The sound of the Sea King landing on the helicopter pad was overpowering and the downdraft pushed even the heaviest of my team backwards as we waited eagerly to jump on board and be whisked away to safety.
We’d been overseas for three months and were flying back to the UK for two weeks leave before returning once again for the remainder of the tour. The ground drew away and we were off ‐ all merry Marines grinning at each other as the Sea King dipped and rose as it followed the contours of the terrain below.
There were no surprises awaiting us in London in early June. Everything was as I’d remembered it ‐ busy, congested and full of people pushing to get wherever they were going as fast as possible with little regard for anybody else. But Sam was overjoyed that I had returned and we celebrated with bottles of bubbly.
Understandably, my head was a touch heavy the following morning (I hadn’t really drank for three months) but I began to feel better as I approached Hatton Garden, where I’d ordered an engagement ring to be made some months before. I was really excited, so much so that I stumbled through the door of the shop and nearly fell over, startling all inside.
After calming myself down (and everybody else for that matter,) I was shown the ring and was over the moon with its quality. It looked stunning ‐ a platinum flat band with three beautiful baguette‐shaped diamonds. I left the shop with the ring stashed safely in my jacket pocket ready to re‐enact a Bruce Lee fighting scene if anybody suspicious looking came too close, as I headed home. I had to pretend that all was normal from then on, hiding it from Sam all the way to Ibiza, where we’d booked a week’s holiday. I had decided to propose here, but when or where I did not know.
After several days at her dad’s villa, we took a ferry to the nearby island of Formentera for a couple of nights. We explored the island on a moped and discovered that it was much quieter and more remote than Ibiza, with small, secluded beaches and restaurants tucked away from the roads. It was all very romantic and when we passed a gorgeous restaurant built on a small headland with a small wooden pier leading into a secluded bay, I thought perfect! I booked a table for the following night and after a lot of covert movement between the safe (for the ring), the fridge (for the Champagne), and the moped (where I stashed the goods), we set off.
Sam seemed completely unaware, although perhaps a bit disturbed by my erratic behaviour… The dinner was great and as the sun began to set below the sea line, I led Sam to the end of the small wooden pier below. It was very quiet, with only the sound of the water lapping against the old wooden poles beneath us. When I proposed, Sam grinned wildly and said “Yes”.
Champagne was drunk merrily on that pier and for the next week afterwards with both sets of families joining in on the celebration. In fact, I was still grinning when I boarded the helicopter for the return flight back to work, much to the concern of my fellow marine mates, who were understandably depressed at the end of a holiday and couldn’t understand why I was so cheerful.