Plaque to be unveiled in Rushden in memory of pioneering footballer and soldier

Walter Tull
Walter Tull

A plaque is set to unveiled at the house where Walter Tull, the first black British infantry officer to lead troops into battle, lived.

Rushden & District History Society will be unveiling a blue plaque at 26, Queen Street in Rushden to mark the centenary of the death of Walter Tull.

The Royal Mint's �5 commemorative coin for Walter Tull, ex-Northampton footballer who lived in Rushden and who was killed in action in the First World War

The Royal Mint's �5 commemorative coin for Walter Tull, ex-Northampton footballer who lived in Rushden and who was killed in action in the First World War

Walter was one of the first black professional footballers who played for Tottenham Hotspurs before being transfered to Northampton Town in 1911 where he made 110 appearances before his career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War One.

During his time with the Cobblers, he was befriended by fellow professional and Rushden man Eric Thompson who brought him to Rushden where Walter lodged in Queen Street.

He enlisted in the Army in 1914 and after three quick promotions was made a sergeant.

Walter was selected for officer training and in 1917 was sent to the Italian front having been made a 2nd lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment.

The Walter Tull Memorial at Sixfields Stadium, Northampton

The Walter Tull Memorial at Sixfields Stadium, Northampton

On March 25, 1918, he was killed trying to protect his men from German machine gun fire.

The blue plaque mentions that Walter was a pioneer black professional footballer and the first black British infantry officer to lead troops into battle.

The unveiling of the plaque on Sunday, March 25, will take place at midday.

Several local dignitaries have been invited to attend, including the Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the present manager of Northampton Town Football Club.

But this will not be the first memorial to Walter Tull in the county as there is one to him at the home of the Cobblers, Sixfields Stadium in Northampton.

The epitaph, written by Phil Vasili, reads: “Through his actions, Tull ridiculed the barriers of ignorance that tried to deny people of colour equality with their contemporaries.

“His life stands testament to a determination to confront those people and those obstacles that sought to diminish him and the world in which he lived.

“It reveals a man, though rendered breathless in his prime, whose strong heart still beats loudly.”

The road that runs behind the north stand at Sixfields Stadium is also named Walter Tull Way.