Life Story in a Bottle

More and more historical newspaper reports are being digitised all the time, so I revisit newspaper archive websites looking for new interesting items. This one is from the "The British Newspaper Archive" and was made available online earlier this year. The item is from the Liverpool "Weekend Echo" of July 31 / August 1 1982. It is without doubt the strangest newspaper item I have found during my research. Read it first, then continue here ....

What a strange story! It leaves us with many unanswered questions, but maybe we are in a better position than the Kidderminster police were in 1982 to answer the first question:.

Who was Neville Chrimes?
There have only ever been two people named Neville Chrimes. This story clearly relates to Neville Walter David Chrimes who was born in 1918. He graduated from University of Surrey, England in 1958. In 1962 he emigrated to Australia with his wife and two sons, settling in New South Wales. He died on 18 June 1999 in New South Wales.

Why did Neville write a 46 page life story and bury it in a bottle?
I have no idea why he did this. Was it a form of confession?
If we take the newspaper report of "more than 40 years" literally, Neville buried the manuscript in about 1940. At that date Neville was only 22 years old, making his desire to record his life story even more surprising.

What was it about Neville's life story which would be of interest to the police?
Again, I have no idea. We must consider the possibility that Neville held information which would be useful to the police in solving a crime in which he himself was not involved.

Did the police find their man?
Although the Kidderminster police did not have access to the internet in 1982, they could have started with Neville's stated place of birth - Standish, near Wigan, Lancashire. They could easily obtain his birth certificate, which would identify his parents. This would lead to the discovery of his three siblings. However, this family of six only spent a few years in Lancashire, moving back to south Staffordshire where the children married and settled, so enquiries in Lancashire may have drawn a blank.
I wonder whether, in 1982, it was possible for the police to search emigration records so easily as we can now? If they did establish that Neville had emigrated to Australia, was the reason for their enquiries so important as to justify pursuing him there? We know exactly where Neville was living in 1980. He had been at the same address for the previous 12 years so it is reasonable to assume that he would still be there in 1982.

Did Neville know that wrapping the manuscript in metal foil would facilitate its discovery?
We know that Neville was employed in Australia as a metallurgist, so I believe he would have known, even in 1940, about the emerging technology of metal-detecting. It is unlikely that the bottle and its contents would ever have been found without the metal foil wrapping.

Do Neville's family know about this story?
Neville's wife Celia is still alive (January 2019). Neville's youngest child Miles died in Australia at the tragically young age of 17 years. Neville's other son Gerrard is recorded as living with his parents in New South Wales in 1980. I have no records for Gerrard after that date, but it is reasonable to assume that he is still alive. Neville and Celia adopted a daughter in 1965. Whether Neville told his wife or his children about his buried bottle we may never know.

Can you help? Do you have any information or comments on this story?

David Chrimes 2018
Updated January 2019

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