fire and death. For his ‘cool head and strong heart’ he is commissioned as an Officer, the first black Officer in the British Army. Two years later on 25 March 1918 during the second Battle of the Somme, he was shot while crossing No Man’s Land aged just 29 years. In spite of attempts by his men, his body was never recovered, and his name is inscribed among the missing on the Arras Memorial. Tull’s bravery and leadership won him a commendation for the Military Cross, though he died before it could be awarded. What makes this account especially vivid is the wealth of period photographs, of his early years and family, as a professional footballer, with his fellow officers, and the copies of official telegrams reporting his death. The letter from his Commanding Officer is only partly visible, but you can pick out the words ‘conscientious, popular’. What you can’t read is his statement that he had lost a friend. An inspiring account of courage and leadership.
http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png 0 0 Angie Hill http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bfklogo.png Angie Hill2013-01-01 01:00:422021-11-11 17:20:53Walter Tull’s Scrapbook