Northumberland artist hopes to solve First World War soldier mystery

A painter is trying to get to the bottom of mystery surrounding the identity of a First World War soldier

Andy Zermanski with his painting of the mystery soldier
Andy Zermanski with his painting of the mystery soldier

A painter from Northumberland is appealing for readers’ help to solve a mystery which has intrigued him for over three decades.

Andy Zermanski, who lives near Wooler, bought a cabinet photo of a First World War soldier, apparently taken in Newcastle, more than 30 years ago.

But despite having completed his initial plan to produce a painting of the solider, Andy remains in the dark about who he is and is now appealing for anyone who may be able to shed any light on his identity to come forward.

Andy, 58 and living at Roseden, is a painter and designer. In the 1970s he moved from Alnwick, where he is originally from, to Yorkshire where he bought a box of old photographers in a Harrogate junk shop.

One of the pictures stood out, Andy recalls.

“This photograph was different from all the others. The man who gazed back at me was dressed in a First World War soldier’s uniform. His cap was on at a jaunty angle, and he sported just the hint of a smile.”

The photo was captioned “John 1918” and on the back was the address of the photographers - Stuart’s, YMCA Buildings, Blackett Street in Newcastle - a spot Andy had walked past every day while studying art at Bath Lane College.

“I felt it was meant to be,” he remembers.

Andy paid the £1 the shop owner asked, and says now: “I’m very glad I did. He’s always been a friendly face to have around.”

His plan was one day to do a painting based on the photo.

The mystery soldier has moved house with him four times since, with Andy having returned to Northumberland seven years ago, after 20 years in Yorkshire, when his mam took ill.

It is not until now that Andy has felt ready to paint the picture, with the fact it is 100 since the First World War began spurring him on.

Andy adds: “As I’ve worked I’ve thought a lot about him, and wondered if I could find out any more. Perhaps even a full name. I’d love to know more about him. He’s been a part of my life for more than 30 years. I feel I know him, but in fact I know hardly anything about him.

“As he was photographed in 1918, and wearing his uniform very informally, perhaps he survived. Was he a Newcastle lad, or was he just stationed here? I’d love to know.”

Anyone who can help is asked to contact Andy via email: andyzermanski@btinternet.com.

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