D-Day hero's lost postcard finally delivered to his family 77 years later

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·5-min read
Bill Caldwell's postcard finally arrived home after he sent it in 1943. (SWNS)
Bill Caldwell's postcard finally arrived home after he sent it in 1943. (SWNS)

A lost postcard sent from a D-Day hero to his family during the Second World War has finally been delivered over 77 years later.

Bill Caldwell, then 18, mailed the card to his uncle Fred in 1943 to tell him about his first week in naval training but it never arrived.

Yet on Friday, it was finally delivered – 77 years and seven months later.

Royal Mail said it does not know why the postcard took decades to arrive, suggesting someone may have found it and posted it themselves recently.

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Both Caldwell and his uncle have since died but their relative Jack Elomaa now lives at the same address in Liverpool and received the correspondence.

The card arrived in good condition with a photograph of soldiers marching at HMS Raleigh in Cornwall, where Caldwell was training.

In the message, he wrote: "Dear Uncle Fred, Well here I am in blue at last.

Bill Caldwell's postcard finally arrived home after he sent it in 1943. (SWNS)
Bill Caldwell in his Navy days. (SWNS)

"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."

Caldwell was later deployed on a minesweeping ship during the 1944 D-Day operation that marked a major turning point during the war.

His six children said they were "thrilled" to see the memento of their dad.

It comes as the family are preparing for the anniversary of the death of his granddaughter Fiona Braidwood, who was killed in a car crash in March 2016 at the age of 17.

Caldwell’s 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.

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"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."

Elizabeth said her father, who died in 1996, loved to tell stories but never wrote letters or postcards.

She said: “My mum wrote letters and postcards but Dad never wrote. To actually see his handwriting was beautiful.”

The family worked out that he would have been 18 in his first week of training.

Elizabeth added that he had been “desperate” to join the Navy. After he signed up, he went to the Plymouth HMS Raleigh training facility.

She said: "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-year-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.”

Bill Caldwell's postcard finally arrived home after he sent it in 1943. (SWNS)
Bill Caldwell in later years. (SWNS)

She said the family have all become “very very excited” and the postcard has brought them all back together.

"To get this little message from my dad felt like a really special thing for us all," she said.

Caldwell later visited Japan, then devastated by nuclear bombs, where he picked up prisoners of war to transport them to safety in Australia.

By the time he left the Navy in 1946 he had attained the rank of Able Seaman and was awarded four medals for his service.

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."

She said he travelled around the Pacific and was even in Nagasaki five weeks after it became the second – and so far last – city to undergo a nuclear bombing.

Bill Caldwell's postcard finally arrived home after he sent it in 1943. (SWNS)
The front image of the postcard that has finally made it home. (SWNS)

"He had such an impact on us and our kids he was such a great role model,” Elizabeth added.

"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."

After Caldwell left the Navy he returned to Liverpool and joined his father's firm to work as a plumber.

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

Elizabeth said the postcard has special significance as the family approach the anniversary of Fiona’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.

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Her 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 said 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."

Watch: D-Day quietly marked in Europe