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Against All Odds (Paperback)

Walter Tull the Black Lieutenant

Military > Biographies Military > Memoirs WWI

By Stephen Wynn
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 144
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399019323
Published: 30th September 2025


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Walter Tull would have been a remarkable individual no matter when he had been born, but to achieve what he did, during the time that he did, makes him even more remarkable. He was an orphan at just six years of age, and despite not wanting to, his step mother, Clara, had no choice but to place him and his elder brother, Edward, in to a children's home in the East End of London. As neither Walter or Edward had ever travelled outside of Folkestone before, the upheaval must have come as quite a shock. Two years after entering the home, Walter and Edward were split up when Edward was adopted and went to live in Glasgow.

Walter's sporting prowess saw him play for top local amateur side, Clapton Football club, signing for them in 1908, but it was to be a short lived affair, as by the following year he had signed as a professional for the prestigious Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, making his first team debut against Manchester United.

In October 1911 Walter was transferred to Northampton Town Football Club, where he would go on to play over one hundred first team games, before the First World War brought a premature end to his career as a professional footballer. With the outbreak of war, Walter wasted no time enlisting in the British Army, initially as a Private in the newly formed 17th (Football) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. Further promotions followed and in no time at all he had reached the rank of Sergeant.

He was put forward for a commission and passed out as a 2nd Lieutenant on 29 May 1917. He went on to become the first black officer in the British Army, to lead white troops in to battle, and was fondly regarded by the men who served under him.

Walter was killed in action whilst leading his men in a counter attack against German defensive positions on Monday 25 March 1918. He died a hero. He was well liked and respected by all who knew him. Like many men of his generation his life was cut short for the greater good whilst in the service of his country, so that others might prevail.

Featured in

Historical Novel Society, HNR Issue 84 May 2018

An engaging read.

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

... this book would be a nice addition to any library’s sports or history collection, bringing attention to a forgotten hero.

Read the complete review online here.

Booklist Online

Wynn’s narrative is an interesting account of a groundbreaking footballer and gallant soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good like many men of his generation.

Toy Soldier & Model Figure magazine issue 234 – reviewed by Stuart A. Hessney

A remarkable man and a remarkable story. The book not only tells his story, but provides other interesting information on his footballing team mates and their service, and also devotes a chapter to other black soldiers and regiments of the Great War. A relatively short but engaging story and a fitting tribute to a remarkable man.

The Great War magazine, May 2018

This is a fascinating, moving, inspiring story of an extraordinary man. This new book gives a warm and sympathetic biography of a man who really did achieve against all odds and was much liked by his comrades – Strongly Recommended.

Read the complete review here.


In short, this is a well-intentioned book which, notwithstanding some interesting material, such as its photographs, is ultimately rather pedestrian.

NetGalley, reviewed by John Plowright

About Stephen Wynn

Stephen is a retired police officer having served with Essex Police as a constable for thirty years between 1983 and 2013. He is married to Tanya and has two sons, Luke and Ross, and a daughter, Aimee. Both Stephen’s grandfathers served in and survived the First World War, one with the Royal Irish Rifles, the other in the Mercantile Marine, whilst his father was a member of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps during the Second World War.
When not writing Stephen can be found walking his dogs with his wife, Tanya, at some unearthly time of the morning when most normal people are still fast asleep.

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