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Hughes1.jpg (134294 bytes)

Discovery . . fisherman Steve and note

Found after 85 years: soldier Tom's last loving message in bottle to wife

THE SUN, Thursday, April 8, 1999

A TRAGIC World War One love story was uncovered when fisherman Steve Gowan's nets caught an old bottle containing a soldier's last message to his beloved wife.

The letter was written by Private Thomas Hughes as he sailed to fight the Germans in France in 1914. He dropped it over the side in the sealed green bottle, signing off: "Ta ta sweet for the present."

But Tom died just 12 days later on his first day in the trenches.

And the sturdy bottle bobbed around the seabed for almost 85 years until it was caught as Steve, 43, fished for cod in the Thames Estuary.

Steve, from Canvey Island. Essex. said: "It looked very old and when I wiped off the dirt I could see a note inside it. It was inside a small envelope marked Army Form C398."


The note was from Private 9279 T Hughes of the 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry, 3rd Army Corps Expeditionary Force. It read:

"Dear wife, I'm writing this note on the boat and dropping it into the sea just to see if it will reach you.

If it does, sign the 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 XXX."

It was addressed to his wife back home in Portrack, Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham, with a covering letter which read:

"Sir or madam, youth or maid, kindly forward the enclosed letter and earn the blessing of a poor British soldier on his way to the front this ninth of September 1914."


The letter was written two days after Tom sailed from Southampton with 1,000 comrades.

They landed at St Nazaire and made their way to the River Aisne, north of Rheims, where Germans were dug in.

Tom and 40 comrades died on September 21. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated with 4,000 British "unknown soldiers" at the La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre memorial.

Steve said: "This may have been his last attempt to contact his family before he died."

Hughes2.jpg (352418 bytes)

Lost Love . . . Private Thomas Hughes' faded note and, above, the bottle that kept it safe since 1914

Last Modified: 14 November 2003


Saturday, 31 December, 2005 15:27

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