Jack had experienced many a wild and windy voyage to Millport, Rothesay, Brodick and Campbeltown on the old Caledonian MacBrayne ferry. Those short crossings could be hair raising, but were nothing compared to this. Sitting with his sweating forehead against the pleasantly cold green metal bulkhead of the boat, Jack stared down at his brand new boots, and the pools of vomit swirling around them. Some of that vomit was probably his own he thought. He didn’t even try to move his boots out of it any more.
As the boat lurched sickeningly forward again, Jack felt the welcoming spray on his face. His thoughts turned to those quiet idyllic days on the Ayrshire Coast. Time didn’t matter then, he had all the time in the world. He wanted to go exploring, ‘to see the world’ he always said. He remembered Dad saying ‘you’ll always be glad to get home son’. He didn’t think about it then, but how true that was. Good old Dad, he was always right. Mum hated it when he said he was going away, she cried, Jack remembered. So did Joan, his big sister, although she pretended otherwise. Why do brothers and sisters have to pretend indifference to each other when they reach their teens, when deep down they really do care for each other, just like when they were kids? Jack wondered about that now, all the times when he should have put his arm around her to comfort her, and didn’t. Opportunities missed! He thought about what he would like to say to his Mum and Dad right now if he could. Probably that they were just the greatest parents in the world and that he loved them. He wished he’d told them before.
The boat pitched violently again. Keeping his head down, Jack thought he saw blood mingling with the vomit now, that confused him for a while. Was it his? He didn’t think so. Another wave burst over them as Jack threw up again, trying not to get any on his trousers or his new boots. Not long now he thought!
Jack could tell they were nearing the shore, he was grateful for that. He would do anything now to get off this boat, well almost anything. He pressed his head tighter against the side of the boat and waited. Things were eerily quiet in these last few moments, Jack wondered about that.
Then suddenly the doors dropped open and Jack could just make out the beach ahead. The light and the heavy spray streamed into the boat, along with the red hot bullets thudding into the men around him. His new mates. There was lots of blood now, sea water, screaming, blood and vomit.
Jack stepped off the front of the boat.
Normandy – June 1944