A woman in Limerick is appealing for help to identify a second World War soldier whose black and white photo was found hidden behind a picture bought in a junk shop.
Claire Barrie’s mother Ailish recently uncovered the forgotten frame and picture of the young mystery man during a clear-out.
She had opened the frame shortly after she bought the picture in the Williams Court Mall in Limerick city in the 1990s and it disclosed a secret second image wrapped in light yellow paper behind the framed magazine cutting from the 1940s.
The family are not even certain of his nationality, nor of how his image came to be hidden behind a 1949 cutting in a Limerick junk shop. But Claire and her daughter Elliemae (9) have nicknamed him Uncle Sam (soldier and mystery) as they continue their quest to identify him.
Clues from his uniform suggest “Sam” was probably a member of the Royal Artillery, according to military buffs who assisted Claire on Twitter. More than a thousand people have viewed the tweeted picture.
He has an artillery stripe on his arm and there was one suggestion that the epaulette on his shoulder looks to be a crown, which might give another clue. The khaki colours of the shirt and tie on his uniform are in line with desert colours, Claire was told.
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.
Others have suggested that the uniform, although British, was probably made in the United States, based on the weave and the buttons.
According to a stamp on the picture, it was the work of
, 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 is from Kensington framers Charles & Co, Practical Framers and Guilders, Pembridge Frameries, in London.
“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,” says Claire.
The magazine-cutting picture in the frame when it was bought was of what appears to be a coastal town and the page on the reverse is dated September 3rd, 1949.
There is a mention of the town of St Anthony in Roseland in the UK in one of the articles on the magazine page, and it's possible the picture is of that town, which was used for military training during the first World War.
During the second World War, gun batteries were stationed there.
“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,” Claire says.
She wonders who he was and whether he may have died in the war.
“Why was his photograph covered up behind a cutting?” And indeed, how did it come to be in a junk shop in Limerick?
Claire is hopeful that someone might even recognise the picture that was bought in the junk shop and that it might lead to an answer as to Sam’s real identity.
“It’s a nice story and I think there’s a love story ... as well.”