Books published by The Clove Club can be obtained from

Titles include FORTUNE’S FOOL (A life of Joe Brearley), “Seen From the Wings” (Volume ONe of Joe Brearley’s wartime letters)

The Joe Brearley project

Joseph Brearley first came to Hackney Downs School in 1938, having commenced teaching at the Collyer’s School in Horsham. In the Thirties Joe Brearley had used his vacations from Cambridge to teach English in Germany. He attended the Berlin Olympics in 1936, saw Hitler and witnessed the rise of Nazism. The momentous events of those days had a profound effect on Joe. He had a love of the German language and German music and literature.

Joe transferred to Hackney Downs in 1938 but the outbreak of the Second World War curtailed his stay and, by 1941, he was in the RAF en route to Singapore. His ship came within the sights of U-Boot Kapitän Werner von Forstner in U-402 and was severely damaged, though not sunk. This was fortunate for Joe who might otherwise have become a prisoner of the Japanese at the Fall of Singapore. As it was he was re-assigned to Egypt where his duties in Intelligence kept him away from the Front Line fighting though he was later to meet Yugoslav and Italian partisans following the invasion of Sicily.

Joe wrote home every day from the 1930’s until a few weeks before his death. His post-war story includes teaching Harold Pinter, producing him and others in a series of School Plays, becoming Deputy Headmaster, retirement and removal to Germany where he took up a temporary teaching post to eke out his pension.

In the village of Höchstadt, near Nürnberg, Joe made several good friends and joined the local Bach Choir. The art teacher at the School was Mara Löytved-Brearley who shared Joe’s impish sense of humour. What started as friendship turned to love and Joe’s last years, shared with Mara, were his happiest.

In co-operation with Mara the Club hopes to share parts of the Brearley archive with his former students. This includes his letters, some of his paintings and sketches and films. He has left an astonishingly voluminous archive which will take a lot of work to process. Watch this space.


Here’s Joe’s voice:


Joe at University

Joe in WW2 off Port Sudan

Joe before retirement, the way most of us remember him



Joe in retirement in Germany

Joe retired on holiday in Greece