Town in Hampshire, southern England, 56 km/35 mi southwest of London; population (2001) 33,840. Industrial products include electronics, and vehicle components for cars and tankers. It contains the largest permanent military training camp in the UK, dating from 1854. The Ministry of Defence owns over 850 ha/2,100 acres here, mainly north of the town centre.
History A small village until the mid-19th century, Aldershot grew in importance when permanent barracks and a military training centre were established in 1854. In 1897, to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, nearly 100,000 troops, including detachments from every part of the British Empire, paraded on Laffans Plain.
It is estimated that about 3 million troops were stationed in Aldershot Command during World War I. Cambridge Hospital (1854–1996), founded along with the camp, became the birthplace of plastic surgery in the British Empire. From 1915 patients needing reconstructive facial surgery came directly from the front for treatment.
Between 1922 and 1939 the great Aldershot Military Searchlight Tattoo presented spectacular displays from all branches of the services; its post-war format, the Army Show, stopped in 1984. At the outbreak of World War II, the majority of troops in Aldershot formed the British Expeditionary Force, and large numbers of troops were stationed at the camp throughout the war.
The war department purchased its first major land areas in 1953, building extensively for three years and almost rebuilding the camp in the 1960s.
Barracks The troops' original wooden huts were replaced by brick-built barrack blocks in the late 19th century. Quarters built for the troops and their families in the 1960s and 1970s are gradually being redeveloped to provide modern accommodation, in a building programme planned to be completed in 2009. The only two surviving 19th-century barrack blocks now house the Military Museum.
Museums and memorabilia The history of the camp is illustrated in Aldershot's Military Museum. A further eight museums include those of the Airborne Forces, Royal Corps of Transport, and the Royal Army Dental Corps. The bell outside District Headquarters was one of a pair captured at Sevastopol during the Crimean War (1853–56); its twin went to Windsor Castle.
Aldershot District Originally the troops quartered in Aldershot were called the Division of Aldershot. They were renamed the Aldershot District in 1870, the First Army Corps (Aldershot District) in 1901, the First Army Corps (Aldershot Command) in 1902, the Aldershot Command in 1904, and a District and part of Southern Command during World War II.