Northern Ireland

World War Two: Mystery of photo of soldier Arthur Brown found in bookshop

Arthur Brown Image copyright Sarah McCann
Image caption Belfast soldier Arthur Brown died two months before World War Two ended

A Belfast woman is on a mission to trace the relatives of a soldier who died in World War Two after she found a photo of him in a charity bookshop.

Sarah McCann found the photo of Arthur Brown a couple of years ago as she worked in the Belfast city centre shop.

She told BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday News programme that the photo gave her chills, and that she simply had to find out more about the Belfast soldier.

"The first thing I saw was his face, he was so young. I was hooked," she said.


The back of the photograph had some clues to help her, as it revealed his name and his length of service.

Arthur Brown had sent the photograph to a woman named Ellie Dugan, who had written on it: "Arthur Brown aged 18, died of wounds.

Image copyright Sarah McCann
Image caption Ellie Dugan's message on the back of the photograph reveals a closeness between her and Arthur

"He had 13 months of service, gone but not forgotten by his good friend, Ellie Dugan."

"You could tell they really had a connection, he meant quite a lot to this woman", Sarah said.


"We've all really cared for someone in our life and to see this photo just sitting there in a charity bookshop, that meant so much to someone at some point, I just couldn't leave it there."

On the back of the photo the words "Irish guards" were also written in pencil, and through some detective work and good luck, Sarah discovered the names of Arthur's parents, Ellen and David Brown.

The War Graves Commission was able to give Sarah copies of Arthur's death records, and revealed his final resting place, where Sarah is planning to visit later this month.

The records show Arthur was a soldier in the 3rd Battalion of the Irish Guards, and that he died on 5 March, 1945, just two months before the end of the war.


He is buried in the Mook War Cemetery in Molenhoek in the Netherlands.

Sarah said, "I'm going there on 13 April, it will definitely be emotional.

Image copyright Sarah McCann
Image caption Arthur Brown's death record, shown here at the bottom of the photo, details how and when he died

"To have found a photo of someone you don't know, and to have learnt all these things from one photo - it means a lot to me to go and pay respect to him."

Sarah has set up a blog for anyone with information to contact her so she can solve the mystery and reunite any living relatives of Arthur Brown with the image.


"I'm looking after the photo really well.

"I hope I can give it to his family, I want to give it to them so they can tell future generations about it.

"He sacrificed his life so he should be remembered."

Asked if she considered herself a detective, Sarah laughed and replied: "I love uncovering history, I love personal stories and I just couldn't let this one rest."