D-Day hero’s lost postcard finally delivered to his family almost 78 years later

Rebecca Speare-Cole
Sun, 14 February 2021, 4:21 pm

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 almost 78 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 living 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 Bill 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’s postcard finally arrived home after he sent it in 1943. (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 a veteran of D-Day after being deployed on a minesweeping ship during the historical 1944 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 at a time when the family is 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 added that her father, who died more than 20 years ago in 1996, loved to tell stories but he never wrote letters or postcard. 

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

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

Elizabeth added that he had been “desperate” to join the Navy and 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-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.”

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)

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.

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.

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 the bomb was dropped.

He also picked up prisoners from Japanese prisoner of war camps and took them to Australia, she said. 

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)

“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.”

When Bill left the Navy in 1946 he returned to Liverpool where he joined his father’s firm to work as a plumber.

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

Elizabeth explained how the postcard has special significance as the family approaches 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 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.”