Lost postcard from D-Day teenager is finally delivered to hero’s family… 77 years late

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The postcard was mailed by Bill Caldwell to his uncle Fred in 1943 but it never arrived. Bill was 18 at the time and was deployed on mine sweeping duty. He wrote to his uncle to tell him about his first week in naval training, but the message was never received. But on Friday by some miracle – 77 years and seven months later, it was finally delivered. 

Although both Bill and Fred have since died, relative Jack Elomaa now lives at the same address in Liverpool and received the postcard.

The note arrived in good condition and included a photograph of soldiers marching at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall, where Bill was training.

A Royal Mail spokesman said he did not know why the postcard took decades to arrive. It’s believed someone may have found the mail and posted it themselves recently.

Bill wrote the postcard to tell his uncle about his first week. 

He said: “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.

“I have 19 weeks here yet. Give my love to everyone. Love Bill.”

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Bill’s military career saw him deployed on a minesweeper ahead of the D-Day landings and later visit Japan where he picked up prisoners of war to transport them to safety.

Bill’s six children said they were “thrilled” to receive the postcard and memento of their father 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.

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Bills daughter, Elizabeth, 58, told the Liverpool Echo: “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.”

By the time Bill Caldwell left the navy he had attained the rank of Able Seaman and was awarded four medals for his service.

Bill left the Navy in 1946 and returned to Liverpool where he joined his father’s firm to work as a plumber. In 1964 the family moved to Somerset.

His children now live across England in Surrey, Norfolk, Somerset, and Gloucestershire.

Elizabeth said: “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.

Elizabeth explained how the postcard has special significance as the family approach the anniversary of Fi’s death.

The teenager was passionate about organ donation, so her lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas went to patients need of a transplant.

Vicki Caldwell, Fi’s mum and other family members set up the FEES Fund – a charity which raises money to help children and young people take part in extracurricular activities.

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.

Additional reporting Luke Traynor. 

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