A Limerick woman is asking for help in identifying the “mystery soldier” from World War II whose photo (see below) was found hidden behind a picture bought in an Irish junk shop.
In the 1990s Claire Barrie’s mother Ailish purchased a framed magazine cutting from the 1940s in the Williams Court Mall in Limerick City. When she opened the frame, it disclosed a secret second image wrapped in light yellow paper behind the first picture. She recently uncovered the forgotten frame and photo during a clear-out, reports the Irish Times.
Although the family are not certain of the mystery man’s nationality nor of how his portrait found its way to the junk shop, Claire and her nine-year-old daughter Elliemae have nicknamed him “Uncle Sam.”
In her quest to identify the soldier, Claire took to Twitter, where more than a thousand people have viewed his picture.
“I posted up his picture on Twitter, my photo was seen and retweeted, and some fantastic people have helped me start to narrow down his identity by his uniform,” said Claire.
According to military buffs who assisted Claire on Twitter, the soldier’s uniform suggests he was probably a member of the Royal Artillery.
“Sam” has an artillery stripe on his arm and the epaulette on his shoulder looks to be a crown. Claire was also told that the khaki colors of the shirt and tie on his uniform are in line with desert colors.
The silver oak leaf symbol near his collar appears to be a MiD (mentioned in dispatches) award for gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy, the Irish Times reports.
Some have suggested that although the uniform is British, the weave and buttons on it suggest that it was probably made in the United States.
“From the yellowing of the background paper in the frame it is clear that the portrait of Sam was once on display before it was covered up,” said Claire.
A stamp on the picture indicates the photo was the work of Jean Weinberg, a Romanian-Jewish photographer based in Cairo between about 1938 and 1948, where he photographed members of the Egyptian royal family. The number on the back of the soldier’s picture is 22496.
The light green wooden frame which held the picture is from Kensington framers Charles & Co, Practical Framers and Guilders, Pembridge Frameries, in London.
When the frame was found at the junk shop, it held a magazine picture of what appears to be a coastal town. The page on the reverse, which is dated September 3, 1949, mentions the town of St Anthony in Roseland in the UK, and it is possible the picture on the other side is of that town. The town was used for military training during WWI, and gun batteries were stationed there during WWII.
Claire hopes that eventually someone will recognize the picture and Sam’s true identity will be revealed.
For now, the mystery remains.
“Why was his photograph covered up behind a cutting?” And indeed, how did it come to be in a junk shop in Limerick?” said Claire.
“It’s a nice story and I think there’s a love story ... as well.”