If it’s Monday, it’s a Military Monday Mystery

This picture is my paternal grandfather, John.

Born in 1902 England, he died in 1939, when my father was two years old.  The original photo was a sepia (brown tones) taken in 1927 before he married Grams.  But this picture is not the mystery …

This one is.  It was located under Grandad’s photo.

No one knew it existed until late 2003, after my father died, when my younger brother paid a professional to restore the beveled glass/ laminated wood frame and disintegrating cardboard backing that contained Grandad’s image.  Granddad’s photo was stuck to the glass due to condensation getting between the picture and the glass.  When the frame backing was removed … “Hello, Soldier!”

No one knows who the young man is — we are guessing he is family.

I have wondered for years as to who he could be, and with the help of Google and a lot of military WWI photos, I think I can at least give a good guess as to where he might fit in in my family tree.

[1] He may or may not be an Officer.  The leather epaulette closest to the camera is empty, but the other appears to have two diamond “pips” on it.  If he is an Officer, two diamonds represent the rank of a Lieutenant. If he is not an Officer, this portrait does not show enough of his sleeve from the elbow down to ensure he holds a rank other than Private.  And his collar insignia appears indistinguishable.

[2] The double-buckled ammo belt he wears is standard issue to an Infantryman, Rifleman or Sniper circa WWI and WWII, but if he was an Officer, he would not be a Rifleman or Sniper. The majority of reference photos with the double buckled ammo belts and the stiff French collars were taken in 1917 and of French issue — but his uniform looks British and very brown. French uniforms were blue.

[3] WWII did not start until 1939; Grandad’s picture was taken in 1927.  I believe this picture is older as it has been hand-coloured.  Hand-colouring of photos was a popular thing in the late 1800s until the early 1900s.  I would like to call the soldier’s picture a daguerreotype but I am not familiar with identifying them.

Oh, where is the Photo Detective?  She would know!



  1. What a mystery! Hmm…definitely WWI. I’ve also seen many WWI “portraits” like this…they look like paintings of photographs. Have you researched all the men in your line that were of the appropriate age to be in the service in WWI? Or perhaps checked in to the men that served from the same area that your family lived in? I can see a little resemblance, but I’m not positive they are related…or at least closely. How exciting! I can’t wait to find out what others think!


  2. As for a daquerrotype – they are an image on glass or metal. The glass images normally have black fabric or something dark behind them so that the photo shows. At least the daquerrotypes that I have seen were of this type. But I don’t think that process was still in use by the 20th century.

    Good luck solving your mystery.



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