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Monday, May 17, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Love Letter In Bottle Found 85 Years Later -- Fisherman Finds Soldier's Note

The AP

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Private Thomas Hughes' letter has finally been delivered, not to the beloved wife he addressed it to in England in 1914, but to the young daughter he kissed goodbye as he left for World War I 85 years ago.

An emotional Auckland retiree, Emily Crowhurst, was overwhelmed today when her father's last letter, and the bottle that had kept it safe and dry in the English Channel since 1914, was delivered to her by English fisherman Steve Gowan.

Gowan, 43, dredged up the green ginger-beer bottle with its screw-on rubber stopper as he fished for cod at the mouth of the Thames River in March.

After carefully opening the bottle he found Hughes' letter with a covering note to the finder.

"Sir or madam, youth or maid," read an emotional Crowhurst.

"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."

The simple love letter to Hughes' wife, Elizabeth, was short.

"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."

Two days later Hughes died.

Gowan and his wife, Jan, personally delivered the bottle and letter today to Crowhurst after being brought to New Zealand by the New Zealand Post.

The letter helped fill a void in her life, said Crowhurst, who was only 2 years old when her father left.

"I think he would be very proud it had been delivered. He was a very caring man."

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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