Tuesday 26 March 2013

Walter Tull’s Scrapbook

Walter Tull’s Scrapbook by Michaela Morgan (Walker Books)
HB RRP $ 27.95
ISBN 9781847802125
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Walter Tull is an amazing historical figure. He was the first black officer in the British Army and was recommended for the Military Cross, an honour never bestowed upon him because of his colour. The book is told through Tull’s voice in first person narrative, with photographs and documents accompanying the text.

One of five children, Tull’s mother died when he was seven years old and his father remarried, but then died a few years later. Unable to care for all the children, his stepmother sent Walter and his brother Eddie to the Methodist Children’s Home in London. Eddie was later adopted.

Walter played and excelled at football, and with a conscientious, ethical, and positive outlook on life, he moved out of the orphanage into a good home, and was soon picked up by Clapton Football Club. This was the beginning of an amazing career in clubs which included Tottenham Hotspur where he became the first black British professional out -field player.

When playing against Bristol, Walter was jeered at and insulted because of his colour and ‘I lost sight of my aims and my energy leaked away. I lost heart, I lost form. But bit by bit…regained my spirits, gathered my courage and started again’ with a transfer to Northampton for a great sum of money. Walter is preparing to transfer to the Glasgow Rangers when the Great War breaks out. ‘I have to stand up for my country’ is his primary thought. The book documents his heroic feats and leadership skills that bring him the recommendation for the Military Cross.

This inspiring and moving documentation of Walter Tull’s life in scrapbook form contains original pictures and entries with newspaper clippings, certificates, pictures of the hospital train, the transporting of the wounded, Post Office telegrams and a War Office Report amongst many other informative pieces.

Walter Tull’s Scrapbook is an outstanding production for many reasons, the main being that it highlights the ethical life of a great and courageous man who against all odds, never swayed from his belief in honour and courage. It approaches Tull’s life in a different way to Michael Morpurgo’s fictional novel, A Medal for Leroy, but both books serve well in projecting this man’s life. Walter Tull was killed  during the Second Battle of the Somme in 1918, aged 29.

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