Sheffield musician's tribute to pioneering black wartime hero

Army officer and professional footballer Walter Tull
Army officer and professional footballer Walter Tull
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A Sheffield musician has commemorated Britain’s first black army officer to command white troops, as MPs have called for him to be awarded the Victoria Cross 100 years after his death.

Walter Tull’s story is reflected in a moving new song which appears on the forthcoming album by young duo and BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winners Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar.

Musicians Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar

Musicians Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar

Written by Sheffield-based singer-songwriter Russell, Walter is featured on the duo’s album Utopia and Wasteland, due out on April 13.

The first black outfield player to feature in the English top flight, Walter Tull spent two seasons at Spurs before going on to play more than 100 games for Northampton Town.

In World War One he was the first black officer to lead white troops into battle but was killed in action in 1919 and denied the Military Cross.

These are the song’s lyrics:

Nine is no time to change all you know

All the people the lives the times

Third in line of those still fighting now

Like Belluno mountains you climbed

You were gallant and calm through the Somme and the Fen

Bold and sure to defend

Not white enough for their medal of bronze

Now your soul lives on

They say you’ll never lose a game

So Walter leave that dive

Come up here to the smoke and live

Our new hero born our kid

In the western backwater they did jibe

Taunts that soon took their toll

You’d raised as high as they were willing to know

Forced to move on and go

When the demons of Europe rose

You and your 26 did rise

Through France through Spain and back again

From shield to battlefield

But once more for your guise was poor

Skill and bravery ignored again

And to you they gave pithy thanks

Obligations ignored or feigned