Channel Crossing

I am on the Ferry to Calais. I can’t help thinking back to how William would have felt back in 1915 leaving Blighty for an unknown and uncertain destiny. All he knew was he was landing at Boulogne and then to a forward training camp. This trip is in a modern, high speed ferry, not the turbulent and crowded troop ship that on its inboard journey was an ambulance ship.

Surrounded by his friends and brother soldiers, he would have felt some comfort and reassurance, but as with all military gatherings, banter and bluster were good shields for inner nerves and worry of their fate.

In mid channel, the threat of attack from under the sea was countered with the deployment of coastal defence destroyers and troop protection ships. These were more lookouts than submarine killers. The ever present threat of sinking was with soldiers in every transport, as there were many daily sailings to attract enemy attention.

There were few facilities on board most troop ships. Many were converted passenger steamers, with the comforts and facilities removed in favour of space to hold men and equipment. Almost every ship carried munitions bound for the guns at the front and William would have known the destructive power of the high explosives carried also.

As I near the French coast, the feeling of uncertainty spreads over me too. For me it is whether the roads will be clear, the weather calm and sunny and if my rooms will be ready. For William, the future would be a journey filled with sights and sounds unimaginable to our modern way of life.


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