Recommended Local History Books

The following books have been published by various members of the Friends of the Aldershot Military museum and some others are listed that are of local interest. They cover local history of Aldershot, Farnborough and Cove.  I strongly recommend purchasing them all! stock them, but some of the books listed are currently unavailable, however, you may be able to find them from alternative sellers. Some books are available at the Aldershot Military Museum shop, Aldershot WH Smiths and the Prince Consort's Library.

Secret Aldershot

Author: Paul H. Vickers

Famous as the ‘Home of the British Army’, the Hampshire town of Aldershot has a long and fascinating history. Local author Paul Vickers takes the reader on an enlightening and entertaining journey through the town’s past, delving beneath the surface to reveal dark deeds and strange tales with long-forgotten facts and amusing stories. Here you’ll meet notorious highwaymen, uncover the secret plans for defending Aldershot in time of war, find out what it was like inside the infamous ‘Glass House’ prison, and discover what happened when Charlie Chaplin, The Beatles and the Olympics came to town. Secret Aldershot lifts the lid on the hidden secrets that even most local people don’t know.

Hampshire's Military Heritage

Author: Dean Hollands

Hampshire’s position on the south coast of England has meant that it has played a key role in this country’s military history for centuries. Its military heritage is as diverse as any other county in Britain. In this book author Dean Hollands focuses on the significant people, places and events associated with the military history of Hampshire, from the early invaders and occupiers of Iron Age and Roman Britain to the present day. Iron Age hill forts on the chalk uplands of Hampshire can be seen, and the Roman fort at Portchester is the best preserved in northern Europe. These fortifications continued through the Norman Conquest, Henry VIII’s castles, Napoleonic era defences and into the two world wars. Southampton and Portsmouth experienced waves of invaders over the centuries but were also the home of the Navy and the departure point for British military expeditions overseas, not least for D-Day in the Second World War. Aldershot is famous as the home of the British Army and Farnborough’s air show has demonstrated its importance as the centre of British military aviation research since the 1940s.

Hampshire’s Military Heritage looks at the military history of this county on land, by air and at sea. All those wishing to know more about the military legacy of Hampshire will find this book fascinating.

Transforming the Skies: Pilots, Planes and Politics in British Aviation 1919-1940

Author: Peter Reese

Following the Armistice of 1918, the British Air Industry and the newly founded RAF held a low place in national priorities. The RAF was rapidly run down, with the infant airlines being given the least possible help, and this neglect continued during the 1920s. The RAF’s role was questioned and civilian air travel remained a dream for most and the province of the well-heeled few. But the breakdown of the Geneva Disarmament Talks led to renewed interest in the National Air Force, and the rise of the European dictators brought calls for rapid modernisation and interceptor aircraft, together with the development of further European civilian air routes. Here, Peter Reese charts the dramatic changes that swept aviation across the dynamic interwar period, revealing the transformative last-minute preparations for defence in a world where much depended on the contributions of some outstanding individuals.

The Men Who Gave Us Wings - Britain and the Aeroplane 1796-1914

Author: Peter Reese

Why did the British, then the leading nation in science and technology, fall far behind in the race to develop the aeroplane before the First World War? Despite their initial advantage, they were overtaken by the Wright brothers in America, by the French and the Germans. Peter Reese, in this highly readable and highly illustrated account, delves into the fascinating early history of aviation as he describes what happened and why. He recalls the brilliant theoretical work of Sir George Cayley, the inventions of other pioneers of the nineteenth century and the daring exploits of the next generation of airmen, among them Samuel Cody, A.V. Roe, Bertram Dickson, Charles Rolls and Tommy Sopwith. His narrative is illustrated with a wonderful selection of over 120 archive drawings and photographs which record the men and the primitive flying machines of a century ago.

Fit to Fight: A History of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps 1860–2015

Author: Nikolai Bogdanovic

Formed in 1860 as the Army Gymnastic Staff, the Royal Army Physical Training Corps (RAPTC) has been keeping the British Army in shape for just over 150 years. Drawn from every regiment in the army, prospective candidates undergo 30 weeks of intensive training before qualifying as a Royal Army Physical Training Corps Instructor. Based at the Army School of Physical Training in Aldershot, over the course of its history the RAPTC has trained countless instructors, including Olympic medallists Dame Kelly Holmes and Kriss Akabussi.

This is a complete history of the RAPTC from its formation to the present day, illustrated with stunning images from the regimental collection, including historical photographs, commissioned pictures of objects and fine art, and facsimile reproductions of documents.

The Story of Gale & Polden 1866-1981

Author: David Strong

Aldershot History Tour

One part of Aldershot history that was fast becoming forgotten is the story of Gale & Polden, once the premier military printing house in Britain. Aldershot History Society member David Strong is rectifying this. The recent publication of The Story of Gale & Polden 1866-1981 is an important contribution to the history of Aldershot. The book is well produced, comprehensive, detailed and extremely well illustrated. It records previously untold episodes in the history of this unique and famous military printer and publisher and by diligent research dispels a number of historical myths. The origins of the business go back to 1866 when James Gale, a printer by trade opened a book and stationery business in Old Brompton which was part of the Chatham Garrison. He subsequently acquired a printing press and became an army printer. In 1884 Gale entered into partnership with Thomas Ernest Polden, a former staff apprentice. The following year the firm built and moved to Brompton Works in order to cope with ever increasing business. In 1892 the partners opened a London office, they incorporated the firm and made a decision to move the business to Aldershot in 1893. A period of expansion followed and the scene was set for the next forty- five years. In 1963 the company became part of the Purnell Group who later merged with Hazel Sun to form the British Printing Corporation. After a tumultuous eighteen years (and now known as Beric Gale & Polden) the company ceased trading in November 1981.

Aldershot Military Heritage

Author: Paul H. Vickers

Aldershot History Tour

The Hampshire town of Aldershot has long been synonymous with the military; so much so that it became known as the 'Home of the British Army' and grew rapidly from a small village to a Victorian town. In this fascinating account of the town's military heritage, local military historian, Paul Vickers, explains why the Army came to Aldershot and made this their main camp, growing to accommodate up to 15,000 soldiers within three years. He looks at the phases of building and re-building the camp, up to its maximum extent just before World War Two, post-war rebuilding and the need for for a new relationship with the civilian town, and the more recent reduction in numbers. Along the way, the book explores the role of the town during the Crimea, Zulu War, Egypt and Boer War, the World Wars and conflicts since 1945: Suez, IRA bombing, Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Aldershot History Tour

Author: Paul H. Vickers

Aldershot History Tour

Aldershot History Tour is a unique insight into the illustrious history of this famous old Hampshire garrison town. Local author Paul H. Vickers guides us around the streets, parks and buildings, showing how its famous landmarks used to look and how they've changed over the years, as well as exploring its lesser-known sights and hidden corners. With the help of a handy location map, readers are invited to follow a timeline of events and discover for themselves the changing face of Aldershot.

Rushmoor Remembers: Aldershot, Farnborough and Cove in the First World War

Authors: Friends of the Aldershot Military Museum, Paul H. Vickers, Roger Deason, Melita Stone

Cody Book

"Rushmoor Remembers: Aldershot, Farnborough and Cove in the First World War' gives an overview of the major events in Rushmoor during 1914 - 1918. As Aldershot was the largest Army camp in the UK and Farnborough was the leading centre for aviation, this area has a unique story and the book looks at the military contribution, the war's impact on the civilian community, the changing role of women, and how everyday life was affected. It also includes a number of individual stories which shed light on the experiences of local people. Through many contemporary photographs, this book gives a vivid picture of Rushmoor and its people a century ago.

The material in this book was originally assembled for a special exhibition which was presented at the Aldershot Military Museum in 2014. Both the exhibition and this book were researched, created and presented by the Friends of the Aldershot Military Museum, a voluntary organisation whose aims are to preserve and promote the rich local heritage of Rushmoor.

All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the Friends of the Aldershot Military Museum, registered charity no. 1108637, to support their work for Rushmoor's local heritage.

The Flying Cowboy

Author: Peter Reese

Cody Book

Samual Cody, Britains first aviator, was a naturalised British citizen (born in the USA) and a cowboy who modelled himself on Buffalo Bill. His story straddles two continents, two eras: the Wild West of America, where he rode the same cattle trails as Buffalo Bill, played the same roulette tables in Dodge City as Wyatt Earp and competed with Annie Oakley at sharp shooting; and later along with the Wright brothers he became a pioneer of early aviation, whose achievements led to the foundation of todays aviation industry and to Farnborough becoming synonymous with flying. Sam Codys early activities in the USA are shrouded in mystery. He came to England at twenty-three years of age and, following the success of his melodrama 'The Klondyke Nugget,' turned to man-lifting kites. In 1903 Cody succeeded in crossing the English Channel in a canvas canoe towed by one of his large kites. His exploits came to the attention of the Admiralty, and then the Army. Cody went on to develop kites and later engine-driven aircraft and, after making the first powered flight in Britain, continued flying until he died in a crash in 1913.

Aldershot Past

Author: Stephen Phillips, Gillian Picken

Aldershot Past Book

Less than 150 years ago ‘Aldershott’ was a small, sleepy, rural village but the decision in 1853-4 to establish a permanent military camp on the heathland north of the village transformed it. The rustic place became a genteel location with theatres, churches, and leafy residential areas. " This is an excellent read ... The book is complemented by a range of pictures which highlight items words cannot express." Aldershot News

Aldershot Through Time

Author: Paul H. Vickers

Cody Book

Aldershot is famous as the 'Home of the British Army' and the early character of the town was formed by the choice of the Army to make Aldershot Heath the site of its first permanent training camp. Before 1853 Aldershot was a small rural village of around 870 people, but this underwent a dramatic change when some 15,000 soldiers arrived. To meet the needs of the troops, a new town, which was a remarkable example of Victorian design and architecture, was constructed. In the twenty-first century Aldershot sees more change, such as the new Westgate centre and the Aldershot Urban Extension which will build thousands of new houses on land previously used for barracks across South Camp. By comparing fascinating old photographs with their modern equivalents, this book shows not only some of the huge changes which have occurred in military and civilian Aldershot, but also how much of its rich history can still be seen and enjoyed.

A Gift So Graciously Bestowed: The History of the Prince Consort's Library, Aldershot

Author: Paul H. Vickers

A Gift So Graciously Bestowed Book

The History of the Prince Consort's Library.

For 150 years the Prince Consort's Library has served the British Army. It was founded in 1860 by Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, as a centre for the military education of officers in Aldershot, the greatest military camp to be established in Britain. Today its role has expanded to serve all ranks stationed anywhere in the world, and the stock is no longer limited to books and journals but now embraces the electronic sources of the -digital age. The media may have changed but the central purpose of this great institution remains to support the professional work, education and training of the Army, true to the far-sighted vision of its founder. Th is book tells the full story of the Prince Consort's Library, the many colourful characters who have been involved with it, and how it has survived through wars, crises and upheavals to reach the twenty-first century as a strong, vital and much respected centre for military information and learning.

"There is no library quite like it, and I cannot think of one that I depend upon more" - from the Foreword by Richard Holmes.