Walter Tull Exhibition 2009
OF THE EXHIBITION
for Walter Tull's local
family history see here
for opening hours and more information
The Walter Tull Exhibition was part of the year-long
commemorations for 2nd Lt Tull, led by the City of Westminster
Archives, in partnership with a number of organisations
including the Dover War Memorial Project, and funded by the
Heritage Lottery Fund. Walter Tull is famed for being the first
black outfield professional football player and for being the
first black combat officer in the British Army. He was born in
1888, and lost his life on the Somme in 1918, during the Great
From the 90th anniversary of the Armistice, the Exhibition
was touring in Scotland and England; and at the 11th hour of
the 11th day of the 5th month - the anniversary-and-a-half of
the Armistice - the Exhibition opened in Dover. Dover was the
birthplace of Walter's mother, Alice Palmer, and home town of his
close family. Relatives still live in Dover to this day.
"On behalf of The
Friends of The Dover War Memorial Project I should like bid you
all a very warm welcome to Dover Discovery Centre this morning,
as the Walter Tull Exhibition begins the final leg of its
journey around the country." said Gordon Cowan (left),
Councillor for Dover Town, Dover District, and Kent County
Brian Dixon and
Alan Taylor, Volunteers
"Walter was a
remarkable man, one might even say a man ahead of his time; much
of his achievement lies in overcoming long-established prejudices that were part of the way of life for his
generation. He was one of the first mixed-race footballers to
sign professional terms, and he became the first man of mixed
race to be commissioned into the British Army as a Combat Duty
Officer. He served with the Middlesex Regiment, which has since
become part of the Princess of Wales’s Regiment currently based
in Canterbury and incorporating our local regiment, The Buffs, until he was killed in action in 1918."
the City of Westminster Archives joined us. "The Crossing the
White Line exhibition that you see here today, forms part of a
broader project which engaged over 2,000 people from
Westminster, Folkestone, Dover, Preston, Northampton and
Glasgow, in a wide range of Walter Tull learning initiatives,
aimed at engaging people of all ages and learning abilities.
Butcher, Chairman of Dover District Council
"We felt that as
Walter Tull’s story was of such value to so many people it was
important for us to deliver sessions nationally and to target
people who came from
areas that were significant to Walter
Tull’s life, hence our contact with the Dover
Project and Marilyn Stephenson- Knight, who I must add, has been
an amazing support and influence throughout the entire project.
incredibly privileged to work on the project, and added "I could speak all day
about the project and its outcomes but there is no need as we
have also set up a website especially for this purpose! The
website has become the heart of the project, pumping out
Walter’s story to even more people. The website includes
downloadable material resulting from the project including
transcripts from the discussion sessions we ran with pensioners
and ex service personnel in London and Dover and a KS2 education
and activity pack. We hope schools in Dover and across the
country will use the website and the downloadable materials when
teaching in the area of Conflict, Citizenship, World War One and
Tull is commemorated on our
Town Memorial, " said Maggie S-K, left. "We now know his story well. But what of the other eight
hundred or so men named there? Or the four hundred people
listed in the World War II Book of Remembrance?
"The Dover War Memorial
Project remembers them all with honour - not just as
lists of names but as the unique people they once were. On Dover’s Virtual Memorial
there are now over two thousand Dovorians remembered - and we’re still
"They are our fellow citizens - of
the past. Just like us today, they
walked the streets out there ….and some of them died
there too. Older Dovorians will remember how
Dover was bombarded. With alerts averaging
two or three a day we were Hellfire
"Some of our families suffered
terrible losses. On the Memorial are the Phipps and
the Cookes:– they’re two sets of
four brothers who fell. Or there’s Ivy Fussell – she lost
her husband, two brothers, and a brother-in-law in the Great War– and then herself died
when Dover was bombed in the Second. Now, someone who lost several relatives in the Great War
Mr Stephen George Coombe (right).
He’s here with us today, Mr Coombe lost his grandfather in
1915,and he’s named after his
uncles Stephen and George, who also fell.
All three are commemorated on our
Town Memorial ….. And so too is Mr Coombe’s
cousin … 2nd
Lieutenant Walter Daniel John Tull.
"And that, ladies and gentlemen, is
what this is all about. This very week there is a family in
Dover mourning the loss in Afghanistan of a loved one, father
and husband Corporal Kurmar Purja Pun. Whatever we might think of the
politics and the morals of war, we must never forget the
personal and family dimensions and heavy costs.
"Walter Tull’s stepmother, Clara,
was broken-hearted when she had to send Walter and his brother
Edward to the orphanage in London.
The Tull family ended up scattered
across the UK, from Glasgow to Dover. But the family always
stayed in touch - and therefore together.
Walter’s name is on the memorial at River too, where his family lived.
It was Clara, his sisters Elsie and
Miriam, and his stepfather William
Beer, who placed
Walter’s name on both memorials.
Walter Tull was one of our heroes - and a pioneer. From a dual-heritage
family – his father from Barbados, his mother from Dover –
become an icon of our modern age. But he was also a much-loved son
and brother. Like all the others who
Fell, his passing left a gap that
nothing could ever fill."
The exhibition was opened by the Chairman of Kent County
Council, Mr Peter Lake, left.
"I’m very humbled by what I
have seen already this morning and very privileged to be here in
this position to open this extraordinary exhibition. Here is a
chap who was the grandson of a slave from Barbados, born in
1888, who excelled at sport. Then the first world war came
along, he enlisted, and he excelled in the military, enjoyed the
support of all those around him, and he gained his commission.
How sad it was that Walter Tull was killed in this war
because had he lived, he would have gone on to even greater things.
I am deeply honoured to be
allowed to cut the tape and open the exhibition . I served as a
private soldier before going on
to Sandhurst to join the Somme
company, I served as a private soldier alongside colleagues in
the Middlesex regiment before all the regiments started to
amalgamate. That was a great privilege for me, but it’s an even
greater privilege to just cut this ribbon today and say thank
you to the people of Dover. You have stolen the initiative and
rightly so. You’ve done this on a number of occasions and I’m
sure you’ll keep on doing it!
"What a lovely idea to get this
together, put it on here in Dover, and to encourage the young to
come and see it. I think it’s very important and you have torn
down real barriers in doing that. I’m sure you’ll continue to
do so. Let’s go and see the exhibition, all of us. Thank you."
After Mr Lake had cut the ribbon,
Kelly-Thomas from Dover Youth Theatre sang
"He was such a Brave, Brave Man". With music by
Russell Hepplewhite, it's one of the songs from the
Walter Tull Production, created by over 370 schoolchildren
across the country during the year-long commemorations.
"He was such a brave, brave man. He fought for the country he
believed in. He's gone to a better place, with no more wars to
fight. He will remain in history for ever."
- Time for Tea ...
Maggie S-K with Derek
Leach OBE, Chairman of River Parish Council
Stephen Coombe with
Paul Everitt and his grandson, relatives of the Tull
The Right Worshipful
The Mayor of Dover, Cllr Diane Smallwood, with Maggie
Brian and super-volunteer Joyce Banks, with Carole Webb (wife of
Dover Town Clerk, Mike Webb and Maggie S-K's
sister-in-law) and casualty relative Mrs Pauline
Folkestone Town Clerk
Lawrence Avory and the then Mayor-Elect, Cllr Janet
Andrews, with Captain Stephen Brown
Captain Clive Philimore
with Kent County Councillors Gordon Cowan and Bill Newman,
Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.
In his honour - brought
together by 2nd Lieutenant Walter Tull: Stephen
Coombe, Maggie S-K, Camilla Bergman, Paul Everitt, and
Illustrations from the exhibition,
The mural, designed by Jonathan Boast, and painted by 32 young people from NCH
Action for Children
in honour of Dovorians, from the Dover War Memorial Project
Details from four of the panels in the Walter Tull Exhibition
Further panels recording Walter Tull's local family history are
With grateful thanks to so many
people, including especially:
Marie Bchara and Dover Library, Terry Nunn for the sound, Mike
Mc Farnell for the filming, Cllr Roger Walkden, and..
Friends of the Dover War Memorial Project
All photographs - Simon John Chambers
Right - "When you go home..."
cross-stitch kit sewn by Brian Rowland