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Norwich soldier’s amazing Second World War murals uncovered in Belgium

PUBLISHED: 17:29 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 18:43 23 October 2020

The paintings depict a variety of scenes relating to the liberation of Meerhout in Belgium. Picture: Bram Dierckx

The paintings depict a variety of scenes relating to the liberation of Meerhout in Belgium. Picture: Bram Dierckx

Archant

An archivist is trying to trace the family of a Norwich soldier after his Second World War paintings were uncovered in a Belgian school.

Murals from 1944- 45 by a Norwich soldier were uncovered at a Belgium school. Picture: Bram DierckxMurals from 1944- 45 by a Norwich soldier were uncovered at a Belgium school. Picture: Bram Dierckx

The murals were discovered behind a blackboard and a corkboard in a classroom in Meerhout last month as the school was about to be knocked down.

They were painted around the end of 1944 to the start of 1945 and depict a variety of scenes of the liberation of Meerhout.

The hunt is on to find the family of Alfred Bertie Hales, from Norwich, who painted the murals. Picture: Bram DierckxThe hunt is on to find the family of Alfred Bertie Hales, from Norwich, who painted the murals. Picture: Bram Dierckx

On each of the five artworks, the painter, Alfred Bertie Hales, a soldier in the Royal Pioneer Corps, left a signature.

Mr Hales died in 1956 but his former address was traced to 67 Devonshire Street in Norwich by archivist Bram Dierckx.

The school in Belgium was about to be demolished when the Second World War murals were discovered. Picture: Bram DierckxThe school in Belgium was about to be demolished when the Second World War murals were discovered. Picture: Bram Dierckx

Now the hunt is on to find Mr Hales’ family.

Mr Dierckx, 33, said: “Thanks to that research we are now 100pc sure about the identity of the painter - Alfred Bertie Hales from Norwich.

“Unfortunately we discovered he has already died and we are now trying to find some family who maybe can tell us more about the person.

“It would be great to find a face behind the name and find some relatives of the soldier.”

Mr Dierckx said nobody had any idea the paintings existed and he was “really perplexed” when they were unveiled.

He said: “As an archivist and historian, but also as WWII obsessive, this is an amazing and unique discovery.

“Not many physical traces were preserved in the region and this is a direct link with the troops that were active in our region just after the liberation.

“I was really perplexed and in a national and international context this is an incredible discovery.“

As for the future of the paintings, Mr Dierckx said he was in the process of documenting the murals and their history.

He said: “The old school building will still be demolished in the near future. But of course the murals will get a second life in the new school.

“Some specialists are trying to preserve and restore them. For that reason we are trying to reconstruct the full story behind the wall paintings.”

If you have any information please email ruth.lawes@archant.co.uk

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