Day 2 – Dover to Calais via P&O’s Spirit of France.
Gorgeous morning. Clear and calm. My crossing isn’t going to be exactly like those of soldiers of the Great War. For one thing, I’m going in the morning, when most of them would have sailed at night. For another, I’m going on a spacious modern ferry, ridiculously well-convenienced by the standards of military transport vessels, even repurposed liners. (Can’t help but wonder what troops bound for the front would have made of the open bars and duty free shops? Seems a recipe for quite a substantial mess.) For a third, I’m travelling not just with other adult members of the imperial family united by language, culture, and uniform, but with a remarkably diverse company, including many families – more than a few of them German. And of course, I’m crossing for a series of pleasant walks in the French and Belgian countryside, a century removed from the horrors of the war; whereas they were bound for the Western Front in the fullness of its terrible glory. A great adventure to some. An anxiety inducing mystery for others. A return to horrors no less real for all their familiarity to veterans of the trenches. Of course, whatever their feelings on the outward journey, it was for a great many ‘un aller simple’ into oblivion.