Do you recognise this First World War soldier?

Andy Zermanski with his painting and photograph
Andy Zermanski with his painting and photograph

A picture of a First World War soldier bought in a Harrogate junk shop over 30 years ago has yet to be identified, despite its owners best efforts.

Artist Andy Zermanski, who moved from Alnwick in Northumberland to Harrogate in 1979, worked in the area and bought the photograph from a junk shop near Valley Drive, where he lived at the time.

Though Mr Zermanski has now moved back to his native North East after 23 years in Harrogate, he still enjoys the photograph and has now created an oil painting based on the original image.

Mr Zermanski, 58, said he was casually browsing through a box of formal Victorian photographs when he discovered the picture of the First World War soldier that he has kept for so long.

He said: “As a painter and designer I look for interesting faces and costumes, and this photograph was different.

“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.

“I handed over the £1 the shop owner asked - more than three times what I usually paid - and I’m very glad I did it. He’s always been a friendly face to have around.

“He’s been a part of my life for well over 30 years and I feel I know him, but in fact I know hardly anything about him.”

Mr Zermanski has never stopped searching for the soldier’s origins. ‘John 1918’ is written on the back of the photograph, as is the address for Stuart’s, YMCA Buildings, Blackett Street in Newcastle - a building Mr Zermanski was familiar with when studying art at a nearby college.

“I felt it was meant to be and planned one day to do a painting based on it,” he said.

“I never felt quite ready to paint the picture until now, spurred on by this being the centenary of the start of World War One.”

Talking about his creative process, Mr Zermanski said painting a colour image from a black-and-white photograph is not as easy as it looks.

He said: “I didn’t want it to just look like a tinted photograph. The skin tones, especially, are difficult to get right.

“He looked as if he had blue eyes, so that’s what I’ve given him.

“As I’ve worked I’ve thought a lot about him, and wondered if I could find out any more.”

After some research, Mr Zermanski discovered that the badge on the soldier’s cap was for the Army Service Corps, though his search for information about ‘John’ has gone no further.

Anyone who can help in Mr Zermanski’s search can contact him via email on