Alan Wills of Windermere, describes how his grandfather joined the army at the start of World War One expecting excitement - but life in the Forces did not quite turn out as he had planned.

WHEN Windermere gardener Fred Wills, joined the Border Regiment at the start of World War One, he relished the prospect of fighting Germans - but he never even saw one.

The Army made him do garrisson duty for five years, mostly at Maymyo, Burma, but also at Ranikhet and Jubbulpore, India and Burhan in what is now Pakistan.

Life consisted of tedious training, parades and guard duty - and the climate disagreed with Europeans.

By 1916 frustration at being away from the front line was tempered by occasional thoughts that he would be better off out of it.

Nevertheless, when some troops were due to arrive in Maymyo, he wrote to his mother on May 5: ‘Poor devils. They little know what they are coming to.

'When they have been here for about a week they will begin to wish that they were back in England again.

'Once you get up into Maymyo you can say goodbye to the outside world for a bit. There’s nothing to liven a chap up here and I don’t wonder about a chap going to drink because the canteen is the liveliest place there is’.

It got worse. From Ranikhet in 1918 he wrote: ‘Let us get out of this mosquito-bitten and fever stricken country’.

It was always a relief when the mail arrived because relatives sent not only letters but also The Westmorland Gazette, cigarettes and cakes.

Fred and one Billy Lewis had birthdays on consecutive days so in 1916 they ate Fred’s cake with tinned fruit.

Walks in the jungle were a pleasant diversion and there were spectacular mountain views, especially of the Himalayas later on.

When the viceroy of India visited Mandalay, Fred and co. had to line his route.

Tribal princes and their followers were present.  The Shan juggled and danced with swords and an unidentified tribe had long hair.

Fred would not have missed the spectacle at any price.

With demobilisation taking so long after the war, 70 of Fred’s comrades, including Charlie Perry from Windermere, signed on for three more years because home leave was understood to be included.

They were outraged when the home leave turned out to be a myth.

After the war Fred was a gardener at Graythwaite and Ayside, before working for many years at the Backbarrow Blue Mill.

He died in 1963, aged 69, having married twice and fathering George, John, Geoff and Dave.