Two small paintings in a Glasgow museum, a lucky online find with an American connection and a long-forgotten box in a dusty attic in Birmingham are at the heart of a remarkable wartime tale.

A string of coincidences led Tommy Shinton back in time 100 years to discover his great-grandfather was an ace pilot, who also served in the trenches, during the First World War.

Tommy, who lives in Glasgow, explains: “My grandfather died in September, and my dad had been clearing his attic in Birmingham, and discovered a box of papers and photographs which belonged to his grandfather, George Arthur Hyde, who was a lieutenant in the First World War.

“We knew my great-grandfather had served in the war as a pilot, but we didn’t know much more than that.

“I looked him up on the internet, and discovered one of his paintings, called The Dogfight, was in an exhibition in Ohio in America, called Brushes with War.”

Tommy added: “It was a great discovery, but we didn’t think much more about it. And then just a few days later, my friend, who is a history teacher, was raving about an exhibition she had seen at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. I asked her what it was called and she said, Brushes with War.”

He smiled: “I told her – there is a good chance that work by my great-grandfather is in that exhibition.”

Tommy and his sister Hanni visited the exhibition to discover two small paintings, pen and ink and watercolours, done by George in 1917, were indeed on show.

“It was really lovely to see, it was quite emotional,” said Tommy, 28.

Brushes With War, part of the city’s commemoration of the centenary of WWI, is a powerful and emotive insight into the experience of soldiers from all over the world, through the drawings and paintings they created.

Among the artists are those who fought in combat, were wounded in action, taken prisoner, and survived aerial dogfights, like Tommy’s great-grandfather.

Tommy’s father, Philip, explained: “When Tommy told me about the paintings, it re-ignited my interest in my grandfather’s story, and I went back to have a look at the box from the attic.

“What I discovered was amazing – not only had he survived the trenches, he received the Military Cross for bravery and he became an ace pilot.”

The box contained George’s memoirs, draft novels and plays, and old photographs, which Philip, his brother Roger and the family are starting to piece together to tell their grandfather’s remarkable story.

The memoir, a typewritten manuscript with a faded orange cover, is entitled “A Victorian at War” and includes tales of George’s childhood, his decision to enlist, and his time in WWI.

George was born in 1893, and after serving as a cadet in the Officers’ Training Corps, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant on November 16, 1914.

He served in France in the 10th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and in May 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross, “for conspicuous gallantry.” His citation read: “While creeping up to attack an enemy working party he met an enemy patrol, which he opened fire on at very close range. Finally his own party came under heavy fire and suffered casualties. He brought in one wounded man, and then at once organised a relief party which brought in the remainder.”

Tommy added: “The memoir is really interesting – it’s quite brutal in places, because he talks about what it was like to stand beside a friend and colleague as he was shot and killed by a sniper; he talks about the conditions, and how horrible it was in the trenches. There is lighter stuff too, though. It’s an amazing insight into what the war was like.”

In late 1916, George transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and was promoted to lieutenant. He was posted to No. 54 Squadron to fly the Sopwith Pup, and by October 2017, he had scored five aerial victories, which earned him the title ‘flying ace’.

It is clear from his memoir that he was daring and loved flying, despite the danger.

He writes: “I came out of that cloud at 2000 feet on my back and found that I was some miles behind the German lines…the German ground forces threw everything at me – Archie, field guns, rifle fire, the lot. The more I weaved to escape, the less progress I made towards our lines and it seemed like a year before I crossed into skies that were free of menace…I reached the aerodrome unscathed in person but with my machine looking rather like a colander…”

Tommy. Philip and the family are delighted George’s works are now on show in Glasgow.

“He would have loved this,” smiled Philip. “He was a wonderful man, an inspiration. He’d enjoy all of this attention.”