The imposing twenty-seven thousand ton ship, MV Norland, sits bravely at the dock. Still showing the signs of being a North Sea ferry but with the addition of two, very temporary looking, helicopter decks fitted to the rear of the ship. It will become home to Keagan and all the Two Para troops heading to war in the South Atlantic.

‘We’re fucking Para’s,’ Lance Corporal Marks says as the lads look up at the imposing vessel, ‘we’re supposed to drop in out of the fucking sky and kick-ass, what the fuck are we doing boarding a fucking ferry? That’s for the fucking Marines, those pussies always arrive second.’
‘We really have to work on your vocabulary.’ Keagan says.

‘Fuck off with your posh London talk, you’re no fucking better.’

Keagan just laughs and shaking his head he turns, trying to ignore the ravings of his friend he keeps searching the crowds. He knows Emily, Peter and Jenny are in there somewhere and he is desperate to catch sight of them before he embarks on the ship.

Having spent the previous weekend at home, on Monday the regiment had received orders and were given a five-day window to be ready to go. He knows it’s unlikely he will spot them with the crowds in their thousands. Relatives, friends and well-wishers, all wanting that one last sight of loved ones, or simply to show support for the men the papers had been describing all week as, their hero’s.

Emily, he knows from his phone call with her last night, has booked the day off work, much to the frustration of her line manager, and she had told him Peter would drive them down to Portsmouth during the early hours of the morning.

Still scanning the crowds, Marks grabs his shoulder. Come on Devlin, time to get aboard, you’ve got plenty of time to daydream when we get on the ship. Clearly, nobody travelled to wave goodbye to Marks, Keagan thinks as he picks up the rest of his gear and heads towards the gangplanks already streaming with Para’s boarding the ship.

As they board they are welcomed by the original civilian crew, volunteers who have stayed on board the vessel for this very different voyage. Normally the MV Norland would take on board trucks with goods for a journey across the English Channel along with business people and tourists starting their holidays.

Having been shown to the bunks they would use for the voyage, leaving all his kit there, Keagan negotiates his way to the barriers on the top deck, themselves crowded with like-minded colleagues and he continues his search for any sign of his friends. Looking at the crowds he reads some homemade banners with messages of good luck, love and wishes for safety. Looking closely at the faces he can see such a mix of emotions, laughing and crying, worry and fear, many standing there concentrating and trying to glimpse their loved ones. Looking around him at his friends and fellow troops, he sees the same expressions mirrored.

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