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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Prince Consort's Library


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Has anyone visited the Prince Consort's Library in Aldershot recently? I was last there in the later 1990s and made myself unpopular by freezing the the catalogue terminal more than once. It's in a building on the edge of the military complex and was jammed solid with books on military history. It was outside the more security-sensitive part of the Garrison and to gain entry I just had to show any old ID.

There was talk of the collection moving up north and for a while it disappeared from library and telephone directories and a Google search led only to expressions of concern about the preservation of the building. But now it features on http://www.aldershotgarrison.co.uk/ as part of the Army Library Service, though the webpage does say access is limited to serving members of the armed services and their families. Anyone know if this is strictly enforced?

(Yes, I know I can ring them up or email them, but this query does serve to bring the library to the attention of other Forum members.)

Despite my cocking up their computers, staff were happy to do some free photocopying for me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

After posting the above I emailed the library and got a reply saying the the rules regarding civilian access were unchanged since my last visit in the late 1990s, from which I infer I can go again. I recall that there was open access to shelves, which encourages serendipity. A visit will make a change to going to the IWM, which entails me making the same journey that I did for too long as a commuter - I worked in offices very close to Lambeth North tube station.

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  • 3 weeks later...

How sad - posting the only two replies to my original query!

I visited the Prince Consort's Library today and it was much as I remembered it from my last visit seven years ago - even to the hours of opening being wrongly stated on the board outside. The building is in a copse away from the main Aldershot garrison and all its windows are heavily barred.

My driving licence was accepted as ID and I was asked to sign in the visitors' book (for non service people). To my surprise the last entry was six weeks ago, which suggests this is a very much under-used resource by researchers.

As well as books on the British Army, there were sections on the navy and airforce and on other countries' armed services and military history.

The catalogue is computerised (but not available on the Internet) and the collections variously classified - some by Dewey Decimal, and the regimental histories seemed to have two different unique systems. Other WWI books were in two main sections, one of popular modern publications, the other upstairs of mainly older ones, though I did find a recent hard-to-come-by book up there. Then there are other sections to look at - war poetry, weapons and so on. One can access all the books onself, though some are on very large moveable stacks of shelves operated - by staff members only - with large wheels and with warnings about the dangers of being crushed.

I get the impression that the Library doesn't really wish to attract civilians but will be hospitable to those few who turn up. I had some photocopying done promptly and for nothing. Back in the 1990s it was very slow to answer my snailmail enquiry, giving precedence to service people, but my recent emails enquiring about access were replied to promptly; but I suspect it isn't geared up to dealing with research requests.

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