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Colchester, Essex, England

 By Michelle Leighton

Colchest

As your Centre Court Chapter Regent I would like to share with you about the town where I was born-a long ,long time ago! 44 years to be exact. I was born in Aldershot

Aldershot is a town in the English County of Hampshire, 37 miles southwest of London. Aldershot is known as the “Home of the British Army” and as my Dad was in the Royal Engineers, it was fitting I was born here.

The army connection with Aldershot made the once small village grow rapidly into a Victorian Town. In 1854, at the time of the Crimean War Aldershot’s Garrison was established as the first permanent training camp for the British army. This led to a rapid population expansion going from 875 in 1851 to in excess of 16,000 by 1861! (9,000 being from just the military).

The Garrison was then needing to be rebuilt in 1961-69 and with a complicated process completed by the architecture and engineering firm , Building Design Partnership.

My father was in the Royal Engineer Corps and then moved to work for the Transport and Road Research Laboratories (TRRL) in Crowthorne, Berkshire.I was born in 1970 and my mother and father, after they met in Austria on a skiing holiday, moved to Barbados,with his work in the Tropical Section of TRRL and his ability to help design road surfaces for use in hot climates.

In 1972 Aldershot experienced the first in a series of mainland IRA attacks.Seven people,all civilian support staff, including five catering staff, a gardener and a Catholic Priest were killed in a car bomb attack on the 16th Parachute Brigade Headquarters Mess.A further 9 people were injured and the IRA claimed it was as revenge for the Bloody Sunday Massacre. There is now a memorial garden there which was used to mark the 40th Anniversary of the bombing in 2012.

Aldershot has many interesting places for visitors to visit due to it’s long history. You can see the Wellington Statue which is a monument to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and the victor at the Battle of Waterloo and later Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. There is also  the Airborne Museum (Hartenstein), Aldershot Military Museum,the Imperial War Museum,The Museum of Army Flying, the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery(Commonwealth war graves),the National Memorial Arboretum (national site of remembrance), the Aldershot Observatory and nearby in Farnborough there is the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum full of Royal establishment-related aircraft and a wind tunnel.

Another interesting fact was that The Beatles played at The Palais Ballroom in Aldershot on the 9th of December 1961. It was supposed to be their first London Show but was infamous because it was not advertised properly and only 18 people showed up as the Aldershot News neglected to feature Sam Leach’s advert for the show!

Finally, Aldershot is known for it’s interest in many sports including Football, Rugby, Cricket, Greyhound racing, stock car racing and speedway. They even hosted three of the five events in the modern pentathalon at the1948 London Olympics! The swimming was held at the Aldershot Lido, fencing at the Maida Gymnasium and the cross-country equestrian event was held at Tweseldown. All of the equestrian events, excluding the Prix des Nations, were also held at Aldershot. It was announced on 15th January 2008 that Aldershot would be chosen as GB’s official training camp for the British Olympic Team, but later confirmed they would be training abroad! You win some , you lose some!!!

Some useful Links to Colchester

Colchester City

Colchester Military Museum