Published: 06:00, 22 October 2019
A new ‘peace pitch’ has opened in Folkestone in honour of one of Britain’s first black footballers.
The pitch has been named in memory of First World War hero Walter Tull, who was born in the town and was the first black officer to lead white troops into battle.
Following a successful campaign from the National Children’s Football Alliance (NCFA), the pitch at Three Hills Sports Park, off Cheriton Road, has now been twinned with Flanders Peace Field in Mesen, Belgium, the site of the 1914 Christmas truce, where British and German troops ceased fire and played football together.
It was officially launched during a charity match between Shepway Sports Trust and Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN), which ended 5-4 with KRAN securing the win. The opening ceremony also saw a handover of a memorial plaque and a Peace Poppy Ball.
Ennie Brennan, CEO of NCFA, said: “The importance of a peace pitch in Folkestone under the name of Walter Tull is highly symbolic.
“The world of football needs to recognise this great man and Folkestone needs to cherish this unique peace pitch for generations to come.”
Walter Till was born in Folkestone in 1888 and grew up in an orphanage from aged nine after both his parents died.
In his football career, he became one of the first black footballers in Britain and was only the second professional black player in the Football League.
He played for Clapton, Spurs and Northampton.
He joined the army in December 1914 and was promoted three times as a rank and file soldier and commissioned an officer in May 1917, fighting in six battles including the Somme and Ypres.
On the front line in Italy, he twice led his men on night raids, returning without casualties. He was killed in action on March 25 in 1918 while leading his men in an assault on German trenches at Favreuil on the Somme.
A campaign for Tull to be awarded the Military Cross is ongoing.
Laurence Hickmott, chief executive of Shepway Sports Trust, added: “For Shepway Sports Trust to be involved with such an important and historic project is an honour and privilege.
“We are delighted to have worked closely with the NCFA and Three Hills Sports Park to ensure that the 3G pitch is now officially a ‘Peace Pitch’ in memory of the great Walter Tull.”