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CWGC raise awareness of the club's fallen in Great War

08 November 2013|Tottenham Hotspur

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has installed a high-tech information panel at Tottenham Cemetery to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by servicemen and women in the World Wars – including players and staff of Tottenham Hotspur FC.

The panel at Tottenham is among 500 that the CWGC is installing as part of a drive to provide more information for the public during the centenary of the First World War, which took place between 1914-1918.

Each of the panels carries information about the site of the cemetery or memorial, and the reason why it is situated where it is.

Each panel also carries a QR (Quick Response) code which when scanned with a smartphone provides access to further information, including the personal stories of some of the casualties buried or commemorated at the location.

The QR code and panel at Tottenham Cemetery reveals the effect the war had on our club, when a large number of players enlisted and many were killed in action.

Fourteen players with Spurs connections died in World War One, including Walter Tull, the first black player to ever play professionally in this country. Walter played for us between 1909-11, joining Northampton Town in October, 1911.

Fellow players George Badenoch, John Fleming, Fred Griffiths, Alan Haig-Brown, John Hebdon, Alf Hobday, John Jarvie, Ed Lightfoot, Harold Lloyd, Alexander MacGregor, Finlay Weir, Archie Wilson and Norman Wood all fell while serving their country in the Great War.



On December 21, 1914, Walter (whose profile from our 1909-10 handbook is pictured above) became the first Northampton player to join the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, nicknamed ‘The Diehards'.

The 1st Football fought in the infamous Battle of the Somme, between July-November, 1916. Almost 20,000 allied troops were killed on the first day, the worst ever in British military history, and in one action by the battalion itself, just 79 men returned from 400.

By now a sergeant, Tull was invalided out of France with trench fever and on recovery was sent to the officer cadet training school at Gailes, Scotland. While he was away the 17th suffered such heavy casualties in the Battle of Arleux that the battalion was disbanded.

Walter was commissioned as second lieutenant on May 30, 1917 – contrary to regulations he had now become the first British-born black combat officer in the British Army. He achieved this in the face of the 1914 Manual of Military Law, which specifically excluded black people from exercising ‘actual command'.

He joined the 23rd (2nd Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and was posted to Italy with the 41st Division. At the first Battle of Piave in January, 1918, he was mentioned in dispatches by Major General Sydney Lawford for his ‘gallantry and coolness’ while leading a raid in the face of heavy fire and bringing all his men back safely.

Walter returned to France to fight in the second Battle of the Somme and was leading his men in ‘No Man’s Land’ when his short life ended. He died near Favreuil, in the Pas de Calais, on March 25, 1918, at the age of 29. He was reported to have been shot through the head and died instantly.

So popular was he that two soldiers attempted to carry him back to their own lines but German soldiers were advancing so they had to leave him. His body was never recovered.