There is a romantic image of troops setting off to war in which marching men pass through cheering crowds being bombarded with well-wishes and flowers.
In my experience departures on Ops were more likely to be a lonely, thought filled, walk in the middle of the night. If the Quartermaster had done his job correctly he would have indented for cold and wet weather to maximise the benefit!
The walk would be followed by brief periods of frenetic activity interspersed with a lot of hanging around, soldiers call this; 'Rush to Wait'.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go.
He silences the alarm before she digs him in the ribs,
dresses swiftly in the dark and creeps downstairs
taking care to avoid the squeaky stair.
Quietly he steps into the cool nocturnal gloom.
His breath hangs on the chill night air.
With practiced ease he swings the Bergen to his back.
Turns a key in the lock and pauses,
eyes glued to the unlit glass
mind focused on the sleeping heads inside.
He turns, shrugs and fades into the shadows;
absorbed by the night.
All that betrays his presence
is the measured sound of boots upon the road.
Other humpbacked figures appear and disappear
fading in and out of light cones
cast by lamps which illuminate
coils of razor wire on the fence top
as it runs on in to the mist.
At the barrier he shows his id and joins the throng.
Rush to wait......
Time ticks past, an hour in her arms;
He knows not when, or if,
he will hold her again.
Name called, he boards the bus,
fills from the back, sits, eyes closed,
a warrior off to war.
John Carré Buchanan
12 September 2014