Scotland, 1915. A group of teenagers from two families meet for a picnic, but the war across the Channel is soon to tear them away from such youthful pleasures. All too soon, the horror of what is to become known as The Great War engulfs them, their friends and the whole village. From the horror of the trenches, to the devastating reality seen daily by those nursing the wounded, they struggle to survive – and nothing will ever be the same again.

A powerful and engrossing novel about love and war, from Carnegie Medal-winning author Theresa Breslin.

Audio edition read by Frances Thorburn and Gary Bakewell


The Great War

How do you react when the country is swept by war fever? If you’re young and eager to fight for your country with your older neighbours and friends. Would you forge the date on your birth certificate and run away from home?

What if you don’t believe in the senseless slaughter of young men in the name of politics and empire – what do you do when others label you a coward?

Rights for Women

In a world where women have few rights and aren’t consulted on the important topics of the day, would you have the strength to use the opportunity of war to stretch your mind and grasp the possibilities that it opens up? Could you leave the safety of your family and challenge the way the world works?


How can love survive in the horrific conditions of loss and bereavement that a world war results in? What can you do in the face of death?

All these issues are faced by the young men and women of Stratharden, for whom life after the war will never be the same again.


‘The novel is harrowingly pertinent in detailing the grief for those left behind, which Breslin describes with poignant delicacy’
Julia Eccleshare, Guardian

‘Considerable research went into the writing of this novel but at no cost to the characterisation and plotting. Breslin has definite points to make about the nature of war but she never turns what is an involving and moving story into a polemic.’
Sunday Herald

‘an epic novel which retells a very familiar story, but through fresh eyes for a new generation. The cover is very striking…This is an important novel which will help to ensure that we shall continue to remember’
Teresa Scragg, The School Librarian

‘this book provides a moving and well-researched chronicle of the lives of ordinary young people of the time caught up in the remorseless war machine, a chronicle which brings the whole period to vivid life for the young people of today’
Anita Rowe, Writers’ News

‘A well-written and thought-provoking book for young adults’
The Good Book Guide

‘…a brave and ambitious novel… What Eric von Remarque, Pat Barker and Sebastian Faulkes among others have described for adults, Theresa Breslin describes for younger readers… Breslin has succeeded magnificently in offering her readers a taste of a war supposedly fought to end all wars.’
Valerie Coghlan, Children’s Books Ireland

‘Meticulously researched and beautifully written… Breslin constantly challenges her readers to consider every aspect of war in a moving and epic story’
Scottish Book Trust Shelf Life

‘I have no hesitation in recommending this beautifully written and well crafted book which is pervaded by an overwhelming sense of sorrow and loss, but a book that will capture and spellbind mature readers’
Pat Tate, Carousel

‘Remembrance is… literary, and… multifaceted…It’s an approach that weaves class distinction, illiteracy, female emancipation and complex issues of war with dexterity. This isn’t a cosy curl-up kind of a novel – it’s a full-on shake-up, a ringing exhortation to care.’
Lindsey Fraser, The Glasgow Herald

‘The exploration of love and coming to terms with the adult world is explored in Theresa Breslin’s romantic historical novel, Remembrance.’
Kit Spring, The Observer

‘An astonishing portrayal of five young lives during the frightening days of the First World War… not an easy novel to read because it feels so incredibly real, but somehow Breslin’s light touch and beautiful prose give the harrowing sights and sounds of the war a much more human feel. This is a novel that will stay with me for a long time’
Nic Knight of Ottakar’s, TheBookseller

‘The most moving and thought-provoking novel for older readers that I have encountered for some time’
Tara Stephenson of Waterstone’s, The Bookseller

‘…moving, incredibly well informed and a fascinating exploration of the different way in which people respond to war.’
Linda Saunders, Children’s and Young People’s Librarian

‘…a wonderful book. Very beautifully written and pulled on my heartstrings. A very powerful yet easily readable account of this time in history’
Ravinder Willson, London and South East YLG rep

‘An immensely readable, passionately written epic, with an involving, fast-moving plot constantly challenging readers’ assumptions’

‘The character development, the range of experiences and the impressively researched backgrounds…. an epic flavour… young readers will find themselves swept along with Breslin’s engaging cast into a world where duty and compassion must somehow co-exist’
Linda Newbery, Times Educational Supplement

‘A truly epic feel, a rarity in British books for teenagers… already Remembrance is being hailed as Breslin’s best book yet… it could be the book that launches her into the superleague of British children’s writers
Glasgow Herald

‘… follows the lives of three boys and two girls from two very different families. Breslin brilliantly weaves the themes of emancipation, class, love, propaganda and the machinations of war into the story of how these young lives are changed with a light touch that belies the seriousness of the subject. A Pat Barker for young readers’
Financial Times

‘They will never forget… Nor will anyone who picks up this novel’
Bob Orr in Writers’ News, (full page feature on Theresa and the book)

“Remember.” This is the word etched on numerous plaques in countless graveyards in France and Belgium. It asks visitors to the sites to remember those who gave their lives in the Great War, the soldiers, the elderly and the very young…

This book is the story of five young people at the time of the First World War. A young lady and her pacifist brother, young twins from their local shop and their smaller brother, all affected to varying degrees by the onset of war. The story of Red Cross nurses and soldiers of the Somme, death and atrocities, madness and valiant deeds. Remembrance will stick in your head, make you cry – and, trust me, you will remember.
From Children’s Express, by Jennifer Matthews, 17, Beighton

Set during the First World War, the events are seen through the eyes of a group of teenagers from two families with different social backgrounds. Despite their social differences, the horror and futility of war engulf them, their friends and their whole Scottish village. Young men, like John Malcolm and his brother Alex, are seduced by the glory of war and cannot wait to join up. Charlotte and Maggie want to do something worthwhile, so they train to be nurses and are sent out to France. Through their eyes the appalling truth of trench warfare and the devastating reality of war is seen daily as they nurse the wounded soldiers. Francis, Charlotte’s older brother, struggles with his conscience about the senselessness of war. It is only when the survivors come back that they realise that there was no glory – only horror and death on a large scale. They also know that nothing will ever be the same again. This is a book that can be enjoyed by young adults and adults alike, and, despite its grim subject matter, is hard to put down. Breslin’s beautiful prose gives the harrowing sights and sounds of war a human feel.
From Booktrusted News by DH

“This book tells the story of five young people from a Scottish village and how the First World War affected their lives. Francis and Charlotte are the children of the local gentry: Maggie, John Malcolm and Alex those of the village shopkeeper. The story opens with fifteen-year-old Charlotte explaining to her mother why she feels she must go to train as a nurse rather than content herself with more ladylike war work. It is the beginning of an upheaval which will engulf the entire community as the war absorbs more young lives and the old social order begins to break down.

Romance and friendship binds the two families, but the war forces them apart. Maggie goes to work first in the munitions factory, then as a nurse with Charlotte in France. Her two brothers are eager to join up, but Charlotte’s brother, the older and more thoughtful Francis, is against the war and at first refuses to go. All of them experience the horrors of war, the young men in the trenches and on the battlefield, and the girls through their experiences of nursing. The ending, in which the loss and change to the lives of everyone in the village becomes clear, is very moving.

Theresa Breslin has done a great deal of research, but it is all blended into the narrative and never intrudes. This is a quiet book, written in clear, precise prose with no unnecessary drama; Theresa Breslin allows her characters to speak for themselves. It has great strength and dignity and is all the more powerful as a result. I cannot praise it too highly.”
From The Historical Novels Review by Ann Turnbull

“A very special book for older children, telling the story of how five Scottish teenagers become involved in the horrors of the First World War.

Heroics, poetry, the first feelings of love, and the brutal realities of life (and death) in the trenches are all graphically explored.

Beautifully written, this is Birdsong for children (though adults will enjoy it too). 
From Carlisle News & Star

Remembrance Audio CD

Theresa Breslin’s First World War epic Remembrance is now available on CD and it takes a whopping seven hours to get through the six CDs, but every minute is pure joy. Wonderfully prosaic, the story is set in Scotland in 1951 and details the lives of a group of teenagers from two families who live in a small community.
The children from the manor house are Francis, a university graduate and an objector to the war who resists signing up for as long as he can, and his sister Charlotte, who is forced to grow up quickly when she decides to become a nurse.

Then there are the twins, John Malcolm and Maggie, whose parents own the village shop. John is desperate to go to the front, but has to bide his time until he is 18. Maggie joins Charlotte in nursing.

It is an agonising, poignant tale of love and war, with the full horror of life in the trenches, the struggle to survive when fighting for king and country and the pain of those left behind.

Read beautifully by Frances Thorburn and Gary Bakewell, Remembrance, aimed at children aged 12 and over, will long stick in the mind for its astounding colour and description. Now we know how our grandparents and great-grandparents felt when this war to end all wars was fought.
From Birmingham Post by Jayne Howarth

A thoughtful, compelling, and poignant novel whose subject is war, and the pity of war.
From Publishing News


Charlotte has been working at the local cottage hospital but has now been accepted to the military hospital in the city. On her first day a hospital train full of casualties arrives, and despite being already crowded, the hospital must take them. Although she is only 16 and has very little experience she must help in the emergency.

The Matron assigned Charlotte to basic duties of removing the soiled bandages of the incoming wounded men. ‘Unwrap the dressings,’ said the Matron, ‘and a nurse will come to clean and redress the wound. If you need help, ask. Do not try to cope if you cannot. It only creates more problems.’

The dressing on Charlotte’s first patient was days old, and had clearly been applied in a hurry. The blood had congealed to the bandage and as she tried to ease it away a piece of skin came with it. Charlotte felt her insides quiver. She glanced at the man on the bed. His eyes were shut, but she knew by his breathing that he was conscious.

Orderly Martin, who had helped her that morning, was working at the next bed. Charlotte managed to catch his eye.

‘Help’ she mouthed the word at him.

He came as soon as he could and began to help Charlotte.

As the afternoon passed Charlotte lost all awareness of time. There were so many of them, and they kept coming. Men from all different regiments, Irish Horse, Coldstream Guards, North and South Lancashires. At one point she raised her head and saw that they had begun to place beds down the centre of the ward. If this is happening so far from the Front, what must it be like then in France? she wondered.

‘Do you think these are the worst?’ she whispered to Orderly Martin as they struggled to cut soiled bandages from one man.

The soldier opened his eyes. ‘No darlin’,’ he said in a broad Yorkshire accent. ‘The worst lie where they fall. Some have been lying where they fell in 1914.’

Charlotte stared at him, not comprehending. What could he possibly mean? He must be delirious. The Army would not leave their dead soldiers just lying around. It was ridiculous. They had their own medical teams; the Royal Army Medical Corps, who attended to the wounded during and after engagements. What the man said could not possibly be true. Charlotte knew that war must be more bloody than shown in her history books at school where there were paintings of the British Army fighting in the Zulu Wars, Crimea, Waterloo. The orderly ranks were lined up for battle, guns and swords gleaming, horses and men together. It had always looked glorious and exciting. Now that she was grown up, she realized that it couldn’t always be like that. She wasn’t naive, she knew that there was blood and gore, and that men died, and horses too. There had been terrible losses in the Crimean War. It was partly reading about Florence Nightingale’s work to help the soldiers there that had made her consider doing some nursing. In school they had learned Lord Tennyson’s famous poem off by heart. ‘Cannon to right of them cannon to left of them, cannon in front of them volleyed and thundered… it had excited her to think of the spurs jingling, the cries of the men urging their horses on… the honour and the glory. But… her thoughts faltered, the men of the Light Brigade had been wiped out, and for what? The order to charge should not have been given. It had been a terrible mistake. And yet a poet had turned this dreadful scene into a thing of terrible beauty. She shook her head. Now she was starting to think like Francis. Was all war wrong? Was this war in particular a terrible mistake?

By late afternoon Charlotte was exhausted. She was working alone and began to unwrap a dressing when she saw at once there was something seriously wrong. The soldier’s leg had been cut off above the knee, but the edges of the wound were moist, swollen and purple. A musty-smelling discharge oozed from between the sutured skin flaps. Charlotte’s stomach rose and she thought, I can’t cope with this. And then another thought came to Charlotte, clear and distinct. And what is more . . . she thought, I don’t have to. Her hands paused in mid-air. I will return home, she decided, and that is where I will stay. I can go about with Mother, visiting, and organizing teas. That would be equally helpful, and less distressing for me. She stared at the suppurating wound, and thought, I won’t need to see anything like this ever again in my life.

The man on the bed groaned and Charlotte’s eyes swivelled from the stinking wound to his face. His skin was ashen, his cheeks and eyes sunken, there was a line down the centre of his forehead where he had set his face against the pain. It was the face of a man aged with suffering, but the patient information card which had arrived with him declared him to be twenty-two years old. She looked around her desperately. The only person she could see was a young doctor, further down the ward. Charlotte signalled for him to come, breathed in and out quickly a few times, and then set to again to remove the old dressing. The soldier grabbed the sleeve of his tunic and bit into it with his teeth.

‘This man needs morphine.’ The young doctor suddenly appeared by the bed. He put his hand on Charlotte’s arm. ‘Matron is at the other end of the ward. Fetch her, and have her bring morphine.’ He grinned at Charlotte. ‘Two Ms. Got it? Matron and Morphine. Go.’

For the next half hour or so Charlotte worked with the Matron and the doctor to clean the wound, pack it with sulphonamide powder and set up a drain to take the infection away. When they had finished the doctor spoke first.

‘Sister’s office,’ he ordered. ‘Tea. Now.’

He followed close behind Charlotte and the Matron, and as he entered her office he slammed the door behind him. ‘That man is very likely to die! He should not have had a straight-across guillotine amputation. Gangrene tracks back along the muscle. If he had been operated on properly then that wound would have remained clean. What the hell are they doing out there?’ he demanded. ‘Letting wounded soldiers amputate themselves with their own ruddy bayonets?’

‘I’ve heard they are running out of supplies and are short of staff,’ said the Matron as she took the teapot from the little stove in the corner. She waved Charlotte to a seat and handed her a cup of tea.

Charlotte felt her knees begin to tremble and her hand shake so that she could hardly hold her cup.

‘You seem calm in a crisis, Armstrong-Barnes,’ said the Matron when the doctor had left. ‘I think you might be more use on the wards than in the sluice room. When you are next on duty report directly to me.’

Later when Charlotte went off duty her whole body was trembling with fatigue and nervous strain but there was a glow of triumph within her. She had coped; she had proved herself. She was going to be of use after all.


Remembrance of the Great War is locked into emotions and senses; entwined with images and sounds, engendering feelings of helplessness, anger, humility, pride and terrible sadness.

The subject is an overwhelming one for a writer to address, and at first I thought to concentrate on one major character, a young boy, who runs away to join up. However, preliminary research immediately indicated that there was more than one story to tell.

There is a vast amount of material available to consult on World War 1. Literature of all kinds, film and sound archives, museums and websites. The literature alone has a staggering amount of detail, histories, personal and military, biographies, articles, letters, and newspaper files.

Library and archival staff were an invaluable help, from my local public library to the National War Museums in Edinburgh Castle and London.

Not only can they give you precise specialist information (the exact section of the Front Line held by a particular battalion at certain time) they are a fund of knowledge which stimulates the progress of the book – it being a case of sometimes not knowing what I was looking for until I found it.

To begin with I did initial background reading concentrating mainly on the books written by those who took part in the war e.g. Captain James C. Dunn, The War the Infantry Knew, the letters of the women who nursed the soldiers, and the poems of Owen, Rosenberg, Sassoon and others. By consulting military histories I began to choose key events and locations where I wanted to place my characters – Ypres, the first day of the Somme, the battle of Passchendaele etc. It then becomes necessary to consult war diaries, and, as REMEMBRANCE is set in the Borders, one of these was the Regimental history of the King’s own Scottish Borderers.

Some specific sources were the Websites of the War Graves and the Imperial War Museum, general newspapers of the time, and specialist magazines. A useful article in The War Illustrated contained information about the war-time progress in medicine vis. treatment of typhoid tetanus new antiseptics. Information gleaned from this gave me the substance for a conversation between two of the main characters, Francis and Maggie, which then leads them to discuss the industrialisation of war. It is an example of how research provokes book content contributing to the storyline and character development.

Reading through the newspapers is interesting… There was a report in the London Times which said that under Allied bombardment the enemy’s barbed life “melted away” and said that life at the Front could be “frightfully trying” The huge amount of advertisements for domestic servants clearly shows the vast amount of girls who had left these positions to join munitions work and is a marker for social change. As the war went on and the need for men became desperate there appeared a significant report about the relaxation of recruitment rules regarding age and literacy.

Occasionally one has an unexpected “find” While on holiday in the south of France I came across some French magazines and journals with illustrations depicting America entering the war and liberation day Le Jour est arrive

I was privileged to be allowed to read through some family papers which contained letters from a young soldier who was killed on the Somme. From them I learned of the way that soldiers “coded” their mail to let their families know where they were. He mentions the lice, the rats, the primitive toilet conditions. These letters contain descriptions of daily life at the Front, display his pervading sense of duty, and show his loving feelings for his family. He ends what was to be his last letter to his mother with the words:

goodnight my Dear Mother…
Ever Yours Devoted

There were also his field cards, the telegram to let his family know that he was missing, the letter from his C.O. telling of his death, and the telegram of sympathy from the King and Queen. It was not until 1935 that his parents’ enquiries were answered with information to locate his grave.

When researching the book I travelled through France and Belgium and saw schoolchildren from Britain and other European countries visiting the memorial sites which now occupy the land where the book is set. They push their poppies into the spaces between the stones of the Menin Gate and the little wooden crosses purchased in Ypres are crowded onto the grave of a young soldier age 15 – their age.
Near this boy’s grave is the Yser Canal where the Canadian John McCrae wrote his poem In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place;

And there were poppies, hundreds of them. My visit to the area was just after November 11th. Despite it being so late in the year, school educational trips were still taking place and it was poignant to witness our teenagers as they saw the ages of the young men who were killed.

Around Ypres there are preserved field dressing and casualty clearing stations embedded in the banks of the Yser Canal. These show the fitments for the steel doors where the stretcher-bearers sheltered during heavy bombardments.

There is the incredibly interesting Flanders Fields Museum in the Cloth hall at Ypres There is the breathtaking memorial arch at Thiepval which dominates the Somme countryside where the youth of a nation was squandered… and much, much more…

At this time of a new century I thought it was important to write this book. I wanted to show the many and complex aspects of war. The soldier who firmly believes he is doing his duty and is prepared to sacrifice his life to protect his family. The soldier, disillusioned, who feels his very soul is being corrupted by contact with militarism.

The girls who went to nurse, wanting to help the war effort or looking for adventure, and finding in some cases a self-fulfilment they never would have had if the war had not occurred. And… the terrible grief of those left behind.

The publication of REMEMBRANCE has been overtaken by world events. But perhaps now it is even more vital that we do remember.