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Thomas Hughes (1888-1914)


Stockton soldier's message in a bottle delivered 85 years later


Thomas Hughes was a soldier in the Durham Light infantry. As he crossed the English Channel from Southampton to St. Nazaire with the 2nd Battalion DLI on 9 September 1914, at 7.52pm he dropped a message in a green ginger beer bottle over the side of the ship.

The message was for his wife ‘just to see if it will reach you':

Finder of this letter
Sir or Madam
Youth or Maid
Would you kindly
forward enclosed letter and earn the
blessing of a poor British soldier,
on his way to the front this 9th
day of September 1914.
Signed
Pte T. Hughes
2nd Durham L I
3rd Army Corps
Expeditionary Force

Dear Wife
I am 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
x x x

Army Form C. 398
Envelope addressed to:
Mrs T. Hughes
7 Clyde St
Portrack
Stockton-on-Tees c/o Durham
England

DESPATCH
Sender’s No. 9279
Pte T. Hughes
Date 9.9.14 hour 7.52pm

RECEIPT
Date 17-5-99 hour 10am
Signature: F.E. Crowhurst
nee Hughes

Sadly, Thomas was killed in action less than two weeks later and the message never reached his wife, but the bottle was dredged up off the Essex coast 85 years later and delivered to his daughter in New Zealand.

Today, the message and bottle are part of the DLI Collection: http://www.durham.gov.uk/dlicollection

Thomas’s army service records have survived in The National Archives and can be viewed on the Ancestry website.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/879168/HUGHES,%20THOMAS

1914 message in bottle found – Independent 12 April 1999
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/soldiers-message-in-a-bottle-surfaces-ndash-90-years-later-780172.html

Sweet message in a bottle – BBC News 18 May 1999
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/346879.stm

Daughter writes final chapter – Sunderland Echo 10 September 1999
http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/local/all-news/daughter-writes-final-chapter-1-1078572

National Army Museum reports for duty in Durham 7 July 2014
http://www.nam.ac.uk/press/national-army-museum-reports-duty-durham

Civil Parish: Stockton on Tees

Birth date: 1888

Death date: 1914-Sep-21

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 7 Clyde Street, Portrack, Stockton on Tees

Religion: C of E

Employment: Labourer

Family: Wife: Elizabeth Hughes, 7 Clyde Street, Portrack, Stockton (1914); 5 Edith Place, Stockton (1919); remarried as Mrs E Jones, 36 Leonard Street, Portrack, Stockton (1919); source Army Service records
Daughter: Florence Emily Hughes, living at 36 Leonard Street, Portrack, Stockton (1919); source Army Service records
Father: Joe Hughes, 22 Temples Street, Stockton (Army Service records)
Mother: Mary Ann Hughes, Temples Street, Stockton (Army Service records)
Uncle: Jim Hughes, address not known (Army Service records)

Military service:

Enlisted for the Militia (no. 8265) on 2 October 1905
Enlisted as a regular soldier in the 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry (no. 9279) at Newcastle upon Tyne on 5 October 1905
Age on enlistment 18 years
Killed in action on 21 September 1914

Memorial(s): Commonwealth War Graves: La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial

Gender: Male

Contributed by Durham County Record Office

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