DURING WW1 over 880,000 commonwealth services personnel were killed or mortally wounded. Among those casualties were several professional or semi professional footballers.

Ten Bradford City players lost their lives. Among those players was Ernest Goodwin. He was a reserve part time player at City. There are no records of Ernest having played for the first team. Obviously we will never know his full potential and whether or not he would have succeeded as a professional footballer.

Ernest was born and bred in Manningham, within walking distance of Valley Parade. He combined playing football with working in the textile industry for a wool merchant on Manor Row, Bradford.

Having signed up to the Prince of Wales Own WY Regiment 1st/6th Battalion in 1915 he eventually achieved the rank of Serjeant. He was wounded during the early days of the Battle of the Somme near Thiepval Woods. He actually died from his wounds at a field hospital near Boulogne sur Mer approximately three weeks later. His date of death was then recorded as July 21, 1916 at the age of 22. He is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery in northern France.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ernest was a reserve player for CityErnest was a reserve player for City (Image: John Kermode)

Ernest was my Great Uncle on the maternal side of my family. Many years ago my father had told me that I had a Great Uncle who played for City and that he had been killed during the battle of the Somme. It wasn’t until I became acquainted with John Dewhirst that I discovered this information to be true. John advised me of Ernest’s playing career and that he had died during WW1. The nature and the whereabouts of his death were not clear at this stage.

Between 2014 and 2018 there was an exhibition at Bradford Cathedral for the services personnel killed at the Battle of the Somme. I visited the exhibition and could not find any reference to Ernest. After contacting the Bradford WW1 Group I was advised that Ernest had been killed in December 1915 according to their records. This resulted in some confusion and led me to believe that my father’s recollections were incorrect.

In February 2020 Emma Clayton of the Telegraph & Argus wrote an article about Ernest. Apparently, during research being made about City’s players killed during WW1, discrepancies were uncovered regarding Ernest’s date of death. Various records and the headstone of Ernest’s grave showed he had died on December 16, 1915. This research had been carried out by David Whithorn and Andy Tyne, who are members of the Bus to Bradford group of City supporters.

By chance my brother passed Emma’s article to me, stating that he thought Ernest was our Great Uncle. I responded to this article and contacted Emma. In Emma’s article David Whithorn was appealing for any of Ernest’s family members to contact him.

This I eventually did and after several emails I advised David that I had a poem written by Lance Corporal Jack Tomlinson. It transpired that Ernest and Jack were very close friends. Unfortunately Jack was killed on September 3, 2016 and his body has not been recovered yet.

The poem confirmed that Ernest had died on July 21, 1916. David had been in contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to advise them of the error in Ernest’s date of death. He requested that their records and the headstone be corrected. However, this could only be carried out with certain proof from a family member. I emailed the poem to the CWGC and it was agreed that this information was correct. It transpired that the error in the date of death had arisen through data transfer during the late 1980s.

The CWGC agreed to change their records and the headstone inscription.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Ernest's grave at Etaples Cemetery in FranceErnest's grave at Etaples Cemetery in France (Image: John Kermode)

I visited the Etaples Cemetery in February this year with my youngest son and inspected Ernest’s grave and headstone. The headstone has been masterfully corrected. I read the poem at Ernest’s graveside.

During our visit to France we visited the Theipval Cemetery. There are more than 72,000 names on the memorial and in the cemetery there to those missing during the battle of the Somme. We located Lance Corporal Jack Tomlinson’s name.

The whole experience of visiting the two sites and learning about Ernest has been moving and emotional. I am extremely grateful to all the people mentioned above and the CWGC. I have learnt a great deal about a family member.

David had confirmed where, when and how Ernest had received his injuries which resulted in his death. Another young man, like so many others, whose life was tragically brought to a premature end.

We will remember them.