On September 9, 1914, well into World War I, Private Thomas Hughes was well on his way to the front lines of battle. Travelling on a boat, he managed to write a brief message to his wife, which he then placed inside of a sealed ginger beer bottle and dropped it into the English Channel:
Dear Wife, I am writing this note on this boat and dropping it into the sea just to see if it will reach you.
If it does, sign this envelope on the right hand bottom corner where it says receipt. Put the date and hour of receipt and your name where it says signature and look after it well.
Ta ta sweet, for the present. Your Hubby.
Also attached was a covering note intended for the finder of the bottle:
Sir or madam, youth or maid, Would you kindly forward the enclosed letter and earn the blessing of a poor British soldier on his way to the front this ninth day of September, 1914. Signed Private T. Hughes, Second Durham Light Infantry. Third Army Corp Expeditionary Force.
Two days later, he was killed.
More than 85 years had passed — Hughes’ wife and two year old daughter eventually made their way to New Zealand.
According to BBC News, it wasn’t until fisherman Steve Gowan caught the bottle in 1999 that the message resurfaced. Travelling to New Zealand, Gowan managed to deliver the heartfelt message to Hughes’ daughter, Emily Crowhurst.
Crowhurst explained, “It touches me very deeply to know … that his passage reached a goal … I think he would be very proud it had been delivered. He was a very caring man.”
Dubbed the ‘Great War’, the number of casualties sustained during WWI was so high that the exact figure is still in dispute. Through the muck of trench warfare and the shell-shock from constant artillery barrages, it almost seems impossible to imagine any good resulting from the daunting campaign; which is why stories such as this should last — just like Hughes’ message in the bottle.
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