Before the war, Walter’s life was tough – he was orphaned at a young age and separated from his brother. His football career was a struggle at times, especially when he played for Tottenham, as he was subject to racist abuse, but he still carved a life out for himself as England’s first black professional outfield player.
During the war, it was his rise through the ranks which set him apart – though there had been men of colour as officers in the past, none had risen from the lowest ranks to be commissioned as an officer in an infantry regiment before. It was the convention for white officers only to lead men in to action, and there was even a note in his unit war diary which states he should not be taken away for officer training due to the colour of his skin. Clearly, his skill and potential could not be ignored, and the rules were ignored to allow Walter to become an officer.