Everyone may have heard about the delay of a few days in reaching letters from the Postal Service, but now it took 77 years for a World War II Veteran’s postcard to reach the address surprising his family.
It was in 1943 when 18-year-old Bill Caldwell wrote a postcard to his uncle Fred in Liverpool describing his first week in England’s Royal Navy during World War II. “Post [this] early in the day,” he told the Royal Mail. The postcard arrived at Caldwell’s family home 77 years later.
Both Caldwell and his uncle have died, but a distant relative, Jack Elomaa who stays there now alerted Caldwell’s six children to the postcard’s arrival. “It was the most surreal thing on a Friday night to suddenly read a postcard that Dad had written 77 years ago when he was training to be a sailor in the Navy,” Caldwell’s daughter, Joanna Creamer, said.
Caldwell wrote about his excitement about joining the Navy, a dream he had since he was 15. “Well, 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?” Caldwell wrote. “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? I have 19 weeks here yet. “Give my love to everyone.”
A wartime postcard mailed from Plymouth in 1943 has arrived in Liverpool. 18-year-old Bill Caldwell posted it during Royal Naval training. Bill died in 1996. His delighted family are now trying to solve the mystery of where the card's been for 77 years @BBCDevon 8.50am pic.twitter.com/9G7hcTU0Ux
— BBC Radio Devon (@BBCDevon) February 14, 2021
Caldwell had been deployed on a minesweeping mission ahead of the war’s historic D-Day operation. The invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, was counted as one of the most critical moments in America’s efforts to help liberate Western Europe from the Axis powers during World War II.
Caldwell visited Japan after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to help transport prisoners of war, and achieved the rank of Able Seaman and got awarded four medals for his service. He left the Navy in 1946 and began working as a plumber before moving to Somerset in southwest England with his family in 1964.
Now his children are spread out throughout the country, living in Surrey, Norfolk, Somerset and Bristol. “It’s a crazy story and it’s hard to believe,” Caldwell’s daughter, Elizabeth, said. “To get this little message from my dad felt like a really special thing for us all.”
A Royal Mail spokesperson said the postcard was “likely … put back into the postal system by someone recently, rather than being lost or stuck somewhere in the network.” The postcard arrived at a time when Caldwell’s family was preparing for the anniversary of the death of his granddaughter Fiona “Fi” Braidwood, who died 2016 in a car crash at 17 years old, The Daily Mail reported.
Her mom, Vicki Caldwell, set up a charity in her honor called FEES Fund, which helps children and young adults pay for education and extracurricular activities. Elizabeth said, “It’s been a very emotional and special time for us and has brought lots of things up.”