Offbeat

World War One Postcard Arrives: 94 Years Late

Not only was the post office remiss in taking 94 years to deliver a postcard from a World War I soldier, it also had the nerve to deliver it to the wrong address! In spite of everything, the card reached the right party (or at least the descendants of the such) proving that old courier motto about neither rain, nor hail, nor sleet, nor deepest whatever will stop the telling of this tale.

Alfred Arthur was a 19-year-old soldier about to be shipped off to war in January of 1916 when he penned a few words on a postcard to his sister, Nell, from his military camp in Newhaven, East Sussex, England before being deployed to France where he died two years later in the bloody trench warfare on the Hindenburg Line at Grecourt along the Western Front.

Sister Ellen, known as Nell, died without ever having received word from her younger brother in 1964, but lo and behold, last November, the postcard was pushed through the door of a home opposite the house where Alfred and his family used to live.

In the words of Lauren Bleach, aged 61:

“It came with the rest of the post. We couldn’t believe our eyes… When we read it, we were so emotionally taken because it was from a soldier who was obviously at a training camp waiting to go away from his sister…”

The terse message of love and war reaches out across the decades. It reads:

“Dear Nell, just a postcard to let you know I have not forgotten you. On the other side you will see our orders for next week. Poor me, I shall need your pity. Drop me a line, from brother Alfred.”

On the face of the card as referred to in Alfred’s note, a poster displays the words: “Orders of the day: Eight hours drill, eight hours route march, eight hours trenching…and then we have the rest of the day to ourselves!”

Mrs. Bleach located one of Alfred’s great-nephews, Brian Buxton, age 68, with the aid of a local genealogist and gave him the postcard that had been destined so long ago for his doorstep.

Mr. Buxton was completely surprised by the gesture, as the family had never received any documentation from Alfred, who was one of nine children. He had been very close to his sister Nell who never recovered from her brother’s brutal wartime death.

The postcard’s history for the last 94 years remains a total mystery. One can only surmise that that old adage has its place:

Better late than never.

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