An Englishman who uncovered a New Zealander's battlefield identification note rolled inside a World War I bullet casing is attempting to reunite the rare artefact with the old soldier's descendants.

David Murray was holidaying near Ypres in Belgium about 40 years ago when he bought a box of mixed WW1 memorabilia.

It included a German cartridge case and bullet that has sat in a drawer at his Manchester home for decades.

But last year, he took a closer look at the bullet case and found a piece of paper coiled inside it.

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After several hours, with the aid of medical tweezers, he managed to extract the note which read: 'Gunner E. A. Kermode - Headquarters Staff N.Z.F.A. 7/2058 France'.

Murray understands that even with the issue of 'dog tags', many soldiers put personal details inside things like cartridge cases for identification purposes if they were killed.

Now, he wants to trace Kermode's descendants to return the item to its rightful home.

"His grandsons could still be alive and well and if I was his grandson then I'd be very pleased to get that," Murray said.

Murray, whose late father fought in World War II, managed to access Kermode's military service files online at Archives New Zealand.

Edward Arthur Kermode was born at Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, in 1895. His mother, a Mrs Goulding came from the Devonshire market town of Honiton.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Kermode was working as an engineer in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A year later, the 20-year-old bachelor, with the stature of a jockey, standing at 160cm and weighing just 55kg, enlisted.

He left with the New Zealand Field Artillery and served in Egypt and France.

Having survived the war, he returned to Christchurch and was discharged in 1919, the war records show.

Murray says he'd happily send the bullet casing and note to New Zealand if the rightful owners came forward.

"If it was in an antiques shop, it'd probably be a couple of quid," he told the Herald.

"But I've got quite a strong sense of social and family history and I hate it when people throw things away that are a piece of personal history. It'd be better than just lying in a drawer here."

The Herald today contacted Alastair Kermode who lives at Lincoln, 20km south of Christchurch.

Last year, he visited Ypres and was interested in whether any of his forefathers fought on the Western Front.

He doubted any family links to the Kermodes he saw listed on the battlefield memorials.

But talking to the Herald today, he wondered whether Edward Arthur Kermode was related to him, given that his family history information says they also emigrated from the Isle of Man.

"It's possible. My grandfather, with I think 13 kids in the family, all came out here from Isle of Man," Kermode said.

He wanted to ask other relatives and hunt for "concrete evidence" of a link to the World War I veteran, but was interested in talking further with Murray.

• Anyone with information or suspected family links to Edward Arthur Kermode can contact David Murray via kurt.bayer@nzherald.co.nz.