I have just heard Warhorse author Michael Morpurgo on the radio. He has told the story of Walter Tull, the first black officer in the British Army and the second black player to play professional football in England.
Apparently he was recommended for the Military Cross for bravery but was not granted one because at the time officers in the army had to be white as it was thought that the troops would not take orders from a black man. He was made an officer by mistake! He was recommended for promotion as a sergeant, by a fellow officer as he recognised his amazing qualities as a soldier and leader of men. It was signed off at military HQ by a senior officer who did not know he was black, he said later because of his name. It was too late then to stop him and he quickly gained further promotion to lieutenant.
On March 25 1918 he was killed in action leading an attack on the German trenches in France. His body was never found and he lies in Flanders with the thousands of other soldiers killed at that time.
The injustice of this story is appalling. This man fought and died for his country, was recommended for a Military Cross but his family were never granted a medal posthumously. This is a terrible injustice which should be put right. Tomorrow morning at the Cenotaph I will be thinking about him to remember his service to our country even if his country refuse to recognise his service. I shall be taking this up with Fabian Hamilton MP to start a campaign to have this injustice remedied.
Coun Gerry Harper, Hyde Park Ward, Leeds City Council