Mystery of First World War officer's portrait solved as researchers discover he was a teenager killed by a shell at the very beginning of the conflict

  • The picture hung in Carmarthen County Museum in Wales for years
  • No-one knew the identity of the soldier in the oil painting
  • But a historian posted it on the web and asked for help to uncover the truth
  • After scouring war-time archives, they chanced across the soldier's picture
  • The soldier is Second Lietenant Paul Chancourt Giradot
  • They believe his mother painted the portrait as a tribute to her only son

A mystery portrait of an unknown First World War soldier has finally been identified - 100 years after his death.
For years the painting of the unknown soldier hung in Carmarthen County Museum in Wales but no one knew his name or if he survived the horror of the trenches.
It remained a mystery until an amateur historian posted a picture of the painting on the Great War Forum website and asked for help to uncover his identity.


For years this painting hung in Carmarthen County Museum in Wales but no one knew the soldier's name - until a team of historians looked him up

Historians scoured obituaries in wartime archive The Bond of Sacrifice and were astounded to see a photograph of the young soldier identical to the face staring out from the oil painting.

The soldier was identified as Second Lieutenant Paul Chancourt Girardot who was just 18 when he was killed.

And historians believe his mother Mary, who was an artist, may have painted the portrait in tribute to her son's tragic death.

Records show the 18-year-old officer was killed in the second month of the war when a German shell landed in a quarry he was resting in.

Girardot was serving in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry when he died at Soupir on 16 September 1914.

First World War enthusiast Martin Gillott, 49, was one of a group of four experts who pooled their knowledge of military history and uniforms to solve the mystery.
Together they identified the cap badge, unique double leather shoulder straps and button-badge on the lapel, as belonging to a Second Lieutenant in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.

The fact the officer didn't have any medals in the portrait led Mr Gillott to think it was painted early in the war as a memorial to a fallen soldier.
Mr Gillott used the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website to create a list of officers killed between August 1914 and June 15 - and Second Lieutenant Paul Chancourt Girardot from Carmarthen jumped out at him.



Mr Gillott, from the Witterings, West Sussex, said: ‘The photograph in his obituary was an exact match for the painting.
‘I defy anyone to say it is not the same person - I would say the photograph has been used to create the memorial portrait.’

Records show the young officer was the only son Lieutenant-Colonel John Francis Girardot and his wife Mary.
His widowed mother was born in Cardigan, West Wales, and lived in Carmarthenshire after the death of her only son.

Staff at the Carmarthen County Museum, in West Wales, are delighted they can now put a name to his face and have begun telling the lost story of his sacrifice to local school children.

The painting 'Portrait of an Unknown First World War Officer' has now been renamed 'Second Lieutenant Paul Chancourt Girardot (1895-1914)' - and the story of his sacrifice revealed to a new generation.

The museum had no record of when the portrait came into their possession but the soldier's identity was unknown when they re-catalogued their art collection in the 1970s.

Museum spokeswoman Debbie Williams said: ‘We are delighted this discovery has been made - it is wonderful to finally find out who he is.
‘It is a tragic story but it is always nice when a piece of the jigsaw is put back in place.

‘The portrait has gone back on display with the new name and information about his service added.
‘We have a lot of school children coming through our doors and in this First World War centenary year it is wonderful his service will be remembered by a new generation.’