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Crossing the White Line

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 Tull could see that the Germans had broken through,
So in retreat he led his frightened men,
Who realised their chances now were few,
Of getting back to their own lines again.

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 As shells and bullets screamed their mean intent,
Walter’s life seemed to flash before his eyes,
A grand drama began in Folkestone Kent,
Takes one more final curtain here and dies.

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 As lines of bullets zipped above his head,
He hoped and prayed that they would pass him by,
But from amongst that deadly shower of lead,
A shot struck him and passed out near his eye.

4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 As the thunder of the guns died in dark,
He felt his mind begin to drift away,
To a painful time which had left its mark,
His father’s death, a sad and tragic day.

5 Leave a comment on verse 5 0 He saw his arms around his brother wound,
On a cold, wintry scene from long ago,
As father’s coffin slid beneath the ground,
To Bethnal Green they knew they had to go.

6 Leave a comment on verse 6 0 And then himself a boy at Bonner Road,
Dressed in the colours of their football team,
His reddened eyes, the signs of tears they showed,
As Glasgow bound his brother left the scene.

7 Leave a comment on verse 7 0 Once more he held Clapton’s Amateur cup,
Their six goal win had been his final game,
For the grand sum of ten pounds he’d signed up,
For mighty Spurs in search of football fame.

8 Leave a comment on verse 8 0 South America in nineteen hundred and nine, (1909)
Helped him gain the respect of all at Spurs,
Prepared him to cross over the white line,
To face up to every challenge that occurs.

9 Leave a comment on verse 9 0 ‘THE FIRST BLACK PLAYER SINCE ARTHUR WHARTON,’
‘TULL’S PASSING SKILLS PLAY SUCH A CRUCIAL ROLE.’
Some headlines praised but some would report on,
His Spurs games using names like ‘Darkie’ Tull.

10 Leave a comment on verse 10 0 When it all went wrong down at Bristol City,
Where the crowd screamed out their names of racial hate,
He’d needed Spurs support, not their pity,
But what they did was hard to contemplate.

11 Leave a comment on verse 11 0 Instead of helping him when he was down,
They’d made him leave and join a smaller club,
A lower league side called Northampton Town,
From Spurs this seemed like such an awful snub.

12 Leave a comment on verse 12 0 It’d felt like that first day at Bonner Road,
But boss Chapman had loved him like a son,
And through his skill upon the pitch he showed,
That those thugs who’d abused him had not won.

13 Leave a comment on verse 13 0 Rangers had just offered a bright future,
When he’d opted to ‘PLAY THE GREATER GAME.’
War put football in a different picture,
Playing on would have only offered shame.

14 Leave a comment on verse 14 0 He’d signed up as a Footy Volunteer
And joined the likes of Vivian Woodward,
He’d wanted to prove that he had no fear,
Of fighting as an English soldier should.

15 Leave a comment on verse 15 0 The Somme he’d somehow managed to survive,
As his mates fell one after another.
Shell shocked and so lucky to be alive.
He’d been sent to England to recover.

16 Leave a comment on verse 16 0 He’d been a Sergeant, one of the lads, when
Returned to France he’d found that they’d all gone,
He’d felt just like an orphan once again,
But still did his duty and soldiered on.

17 Leave a comment on verse 17 0 What his orders told him broke every rule,
‘TULL TO REPORT TO GLASGOW O.T.C.’
‘Back then the Army’s rules said in battle’
Black officers should surely never be.

18 Leave a comment on verse 18 0 As the first Black Briton to lead in war,
He’d made history fighting in Italy.
Why he’d won no medal he wasn’t sure,
As he’d once been listed for an M.C.

19 Leave a comment on verse 19 0 Now here he was in France about to die,
Returned back to the Somme to meet his fate,
A pale gold ball above him in the sky,
Perhaps they played the game at heaven’s gate.

20 Leave a comment on verse 20 0 Just at the moment Tull, our hero, died,
The sun’s bright rays broke through the gloom to shine,
As Private Billingham knelt down and cried,
Walter crossed that white line one final time.

21 Leave a comment on verse 21 0 In Memoriam

22 Leave a comment on verse 22 0 Now I am a soldier with no known grave,
I was orphan, footballer, soldier…
-The first Black combat officer,

23 Leave a comment on verse 23 0 Dear Eddie, do they still remember me?

24 Leave a comment on verse 24 0 Walter, your name will live for evermore.

25 Leave a comment on verse 25 0 Peter Daniel.

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Notes

This poem was written as part of a Heritage Lottery project run by Westminster Archives to celebrate the life of Walter Tull. Tull was orphaned at the age of 10 but became a pioneering black footballer with Spurs before becoming Britian’s first black combat officer in 1917. He was sadly killed at the Somme on 25th March 1918. On the 90th anniversary of this remarkable man’s death we acknowlege a truly great Briton.

Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/crossing-the-white-line/