Aldershot. This archive centers on the Centenary of the British Army Physical Training Corps (A.P.T.C.) at Aldershot and one of its most famous sons, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, Corps Commandant from 1946-1960. Spanning 1958 to 1962, the archive includes: two books signed by Montgomery, two holograph, signed letters from Montgomery, a signed note on the verso of an invitation, and an original photograph. The books are a 1960 Centenary publication about the A.P.T.C. and a 1960 Presentation of the Freedom of the Borough of Aldershot to the A.P.T.C. Both bindings feature the same marbled endpapers and the Corps’ gilt crossed swords device on the front cover.
The Centenary is strikingly bound in full red morocco with an elaborate glassine jacket featuring a web motif and housed in a red cloth case lined with matching marbled paper. Profusely illustrated, the Centenary opens with a facsimile holograph Forward by Montgomery opposite his frontispiece portrait. Montgomery offers the volume as “an account of the development of physical training in our Army during the past hundred years.” Affixed to the front free endpaper is a special printed plate hand addressed to “Major T. L. Fletcher | Secretary | Army Physical Training Corps Association” and signed “Montgomery of Alamein | F.M.” above his printed title “Colonel Commandant Army Physical Training Corps”.
The Presentation book is bound in red cloth, the front free endpaper boldly signed by “Montgomery of Alamein | F.M.” as well as thirteen other individuals, including T.L. Fletcher and Aldershot civic leaders. Condition of both books is exceptional. A 9 August 1958 holograph letter from Montgomery on personal letterhead from Trianon Palace Hotel, Versailles, conveys regrets for a Reunion event citing “The 13 and 14 September is my last week in NATO…” and promising “Next Year, 1959, I will be with you.” A red “WAR OFFICE” ink stamp is dated “12 AUG 1958” and ink notation from T. L. Fletcher at the lower right states that the letter is to be “Read out at The Reunion Dinner”. A printed and autograph invitation to the 16 September 1961 “Corps Annual Reunion Dinner” is inked in red by Montgomery on the verso: “I regret it is not possible for me to attend. I will be in China in September.”, and is signed “M of A | 15-7-61” with subsequent notation dated two days later by “Major Fletcher” at the upper left corner.
The final piece of correspondence is an autograph note from Montgomery to the new Training Corps Commandant thanking him for a telegram regarding the Annual Reunion. This note is on “Isington Mill | Alton | Hampshire” (Montgomery’s home) stationery, dated “17-9-62” and signed “Montgomery of Alamein”. Purple ink stamped at the upper left reads: “ARMY SCHOOL OF | PHYSICAL TRAINING | 18 SEP 1963 | ALDERSHOT”. A 13.75 x 8.5 cm photograph of Montgomery in dress uniform – ostensibly in Aldershot for the 1960 Training Corps Centenary - is stamped on the verso “NATURAL FOTOS” with an “ALDERSHOT, HANTS” address.
In 1854, the heathland of Aldershot became the site of the first permanent training camp for the British Army and has since remained the “Home of the British Army”. Major T. L. Fletcher was an Army Physical Training Corps Master-at-Arms from 1939-1954 and served as Honorary Curator of the Army Physical Training Corps Museum. During fifty years in the British Army, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (1887-1976) became “the outstanding British field commander of the twentieth century.” (ODNB) He earned fame in North Africa during the Second World War, later commanding Allied ground forces during the Normandy invasion. After the war he rose to Chief of the Imperial General Staff and retired in 1958 as NATO’s deputy supreme commander. Lines of Aldershot barracks bear the names of great British military leaders. In April 1965 Montgomery was at Aldershot to formally open the “Montgomery lines” which are still in use. Item #004319