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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 June 2007, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Tate photo surprise for soldier
Philip Thomas, aged two, back in 1986 - whose photo is now at the Tate Britain.

A Welsh soldier serving in Iraq has found a photograph of him as a toddler in a DIY store has become part of an exhibition at Tate Britain in London.

Philip Thomas, 23, was two when he was pictured with his parents buying military-themed bedroom wallpaper.

His mother Andrea, from Rogerstone near Newport, said the paper with soldiers and tanks on, partly inspired him to join the Army at 16.

Paul Reas' photograph is part of a show depicting 150 years of British life.

It caught Mr Thomas' father showing off the wallpaper in a B&Q store in Newport.

It is now one of 500 images at the Tate Britain show.

The boy, who grew up to be a Lance Corporal, chose the wallpaper, which features tanks, helicopters and a soldier holding a machine gun, on a shopping trip 21 years ago.

But he had no idea his picture had been taken.

The 6ft 4in (1.92m) soldier is currently serving with the Royal Welsh regiment.

Philip Thomas
Lance Cpl Philip Thomas as he looks today

His mother Andrea Thomas, 47, said he loved all things military as he was growing up and the pictures of the soldiers and tanks on his bedroom wall were the first thing he saw when he woke up and the last thing before he slept.

"(He) always said he wanted to join the forces," she said.

"It was on his wall for years until we moved house.

"He joined up at 16 and loves every minute of it, although I worry about him terribly."

The family are delighted the photograph, titled Military Wallpaper, is featured in the Tate show, which is a photographic history of 150 years of British life.

The mother-of-five said: "I can't recall the photograph being taken or even being in the shop, although I remember the wallpaper very well.

"To look at it after all these years is so strange.

I'm thrilled the little lad has been traced - although he is not so little now.
Paul Reas, photographer

"But I am very proud that it has ended up in the Tate. Philip is not going to believe the picture when we show him."

The photograph was also a surprise to Mr Thomas's wife Penny. The couple have a three-year-old daughter called Megan.

'Great chap'

Photographer Mr Reas, 52, took the photo to illustrate a time of emerging retail culture when American-style shopping malls and out-of-town stores first arrived in Britain.

Two-year-old Phillip's shopping trip with his mum and dad was a snapshot of how family life was changing due to arrival of Sunday opening.

Mr Reas said: "I'm thrilled the little lad has been traced - although he is not so little now.

"It's amazing to think that he was inspired by his choice of wallpaper as a two-year-old.

"From what I've heard of him he sounds like he's grown up to be a great chap."

The exhibition, entitled How We Are, features work by photographers like David Bailey, and will be on display until 2 September.




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