THE FINAL words written by a soldier who died 85 years ago have turned up in a bottle in the Thames estuary, and the fisherman who made the discovery has been asked to return the letter to the soldier's family.
Twelve days before he was killed in the First World War, Private Thomas Hughes wrote his wife, Elizabeth, the message: "Ta ta my sweet for the present, your hubby", which he placed in a bottle and cast into the sea. The note remained unread until Steve Gowan scooped it up in his net off the Essex coast.
Pte Hughes's wife died in 1979. His daughter, 86-year-old Emily Crowhurst, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, has pleaded with Mr Gowan to part with the letter.
"I only have a few photos of my father but I spent most of my life trying to find out more about him," she said yesterday. "I understand the fisherman is keen to keep the letter and the bottle as a souvenir, but it would mean so much to me to have it."
Mrs Crowhurst was two years old when she last saw her father as he headed off to battle with the Durham Light Infantry in 1914. She still wears his war medals at military commemorations.
Mrs Crowhurst's daughter, Elizabeth Kennedy, said: "It is too late for the letter to be opened by the person it was intended for, but the next best thing is for it to be handed to his daughter.
"It's incredible that something lying on the seabed for almost a century has survived intact for so long."
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