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Aldershot Command

Aldershot Command
Active 1881-1941
Country  United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Command
Garrison/HQ Aldershot

Aldershot Command was a Home Command of the British Army.


After the success of the Chobham Manoeuvres of 1853, a permanent training camp was established at Aldershot in 1854 on the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief, Viscount Hardinge.[1][2][3] During the Crimean War, regiments of Militia embodied for home defence were housed at the camp, and the Brigade of Guards used it for summer training, and were reviewed by Queen Victoria.[4]

After the Crimean War, a division of Regular troops was permanently based at Aldershot, and ‘the Division at Aldershot’ (including artillery at Christchurch, Hampshire, and cavalry at Hounslow, Middlesex), became one of the most important home commands of the British Army.[5][6]

In January 1876 a ‘Mobilization Scheme for the forces in Great Britain and Ireland’ was published, with the ‘Active Army’ divided into eight army corps based on the major Commands and Districts. 2nd Corps was headquartered at Aldershot. This scheme disappeared in 1881, when the districts were retitled ‘District Commands’, with Aldershot usually listed as IX or X. In 1898 (when Queen Victoria’s son, the Duke of Connaught, was General Officer Commanding (GOC)) Aldershot Command was ranked I on the list. From 1901 to 1908 Aldershot Command was given the additional title of I Army Corps.[7]

Under Army Order No 28 of 1907 the Home Commands were reorganised to provide a basis for the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).[8]

Composition of Aldershot Command 1907[8]

1st Cavalry Brigade (Brig-Gen Hon Julian Byng)

1st Division (Maj-Gen James Grierson)

  • 1st Brigade Aldershot
  • 2nd Brigade Blackdown
  • 3rd Brigade Bordon
  • Three Field Artillery Brigades (each of three batteries) Royal Field Artillery
  • One Field Artillery (Howitzer) Brigade RFA
  • Two Field Companies Royal Engineers
  • Two Divisional Telegraph Companies RE

2nd Division (Maj-Gen Bruce Hamilton)

  • 4th (Guards) Brigade London
  • 5th Brigade Aldershot
  • 6th Brigade Aldershot
  • Three Field Artillery Brigades RFA
  • Two Field Companies RE

Army Troops

  • 1st & 2nd Air Line Companies, RE
  • 1st & 2nd Cable Telegraph Companies RE
  • 1st & 2nd Wireless Telegraph Companies RE
  • 1st & 2nd Balloon Companies RE
  • 1st & 3rd Bridging Train RE

World War I

When the BEF was sent to France on the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Aldershot Command provided the basis for I Corps under Lt-Gen Sir Douglas Haig.[9] The Territorial Force and Special Reserve then took over home defence, with the assembly of ‘Central Force’ beginning on 18 August 1914. ‘First Army’ of Central Force was headquartered at Aldershot, with the Highland Division (later 51st (Highland) Division) and Highland Mounted Brigade of the TF under command.[10] For the first two years of World War I command at Aldershot was divided between the Major-General, Administration (Maj-Gen Alexander Hamilton-Gordon) and the commander of Aldershot Training Centre (Gen Sir Archibald Hunter). Aldershot Command was reinstated in 1916 under Hunter.

World War II

In 1939 Regular Troops reporting to Aldershot Command included 1st Infantry Division and 2nd Infantry Division.[11] On the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, a similar process to August 1914 was repeated when the GOCinC Aldershot Command (Sir John Dill) became GOC I Corps in the new BEF despatched to France.[12] Unlike the other Home Commands, Aldershot had no Coast Divisions or other defence forces under its command, and was solely responsible for providing drafts and reserve formations.[13] In 1941 the Command was downgraded to ‘Aldershot Area’ within a new South-Eastern Command.[14][15] South Eastern Command ceased to exist at the end of 1944,[16] and Aldershot was transferred to Southern Command, without its own GOC.[17]

Post-World War II

GOCs were appointed to Aldershot District from 1944 to 1967, when it disappeared in the reorganisation that led to Southern Command being redesignated GHQ UK Land Forces. From 1968, the HQ of South East District was at Aldershot; it was renamed Southern District in 1992, and HQ 4th Division in 1995.[18]

General Officers Commanding-in-Chief

Appointments as General Officers Commanding and General Officers Commanding-in-Chief have included:[19][20][21]

The Division at Aldershot

Aldershot District Command

Lieutenant-General Commanding Troops at Aldershot, and 1st Army Corps

  • 10 January 1901 Gen Sir Redvers Buller VC, GCB (on his arrival back from South Africa)
    • 25 October 1901 Lt-General Sir Henry Hildyard, KCB (temporary when Buller was dismissed, pending the return from South Africa of French)[32][33]
  • 15 September 1902 Lt-Gen Sir John French[34]

In 1905 title changed to GOCinC.
In 1907 title changed to Aldershot Corps.
In 1908 became Aldershot Command again.

Aldershot Command

GOC and Maj-Gen Administration, Aldershot Command

  • 1914-16 Maj-Gen Alexander Hamilton-Gordon

GOC Aldershot Training Centre

Aldershot Command

South Eastern Command
Commanders included:[41]

Aldershot District

South East District

Southern District

  • February 1994 Lieutenant-General Sir Anthony Denison-Smith


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