According to local historian Murray Rowlands, Aldershot as the home of the British Army may never have been, had the government of the day selected Reigate.
This is how Murray opened his lecture ‘Aldershot in the Great War’ at the RLC Museum, saying the reason for the government choosing Aldershot was a question of money. The land in Aldershot being too poor for agriculture, and being sparsely populated, made it cheaper alternative to Reigate. The Wikipedia entry on Aldershot says,
In 1854, at the time of the Crimean War, Aldershot Garrison was established as the first permanent training camp for the British Army. This led to a rapid expansion of Aldershot’s population going from 875 in 1851, to in excess of 16,000 by 1861 (including about 9,000 from the military).
The few snippets from Murray’s lecture that I recall are,
- Until the late 19th century the Army occupation of Aldershot was mostly in tents. Both sides of Queen’s Road would’ve been a mass of tents.
- It was General Sir Horace Lockwood Smith-Dorrien who, as GOC [General Officer Commanding] Aldershot Garrison, more than doubled the number of playing fields available to the men, and built new and better barracks.
- Describing the growth development of aircraft manufacture at Farnborough under the guidance of Mervyn O’Gorman from a balloon factory to major aircraft manufacture.
This and more can be found in Murray Rowlands book, Aldershot in the Great War.