They came for us at 1 am.
A hot meal and drink were waiting. I ate and drank the food and it sat, like lead in my stomach. When we were finished, everyone dressed in silence and I kept thinking about that meal and wondering if it was my last. What made me lie about my age? My thoughts drifted to home. What was mum doing right now? Did they miss me? I could picture my younger sister collecting eggs, could almost hear the hiss of the fire as dad stoked it ready for breakfast.
I want to go home.
I wasn't alone. No one spoke. Orders were given in whispers in case the enemy, only a few miles away, were forewarned about our arrival.
My hand shook as I stowed my great coat into a pack. I rolled the sleeves of my tunic up to the elbow. I saw the whiteness of Jimmy's arm and realised it was so our own men could identify us in the dawn light.
The occasional curse was muttered as we made our way down ladders and into boats. The air was so still, with hardly a breath of wind. Most of the space in our small boats was taken up with boxes of ammunition, water and rations. I watched as Jimmy passed shovels and wire cutters to the men in the other boat.
At 3.30 am we set off. The remaining men stood on deck and took their caps off, circling their arms above their heads in a silent wave. I could feel icy tentacles slide down my spine. I clamped my jaw shut to stop my teeth from chattering. Fear rose and no matter how hard I tried, the silence and pitch black night seemed to taunt me. From the look on Jimmy's face he felt the same.
I think it took 30-45 minutes for us to reach shore. My feet were numb from being crammed beside a box, and my shirt was damp from mist. The first glow of dawn started to brighten the sky. Rising from behind the hills the sun was the colour of lemons growing on our tree at home.
We weren't even off the boats when the first popping noises were heard. Someone yelled for us to get to the trenches. The flashes of rifle fire reminded me of fireworks. I saw Jimmy jump out of the boat, and land in water up to his chest. One minute he was standing there, the next he was floating face down. A pool of blood darkened the water around him.
We'd been mates since we were little, Jimmy and me. I couldn't just leave him there. Not like that. I half slid out of the boat and grabbed him by one arm. I tried to drag him onto the beach, but he was too heavy. I felt a sharp pain, like someone had elbowed me in the side and fell over. I could hear screams and gunfire and someone yelling for us to keep going.
I tried to stand but couldn't. My legs didn't work. I'm cold and tired. So tired. There are dozens of men floating around me. Smithy and Colin…and Jimmy. I can feel the water closing over me.
I want to go home.
Lee Franklin lives in WA on a property with her hero husband, amazing son and sweet sister-in-law. Oh, and a myriad of animals. She encourages everyone to attend their local dawn service, and show those who fight for our freedom the respect they deserve so much.