Messages from the front lines of war or from soldiers currently fighting were, and still are, sent home on a regular basis. Some of these come with hidden coded messages about enemy activities and some are just messages of love and support from a husband to a wife.
However, not all of these love notes and spy messages made their way to the rightful addressee, some were uncovered and decoded decades later. This article takes a look at some messages that weren’t unearthed until after the war.
1. A note woven into a kilt in Glasgow, Scotland, for a soldier on the front lines in WW1.
During World War One a Scottish woman named Helen left a note in a kilt manufactured by a kiltmaker in Glasgow for the London Scottish Regiment. Unfortunately, the kilt never made it to the front lines, meaning the message wasn’t received.
It read: “I hope your kilt will fit you well, and in it, you will look a swell. If married never mind. If single drop a line. Wish you bags of luck, and a speedy return to Blighty.”
It was only unearthed by an economic historian from the University of Southampton after she removed the packing stitches of a kilt that had been passed down from generation to generation in her family.
2. A message from a WW1 soldier to his wife.
Englishman Steve Gowan, while fishing off the English coast in 1999, discovered a message in a bottle that was written by Private Thomas Hughes for his wife back in 1914. The letter even had a covering letter for whoever found it that read: “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.”
Private Hughes had tossed the green ginger beer bottle into the English Channel on his way to fight on the front lines in France.
Inside there was a letter for his wife, which read: “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 bottom right-hand 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.”
Just two days later Private Hughes was killed in action.
Mr. Gowan was able to track down his family, who had moved to New Zealand and delivered the letter to Hughe’s daughter, Emily Crowhurst, 85 years after her father had written it.
3. A Civil War message in a bottle only decoded after almost 150 years.
The message itself is dated July 4th, 1963, and reads: “You can expect no help from this side of the river.” It is believed to have been written by Major General John G. Walker of the Texas Division to Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton.
Pemberton was surrounded and stuck in Vicksburg, Missispi, during the Civil War by Union forces. The message was dated with the same date as Pemberton’s surrender, although it clearly never reached him. It was held at the Museum of the Confederacy since that museum was founded in 1896 but it was never opened and decoded as they believed it was just a random scattering of letters. The message also had a bullet with it, believed to have been used to weigh it down if the messenger was caught and had to throw it into a river.
4. A series of video messages from World War 2 soldiers discovered in a basement.
Hundreds of video clips, each lasting around 30 seconds made by 600 soldiers, were found in rusty canisters in the basement of Manchester Town Hall in England in 2015. The clips went on to form a special documentary that aired in the UK called Calling Blighty.
Some of the messages were awkward, cheeky, heart-warming and moving, many of the men had been away from home for seven years and were worried that their children or parents might not recognise them anymore. Some of the soldiers filmed didn’t make it home, but the videos offer a snapshot into the thoughts of the troops as they spent so long being away from their families.
One soldier said to his family and wife: “I hope you’re alright at home. I’m not doing so bad out here; it’s a bit warm. Getting decent grub, but missing the old fish and chips and a pint now and then, you know. Anyway, keep the bed warm until I get home, and we’ll get up them stairs. Cheerio.”
The films were shot between 1944 and 1946 by British forces serving in India.
5. World War 2 war pigeon found in a chimney.
A British spy pigeon carrying encoded messages lay undiscovered for 70 years in an English chimney. It was discovered in 2012. It’s believed the pigeon was flying back from Germany and stopped on the roof to rest for a few moments before continuing its journey when it fell down the chimney.
The home’s current owner was getting their chimney cleared when the pigeon’s skeleton was discovered. At first, they thought it was a racing pigeon until they saw the red capsule tied around the pigeon’s leg. The coded messages were still visible and were quickly sent away to be decoded.
These are just some messages that were discovered years later; there are likely to be hundreds more hidden all over the world still waiting to be uncovered.