The Love of a Brother;From Plaistow to Passchendaele

Author Percy (and Molly) 1916                                          Fred from original 1917 book

The Love of a Brother; From Plaistow to Passchendaele is the title of a book published in February 2011 but the Memoirs of Fred Cearns were written in 1917 by his brother Percy following Fred's death in August 1917 on the WW1 front line in the battles for Passchendaele
The First World War touched the lives of millions. But  this is a very personal story of how the hostilities affected one large, close knit family from London's East End. It is told with loving affection through the eyes of one man whose seemingly unbreakable bond was shattered on August 13th 1917. That was the day Royal Fusilier Fred Cearns died whilst fighting for his country.

This heartfelt tale of courage and honour also serves as a fascinating social history commentary of what family life was like in East London at the end of the 19th century. The story has lain dormant for nearly 100 years but great nephew Martin Cearns has rescued it, added some research, expanded some interesting connections with WHUFC, and funded publication. 

The book sells for £10 and all proceeds received by Martin Cearns and Cearns Books will be donated to HELP for HEROES. As at December 2014  from the sales of books, over £5,000 has been remitted to H4H including £750 donated by Barclays Bank under their Staff Matched Funding Scheme plus other contributions.

To buy your copy please send name and
address to

"The Love of a Brother, From Plaistow to Passchendaele" is also available as an E-BOOK.

To buy the E-Book and download, go to 


and search for cearns or the book title.

All net sale proceeds received will go to Help for Heroes.


There are 5 known copies of the original book written by Percy in 1917.

They were typed and bound and although they appear identical, a close inspection reveals that they were typed separately.

How many copies did Percy produce!? Did he type them or get someone else to do that?

One copy was presented at Christmas 1917 to the eldest brother James. This is now held by James' granddaughter Margaret.

Another copy is with George Cearns (RIP May 2015 at age of 91), son of Frank, the brother who shared a bedroom with Fred and Percy in the Plaistow Park Road home.

There is a copy with Martin Cearns, the grandson of WJC another brother of Fred and Percy mentioned in the book

and since publication of The love of a Brother; From Plaistow to Passchendaele

- we have learnt of a copy in Sydney Australia with descendants of Fred and Percy's sister Annie. It seems that this is the same typing run as that presented to James.

- and in 2014 knowledge of Percy's family has come forward and a copy is with Percy's family.


Afsaneh Knight (author): ...your wonderful book - it is a little jewel - quite a joy to read - and the first words I have read om WW1 that bring it to life in both its largeness and smallness, its horror and its domesticity. You have done an important thing in publishing it....

Andrew Riddoch (author of When The Whistle Blows) : It is very fitting tribute to your Great-Uncle and a poignant
reminder that the havoc wreaked by the Great War still resonates today.

Tony Henderson (author of The Hong Kong Circle): True stories are very often more poignant and touching than fiction created by a skilled writer. Here we have a man who has no writing training, but relates from the heart, in an honest way, about his brother, their relationship and the heartache that WW1 brings on the whole family. A sad tale, and a recommended read, which also provides a much needed benefit to a very worthwhile charity.

Michael Herrington:  The more I read the book the more it made me think. One cannot fail to be impressed by such men and their calm heroism. These things should not be forgotten. I think that we would have risen to the occasion but thank God we didn't have to.

Gary John-Lewis: It's good you had the time to unearth. Humbling........ young men with a real sense of of purpose and unselfish values.

Jim Harris: Moving.....

Bob Straffon: Up to about eight years of age, through the second war, we lived in Tweedmouth Road just a few minutes from St. Mary's church. I was in the Cubs there and later the Scouts.   Sunday meant Sunday school or Scouts church parade.    My sister was married there.              I also played football for West Ham Boys when I was at Plaistow Grammar School and I have a team photo taken on the pitch at Upton Park. A  young life not all that different from Fred's except I am still here to read his story.   

Ginny (a great niece of Fred): Enjoyed the book what an insight into Grandad's history and what an accepting way of life they had - it isn't right that these brave young men died in muddy trenches so far away from their quiet ordinary lives.   

Chris Johnson:     Very moving, all the more for its simplicity and unabashed sentimentaility. The scene as Percy looks back as he rides away from his last meeting with Fred must bring a lump to anyone's throat. Well done on bringing this to a wider audience!

 David Cearns (a great nephew of Fred and grandson of James, Fred and Percy's eldest brother):  Thank you for the book it is nice to have a copy of this document to pass onto future generations to show the conditions that had to be endured in WW1.

John Jewiss: 
I have now read The Love Of A Brother and must wholeheartedly congratulate you on the publication of these fine diaries. I believe that they portray, so poignantly, life in early 20th century London and, of course, a stimulating background to the more familiar stories of life in the trenches. The love between the two brothers is obvious, of course, but I was touched by the rather restricted gestures of meeting and parting – a handshake, little more, the firmness of which was the only means of detecting the extent of the emotional conviction behind it. The deepening fears being aroused in Fred’s mind was most tellingly observed by his younger brother. It was very moving. I am so glad that you have taken the time and effort to bring this to publication because it deserves a wider audience. I hope that sales will not only do justice to the work but also provide a meaningful contribution to a noble charity.

Joe Eaton:  I really enjoyed the book. There were Charles Dickens moments in the book and I was left with a good feeling of how things were in those days. Fred came across as a special lovely person. I do not think that such brotherly love could be found in today's society. Well done.

Janice Morrison: THANK YOU for sharing these memoirs with everyone. It is so interesting on many levels and I shall put this carefully on my bookshelf ready for my daughter to read when the time is right so that she in turn can put it on her bookshelf for her children – then Fred and Percy and all those other brave young men will be remembered