When I wrote my history of Ipswich Town, which was published in 2013, I wanted to tell the story of my football club through the lives and experiences of the people that contributed to the club from all walks of life. One of the aspects of this story was the involvement of Ipswich Town Football Club in both the first and second world wars. I was not given access to the club’s archives, but I was able to find out quite a bit about the players and others who fought in both wars. This being a time of remembrance of those who lost their lives during the First World War, I am writing here about the Town players whose lives were irrevocably changed between 1914 and 1918. Three of them died and a fourth would never play football again due to injury. There is much more detail about the club during this time in my book. This is about a few individuals who were never able to return to Portman Road again.
Cecil Fenn was one of two brothers who played for Town in the years before the First World War. He and his brother Charles were born at Gould House in Dedham, Essex. Their father, Cooper Fenn (some nominative determinism for you) owned a brewery, but was also involved in local Conservative politics, describing himself as “a political registrar and agent.” Both boys were talented footballers and played for the club between 1905 and 1912. All our players were amateurs at this time and both brothers decided to emigrate in order to earn a better living abroad. Charles went to India, from where he returned to Ipswich to die peacefully, at the age of 85, but Cecil emigrated to British Columbia, Canada, where he had planned to become a fruit farmer.
Cecil was an immensely popular player for Ipswich Town. When he left Ipswich for the last time before emigrating, a large crowd of cheering fans followed him to the station to see him off. Sadly, he was never to return to Suffolk again. When war broke out, he enlisted with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry as a private. He was killed during the second battle of Ypres on 4 May 1915.
His name appears on this Canadian memorial.
Allan Bowman was harder to trace. He played at centre half for Town from 1907 to 1911. He may have been the son of a tailor in St Helen’s parish who was born in 1885. Nothing else is known about him except that he appears on the Suffolk Roll of Honour as a casualty, having been a Lance Corporal in the Royal Fusiliers.
Claude Sennitt was born in Norwich in 1892 and played for ITFC between 1909 and 1912. He made 24 appearances as an inside forward and scored eleven goals. He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Hood Battalion, in 1916. He survived the fighting on the frontline for only a few weeks and was shot soon after his arrival in France. He died of his wounds on 23 April 1917.
These were the only former Ipswich Town players that I have been able to identify as having been killed in action during the First World War. Perhaps equally as poignant is the story of Ernie Bugg, a hugely prolific and popular player. Town signed him from Westbourne Mills FC and he made his debut against Ealing in October 1911. Between then and leaving Ipswich to join up, Bugg scored 79 goals in 62 appearances. Although he survived the war, and lived on until 1946, Ernie Bugg (pictured in the photograph at the top of this page, front row, second left) had to have his leg amputated as a result of the wounds he suffered. It is not difficult to imagine what a blow that was to such a talented player.