A ‘lost’ postcard from a D-Day hero sent to his family in his first week of navy training in 1943 has finally been delivered – almost 78 years later.
The card was mailed by Bill Caldwell, then 18, who was deployed on a minesweeping ship for the famous operation.
He sent the card to his uncle Fred to tell him about his first week in naval training but it never arrived.
But on Friday, 77 years and seven months later, it was finally delivered.
Although both Bill and Fred have since died, a living relative, Jack Elomaa, now lives at the address in Liverpool and received the correspondence.
Bill’s six children were ‘thrilled’ to get the magical glimpse of their dad at a time when the family is preparing for the anniversary of the death of Bill’s granddaughter Fiona ‘Fi’ Braidwood, who tragically died in a car crash in March 2016 at the age of 17.
The postcard sent by Bill Caldwell. A ‘lost’ postcard from a D-Day hero sent to his family in his first week of navy training in 1943 has finally been delivered – almost 78 years later
The card arrived in good condition and features a photograph of soldiers marching at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall, where Bill was training.
In the message, he wrote: ‘Dear Uncle Fred, Well here I am in blue at last.
‘I did not think it would be like this, you don’t get much time for yourself do you but I like it alright. I will write a letter to you all when I get half a chance so will you hold on a bit.
18-year-old Bill Caldwell while he was in navy training, left, Bill Caldwell in his later years, right. Bill’s six children were ‘thrilled’ to get the magical glimpse of their dad at a time when the family is preparing for the anniversary of the death of Bill’s granddaughter
‘I have 19 weeks here yet. Give my love to everyone. Love Bill.’
Royal Mail said it does not know why the postcard took decades to arrive, but believes it may be that a person found it and posted it themselves recently.
Bills daughter, Elizabeth, 58, said: ‘It’s a crazy story and it’s hard to believe.
‘On Friday night we were in our family WhatsApp group and my sister Jane forwarded a message from my cousin Dan.
‘She was just staggered by what she saw. Dan’s stepson still lives in the house we grew up in. He had received in the post that morning this card from my dad so there we were reading a message that my dad had written nearly 78 years ago. We were just thrilled.
‘My dad died over 20 years ago in 1996 and he loved to tell stories but he didn’t write. My mum wrote letters and postcards but Dad never wrote.
‘To actually see his handwriting was beautiful. We worked out that he would have been 18 and in his first week of training. He joined the Navy and was desperate to join.
‘As soon as he could he joined the Navy and he was down in Plymouth HMS Raleigh the training facility.
‘He wrote to uncle Fred and we were quite surprised about why he would have written it to him but it seems uncle Fred had also done national service.
‘He was a young lad, an 18-years-old, and some of the message is naive – when he said he didn’t realise it would be this busy – but he’s also trying to reassure so we absolutely loved it.
‘It made us all become very very excited and we made contact with the family so it’s been lovely to be back in touch with them.
‘To get this little message from my dad felt like a really special thing for us all.’
Bill’s military career saw him heroically sweep for mines ahead of the D-day landings and later visit Japan, then devastated by nuclear bombs, where he picked up prisoners of war to transport them to safety.
By the time he left the navy he had attained the rank of Able Seaman and was awarded four medals for his service.
Front of the postcard sent by Bill Caldwell. The card was mailed by Caldwell, then 18, who was deployed on a minesweeping ship for the famous operation
Elizabeth added: ‘He had an amazing life. That generation lived through such history. Dad was on a minesweeper we know that he was at the D-Day landings where his boat was sweeping the mines.
‘He went to the Pacific and travelled all around there. We know that he was in Nagasaki five weeks after the bomb was dropped. We know that he picked up prisoners from Japanese prisoner of war Japanese prisoner of war camps and took them to Australia.
‘He had such an impact on us and our kids he was such a great role model.
‘Mum wrote on his gravestone ‘a Liverpool gentleman’ and that’s what he was.. He would give anyone the time of day and that’s why it’s so magical to get this glimpse of him.’
When Bill left the Navy in 1946 he returned to Liverpool where he joined his father’s firm to work as a plumber and in 1964 the family moved to Somerset.
His children now live across England in Surrey, Norfolk, Somerset, and Bristol.
Elizabeth explained how the postcard has special significance as the family approach the anniversary of Fi’s death.
The teen was passionate about organ donation so her lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas went to patients in desperate need of a transplant.
Fi’s mum, Vicki Caldwell, and other family members set up a charity, FEES Fund – which raises money to help children and young people take part in extracurricular activities.
Elizabeth explained how the family had grown up with grief after one sibling, Michael, died at the age of six.
She said: ‘It’s been a very emotional and special time for us and has brought lots of things up.’
Another of Bill’s daughters’, Jane Eales, added: ‘This feels all the more special because we’re running up to the anniversary time.’
Lost postcard from D-Day hero is finally delivered – Daily Mail