Search

First World War: Steve’s bid to retrace great-grandfather’s footsteps

10:12 06 August 2014

The Cearns family circa 1896 with father Jimmy and mother Elizabeth.  Fred, aged seven, is in the front row on the left while Percy is in front of his mother.

The Cearns family circa 1896 with father Jimmy and mother Elizabeth. Fred, aged seven, is in the front row on the left while Percy is in front of his mother.

Archant

Finding a letter in his grandmother’s drawer has led to one man retracing the steps his great-grandfather took more than 90 years earlier.

Steve Akehurst will be making the trip based on Percy's letterSteve Akehurst will be making the trip based on Percy's letter

Steve Akehurst discovered a 20-page letter written by Percy Cearns to his daughter Audrey in 1922, detailing a trip to France and Belgium to locate the exact spot where his brother Fred was killed in the First World War.

Now Steve intends to follow in his footsteps, visiting the same towns Percy did and write a similar letter.

“With the centenary of the war I thought it would be a good time to retrace Percy’s steps as he retraced Fred’s,” explained Steve, who lives in Finsbury Park.

“The main aim is to help me get a bit closer to my family history, but it will be interesting to see how many of the towns Percy and Fred served in have changed, and how much is still, nearly 100 years later, the same as Percy described in his letter.”

Fred CearnsFred Cearns

Fred, Percy and their 11 siblings grew up in Plaistow about the turn of the cen.

Their father, Jimmy, was involved in forming West Ham United and one of their brothers, Will, spent 15 years as a club director.

When war broke out, Percy was recruited as a despatch rider, delivering vital messages between military units and their headquarters.

Fred headed to the front line, losing his life at Passchendaele in 1917.

The letter from Percy Cearns to his daughter AudreyThe letter from Percy Cearns to his daughter Audrey

Five years later, Percy made the journey to find where his brother had fallen in action.

Steve said: “The letter is a really personal, and often surprisingly funny, account of his return to France and to find where his brother fell.

“But it’s also a really interesting window into the kind of places and towns in France and Belgium that thousands of young men like Fred and Percy served in during the war, and what it was like there in that immediate post-war period.”

Accompanied by a friend, Steve will use Percy’s letter – written in an elegant and descriptive style – as his guide.

He added: “The First World War was full of people like Percy and Fred, ordinary men from east London basically, who gave their life fighting or had it changed forever.”

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Newham Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Newham Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Newham Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 16:16
Members of West Ham Cricket Club wait to meet the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alan Yarrow

The Lord Mayor of the City of London has praised the work of staff at West Ham Park.

London
Yesterday, 12:43
Police wish to speak to these men

A man was assaulted by football fans in a racist attack on the Tube, police believe.

British Transport Police
Yesterday, 10:41
Councillor Ken Clark and residents at Forest Gate charity car wash

Residents held a charity car wash on Sunday to raise money for the victims of the Nepal earthquake.

Stephen Timms
Yesterday, 07:00
(Top L-R) Daniel Brazier, Danny Sharland (Bottom L-R Danny Williams, Peter Tough)

Two men from Newham have been jailed for twelve years after police found cannabis resin worth more than £6million on the back of a lorry.

Spain

Most read news

Competitions

Time to expand with the LeefiBRIDGE.

More iOS memory in a flash: Introducing Leef iBRIDGE.

Read more
The sell out 2014 event 32 Londoners, returns to the Coca-Cola London Eye!

The Coca-Cola London Eye is proud to announce that 32 Londoners will be returning this June, following last year’s sell out event. The event will feature 32 talks, in each of the London Eye’s 32 capsules on 32 extraordinary Londoners.

Read more

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Newham Recorder e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder