A postcard sent to his family by a D-Day hero in 1943 finally made it to its destination.
Almost 78 years since Bill Caldwell, then 18, sent the postcard to his uncle Fred, the note got to Fred’s house.
Unfortunately, neither Fred nor Bill saw the mail finally arrive, but a family member was home to receive it.
The “lost” postcard told of Bill’s naval training. Bill was used on a minesweeper for the famous D-Day operation.
And on Friday, 77 years and seven months later, the postcard was delivered to the house in Liverpool where the relative Jack Elomaa now lives.
Bill’s six children said they were “thrilled” to receive the postcard, which is in surprisingly good condition.
The family is preparing for the anniversary of the death of Bill’s granddaughter Fiona ‘Fi’ Braidwood, who died in a car accident in March 2016 at the age of just 17. So the postcard was reassuring.
Bill’s daughter Elizabeth, 58, said: “It’s a crazy story and it’s hard to believe.
“On Friday evening we were in our WhatsApp family group and my sister Jane forwarded a message from my cousin Dan.
“She was just shocked by what she saw. Dan’s stepson still lives in the house we grew up in. He had received this card from my father in the mail that morning, so we read a note there that my father had written almost 78 years ago. We just loved it.
“My father died over 20 years ago in 1996 and he loved storytelling, but he didn’t write. My mother wrote letters and postcards, but papa never wrote.
“To actually see his handwriting was beautiful. We found out that he would have been 18 and in his first week of training. He joined the Navy and was dying to join.
“As soon as he could, he joined the Navy and was at Plymouth HMS Raleigh, the training facility.
“He wrote to Uncle Fred and we were quite surprised why he would have written to him, but it appears that Uncle Fred also did community service.
“He was a young guy, an 18 year old, and part of the message is naive – when he said he didn’t realize it was going to be so busy – but he’s also trying to calm down, so we absolutely have it loved.
“It made us all very, very excited and we got in touch with the family. It was nice to be in contact with them again.
“Getting this little message from my father felt very special to all of us.”
The postcard shows a photo of soldiers marching on HMS Raleigh in Cornwall where Bill was training.
It reads: “Dear Uncle Fred, here I am finally in blue.
“I didn’t think it would be like this, you don’t get a lot of time for yourself, but I like it all right. I’ll write a letter to you all when I get half a chance, so you guys will hold on a bit.
“I still have 19 weeks here. Friendly greetings to everyone. Dear Bill. “
Royal Mail has said it doesn’t know why the postcard took 78 years, but maybe someone found it and recently posted it themselves.
Bill searched for mines prior to the D-Day landings and later served in Japan, which had been destroyed by atomic bombs.
There he brought prisoners of war to safety.
He achieved the rank of able seaman in the Navy and received four medals for his service.
Elizabeth said, “He had an amazing life. This generation went through such a story. Papa was on a minesweeper. We know he was at the D-Day landings where his boat was sweeping the mines.
“He went to the Pacific and traveled around there. We know he was in Nagasaki five days after the bomb was dropped. We know that he picked up prisoners from Japanese POW camps and brought them to Australia.
“He made such an impression on us and our children that he was a great role model.
“Mama wrote on his tombstone,” a Liverpool gentleman “and he was. He would give the time of day to anyone and that’s why it’s so magical to look at him.”
After serving in the Navy, Bill returned to England in 1946 to work as a plumber in his father’s company. In 1964 the family moved to Somerset.
His children now live across England, in Surrey, Norfolk, Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Elizabeth stated that her brother Michael had died at the age of six.
“It was a very emotional and special time for us and it touched a lot of things,” she said.
Jane Eales, another of Bill’s daughter, said, “This feels all the more special as we run through to the anniversary period.”
Fi’s mother, Vicki Caldwell, and other family members started a charity. FEES Fund – collects the money to help children and young people participate in extracurricular activities.