poppypoppyThe 90th Anniversary of the Armistice

On the 11th November 1918, at 11 in the morning, the guns fell silent on the Western Front. The Armistice between the Allies and Germany had been signed six hours earlier. It was the end of the Great War. It was the very great privilege of the Dover War Memorial Project to be invited to commemorative events in London.


The day before the anniversary saw the launch of the Walter Tull exhibition. Led by the City of Westminster Archives, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the commemorations for the first black combat officer in the British Army, and the first black outfield football player, have been taking place all year across Britain.

mural by Jonathan Boast

The mural tells the story of Walter Tull. It was designed by Jonathan Boast, and the eight panels were painted by young people in Dover, Northampton, London, and Glasgow.

Methodist Central Hall
The Methodist Central Hall, in London, was the venue for the launch. Walter's family were strongly Christian, and attended regularly the chapel in Folkestone, where they lived.

When the children were orphaned, it was a Methodist-run home, at Bonner Road in London, that took in Walter and Eddie, his younger brother.

The launch was packed. Mingling were MPs, a well-known Queen's Counsel(!), professional footballers, the Mayor of Westminster, West Indian Ex Service people. Jonanthan Boast, and representatives from the  partners in the project, The Professional Football Association, the National Army Museum, the National Football Museum,  the Scottish Football Museum, and the Dover War Memorial Project


But the guest of honour was Mrs Rita Humphrey. She is the great niece of Walter Tull;  granddaughter of Walter's older brother William. Here she is, with, on the left, Phil Vasili, biographer of Walter Tull. He first discovered Second Lieutenant Tull's amazing story while researching black footballers. Above - that's Rita with her husband, Charles. On the right is Camilla Bergman, from the Archives. She organised the commemorative events and designed the materials - and so busy was she, and so frenetic the pace, that by the end, she tells us, she felt just like a ping-pong ball!


Right and below are panels from the exhibition.

Here on the left is the page from the Bonner Road children's home, where is entered Walter's name (detail above). He was allocated to Sunday School house with other orphan boys William, Samuel, Frank, and John.  . .

What a treat for afterwards! Children from St Vincent de Paul RC school had been preparing a musical performance based on the life of Walter Tull.

The scripts for each scene had been written by eight different schools around the country, during drama workshops led by Peter Daniel, from the archives. He's above, introducing the world premiere of "Crossing the White Line"..

It was a magnificent performance, with songs we were humming long after we'd gone home.   Tear-jerking was the sorrowful "Please don't leave us", when Eddie and Walter were taken to the children's home by their grieving stepmother, Clara, and the death of Walter on the battlefield. Roof-raising was the football match, with twenty-to-the-dozen commentating, and the edgy hilarity of the army doctor, cursorily passing conscripts "Off to Fight for England". 

In the window of the Central Methodist Hall is the story of one man who lost his life doing just that. Looking at the photos of her family is Rita, with Maggie

Below is Alice Tull, nee Palmer, Walter's mother. she came from Dover, and probably met Daneil, Walter's father, at the chapel where they worshipped. On the right are the family; this picture may have been taken at the time of Alice's funeral.  The top row are William, Eddie, and Daniel, their father. On his lap is Elsie, with Walter in the centre, and Cecilia next to him. Their first daughter, Bertha, had died as a baby in 1881.

In the centre, in his army uniform, their famous son and brother, Walter Tull. 

pictures by Simon John Chambers

Copyright 2008 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved