The final chapter in the amazi

Private Thomas Hughes of The 2nd Battalion The Durham Light Infantry wrote his last message to his wife Elizabeth in September 1914 as he was crossing the English Channel, sealed it in a bottle and dropped it into the sea on his way to France at the start of the First World War.Twelve days later, Pte Hughes, 26, and 40 of his comrades died in the first battle fought by The Durham Light Infantry north of Rheims.The sealed green bottle remained undiscovered at sea until March this year when Essex fisherman Steve Gowan found the bottle in his net as he trawled for cod and Dover sole in the Thames Estuary.Mr Gowan began making inquiries about who the message was intended for and as a result of publicity in a national newspaper, relations in this country contacted him.He was then put in touch with 87-year-old Emily Crowhurst, the daughter of Pte Hughes, living in Onehunga, Auckland, New Zealand.Mr Gowan and his wife Jan travelled to New Zealand in May to hand over the bottle and the message.Mrs Crowhurst decided that the right home for the bottle and the message was the DLI Museum in Durham.Accompanied by her daughter Elizabeth Kennedy, Mrs Crowhurst made the 23-hour flight back to her homeland to present the bottle to Sir Paul Nicholson, Lord Lieutenant of County Durham and chairman of the Trustees of the DLI Museum.Also at the presentation ceremony were Mr Gowan and his wife to renew the friendship they forged with Mrs Crowhurst and her family during their visit to New Zealand.Mr Gowan said: "I was sorting out the fish after pulling my net in when I noticed that I had also caught a bottle. I could see there was a message inside and opened the bottle. I thought at first it was a wind up because the message was so clear, but then realised it was genuine because it had the soldiers name, army number and regiment."I was just amazed when I found he had a daughter in New Zealand. My wife and I were able to travel there to deliver the bottle and Mrs Crowhurst was very emotional at first, but delighted when I handed it to her."Now it has gone full circle and I wanted to be here when the bottle was given to the DLI Museum."Mrs Crowhurst said: "I was overwhelmed at first to hear this story of my father and to know more about him. I feel that I now have a piece of him. I have always wanted to come back to England and my birthplace and decided I could do this by presenting the bottle to the DLI Museum. My father was a British soldier and it should be kept here."It has been a wonderful experience and I will take back to New Zealand some lovely memories."Mrs Crowhurst, now a widow, was only two years old when her father left for France with 1,000 comradesHe was killed in action on September 21, 1914. His body was never recovered and with 4,000 other British "unknown soldiers" he is remembered at La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre memorial.Mrs Crowhursts mother Elizabeth remarried five years after Pte Hughes was killed and later left for a new life in New Zealand. Elizabeth died in Auckland in 1979 at the age of 89.