He looked into the face of the teenager sat next to him. He saw terror but determination too. Even pride.
The order was given and they climbed down the swaying nets into the cramped confines of the heaving craft.
They now jumped every time the big guns of the cruisers and battleships blasted out their heavy shells towards the all too distant shore.
He felt ashamed as tears welled and then ran freely down his face, mixing with the sweat to drip onto his battledress, but as he looked at the faces of those boys who had over the last two years become more family than friends he realised he was not alone.
Up until now the only dead bodies he had seen were on the news reels in the cinema local to the camp. He knew folk in the cities were being killed still, by bombs but he had never lived in a city.
The noise was now overwhelming yet it was the sound of his own breathing that deafened him.
He could not see over the sides of the landing craft but every second he could see flashes, splashes then smoke marking the deaths of other boys in his battalion.
The craft shuddered then stopped so abruptly they all were flung forward. The massive ramp fell into the sea, causing waves to break as it did so.
Already he could hear the twang and thuds of bullets hitting the frame of the craft, as the German defenders desperately attempted to stop the huge swathes of olive freen figures making their bloody way up the moonscaped beach.
He felt something splash on his cheek and automatically let his left hand loosen it’s immense grip on the rifle barrel to reach for it. His eyes barely focusing on the red gelly on his fingers. He looked to the side and saw Eddy his best friend drop to the deck with an face now bereft of eyes.
He swallowed the bile that filled his mouth. He dropped his feet into the water and waded towards the beach.
Countless explosions and then long strings of tracer marked his way.
He had never felt this scared but he moved forward because he knew he must.
It was three days before his body was fished out of the sea. His belly and face bloated as if some character off a jovial seaside post card, only there was no smile, no teeth to smile with. It was easy to identify him with the brown dics around his neck. Name, rank and serial number.
Another number to be recorded. His body handed down the line to be buried with so many others.
It took three weeks for the telegram to arrive. His mother, father and 12yr old brother’s lives would never be the same. The hurt they now felt would never leave them. In time they would be at least able to breathe when they remembered his face.
They were lucky. They did not have to remember the pallid blue skin, the look of sheer terror in his eyes. All they had to remember was a crinkled piece of paper with OHMS POST OFFICE TELEGRAM upon it. And the words ‘We regret to inform you’ burnt into their memories for evermore.
Remember the morning of the sixth of June 1944, as so many were never able to forget.