An FGR and Walter Tull Declamation

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;
And now the names from Forest Green:
Harry Watts was born in 1891 in Avening.
Harry joined the 6th Signal Corps of the Royal Engineers
prior to outbreak of war and became a Corporal.
He received the Military Medal in 1915.
Ernest Beale was born in 1897.
He worked as a brass worker before joining up.
He died in 1916 at Exeter Hospital of meningitis.
Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Walter, and Ernest, and Harry,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Harry,
‘Shoot, Ernie’;
The imperatives of a football team
Replaced by new orders in khaki, with
Night patrols, barbed wire and machine guns;
Muddied football boots forgotten
In the trench foot fields of Flanders;
The clamour from the ground and stands
No match for whizz bangs, mortars and howitzers;
The fogs of a November match,
Innocent memories in a gas attack:
‘Over the top tomorrow, Harry’,
‘Keep your head down, Ernie’,
‘Stay quiet. Don’t shoot, Ernie’,
‘Don’t worry, Harry. We’ll get you to hospital’,
‘Where’s Walter?’
You may have known each other,
Played with or against each other,
Trained together,
Boarded ships and trains together,
Relieved each other in the trenches,
And who knows?
Some of the Nailsworth, Shortwood and Forest Green players
Who survived the war,
May have searched for your body, Walter,
Before and after your last breath and memories,
Memories of Spurs and Northampton,
And childhood,
And a grandmother who had been a slave,
And you, an officer now,
Revered and loved by his men,
Searching for you out there in no man’s land,
As you breathe your last breath,
In whatever corner of a foreign field,
Which will always be an England,
Where the wind rushes.
And, who knows?
They may have talked of you,
That fine footballer, officer and gentleman,
When gathering in the Jovial Forester,
Toasting you with Stroud Brewery beer,
But then forgetting you as times grew hard,
As the wind rushes by.

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 As the Wind Rushes by.



Editor Notes:
FGR : Forest Green Rovers

HARRY WATTS/.ERNIE BEALE (Forest Green -as they were then known)
Harry Watts was born in 1891 in Avening, Gloucestershire, played for Forest Green. Harry joined the 6th Signal Corp of the Royal Engineers prior to outbreak of war and became a Corporal. He received the Military Medal in 1915.

Ernest Beale was born in 1897, he worked as a brass worker .and before joining up was team mascot for Forest Green at games . Dressed in his s Pierrot /Clown outfit on the touchline he appears in team photos of the time. After returtning from the front he died in 1916 at Exeter Hospital of meningitis.

WALTER DANIEL JOHN TULL (28 April 1888 – 25 March 1918)
Walter Tull was an English professional footballer and British Army officer of Afro-Caribbean descent. He played as an inside forward and half back for Clapton, Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town and was the third person of mixed heritage to play in the top division of the Football League.

During the First World War, Tull served in the Middlesex Regiment, including in the two Footballers’ Battalions. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 30 May 1917 and killed in action on 25 March 1918.

His professional football career began after he was spotted playing for top amateur club, Clapton F.C.. He had signed for Clapton in October 1908, reportedly never playing in a losing side. By the end of the season he had won winners’ medals in the FA Amateur Cup, London County Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup. In March 1909 the Football Star called him “the catch of the season”. At Clapton, he played alongside Clyde Purnell and Charlie Rance.

At the age of 21, Tull signed for Football League First Division team, Tottenham Hotspur, in the summer of 1909, after a close-season tour of Argentina and Uruguay, making him the first mixed-heritage professional footballer to play in Latin America. Tull made his debut for Tottenham in September 1909 at inside forward against Sunderland, making him the third mixed-heritage player to play in the top division (after goalkeeper Arthur Wharton of Sheffield United and Billy Clarke of Aston Villa). He made his home Football League debut against FA Cup-holders, Manchester United, in front of over 30,000. His excellent form in this opening part of the season promised a great future. Tull made only 10 first-team appearances, scoring twice, before he was dropped to the reserves] This may have been due to the racial abuse he received from opposing fans, particularly at Bristol City, whose supporters used language “lower than Billingsgate”, according to a report at the time in the Football Star newspaper. The match report of the game away to Bristol City in October 1909 by Football Star reporter, “DD”, was headlined “Football and the Colour Prejudice”, possibly the first time racial abuse was headlined in a football report. “DD” emphasised how Tull remained professional and composed despite the intense provocation; “He is Hotspur’s most brainy forward … so clean in mind and method as to be a model for all white men who play football … Tull was the best forward on the field.” However, soon after, Tull was dropped from the first team and found it difficult to get a sustained run back in the side.

Further appearances in the first team (20 in total with four goals) were recorded before Tull was bought by Southern Football League club Northampton Town on 17 October 1911 for a “substantial fee” plus Charlie Brittain joining Tottenham Hotspur in return. Tull made his debut four days later against Watford, and made 111 first-team appearances, scoring nine goals for the club. The manager Herbert Chapman – also a Methodist – was a former Spurs player and had played as a young man with Arthur Wharton at Stalybridge Rovers; he went on to manage both Huddersfield Town and Arsenal to FA Cup wins and League championships.

In 1940, it was reported in an article in the Glasgow Evening Times about Tull being the first “coloured” infantry officer in the British Army, that he had signed to play for Rangers F.C. after the war. Rangers have confirmed that Tull signed for them in February 1917, while an officer cadet in Scotland at Gailes, Ayrshire.

After the First World War broke out in August 1914, Tull became the first Northampton Town player to enlist in the British Army, in December of that year. Tull served in the two Football Battalions of the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment – the 17th and 23rd – and also in the 5th Battalion. He rose to the rank of lance sergeant and fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

When Tull was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 30 May 1917 he allegedly became the first[ mixed-heritage infantry officer in a regular British Army regiment, when the 1914 Manual of Military Law excluded soldiers that were not “natural born or naturalised British subjects of pure European descent” from becoming commissioned officers in the Special Reserve.

With the 23rd Battalion, Tull fought on the Italian Front from 30 November 1917 to early March 1918. He was praised for his “gallantry and coolness” by Major-General Sydney Lawford, General Officer Commanding (GOC) 41st Division, having led 26 men on a night-raiding party, crossing the fast-flowing rapids of the Piave River into enemy territory and returning them unharmed, and in a letter of condolence to his family.[citation needed] The commanding officer of the 23rd Battalion, Major Poole and his colleague 2Lt Pickard both said that Tull had been put forward for a Military Cross. Pickard wrote “he had been recommended for the Military Cross, and certainly earned it.” However, the Ministry of Defence has no record of any recommendation but many records were lost in a 1940 fire. It would have been against army regulations[citation needed] for serving officers to inform an officer’s next of kin that their relative had been recommended for, and refused, an honour; it was a court-martial offence.

Tull and the 23rd Battalion returned to northern France on 8 March 1918. He was killed in action near the village of Favreuil in the Pas-de-Calais on 25 March during the First Battle of Bapaume, the early stages of the German Army’s Spring Offensive. His body was never recovered, despite the efforts of, among others, Private Tom Billingham, a former goalkeeper for Leicester Fosse to return him to the British position while under fire.

Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/an-fgr-and-walter-tull-declamation/