Aldershot was a mere village before the Army established a permanent military camp here in 1854. Football began as a pastime for soldiers. A football club for officers was in existence in 1863, the year of the formation of the Football Association, but it would take more than 60 years to establish a senior civilian club in the town.
The prime movers behind the idea were Jack White, a much-travelled sporting journalist, and Llewellyn Griffiths, the town clerk. Early in December 1926 a meeting was held in the Council Chamber, resulting in the formation of Aldershot FC. The newly formed club successfully applied for admission to the Southern League. A suitable venue, albeit just a pitch with stone terracing and no stands, was found at the council owned Recreation Ground in High Street, close to local facilities and running alongside the main railway line.
In those days many footballers were members of the Army Physical Training Corps. Actually a few players did play while serving with the Army but mainly from ordinary regiments. Players serving with the PTC played for the Shots during WW2 when many International players were stationed in Aldershot e.g. Tommy Lawton, Stan Cullis, Joe Mercer etc.
Their first competitive match was against Gray’s Thurrock in August 1927. They were clad in red shirts with blue sleeves, a blue and red collar and white shorts. Other combinations of kit for ‘The Shots’ as they were appropriately nicknamed were red shirts with blue edgings, blue and red stripes and quarters. The choice of this wonderful and in football terms rare combination was inspired by the livery colours of the council. It is also thought that the colours were inspired from those used by the Royal Engineers based in the Military Town. The old football team of Royal Engineers, who played in the very first FA Cup Final, wore red and blue hooped jerseys.
One of the first signs of the club’s first emblem is an autographed scroll of honour, representing wartime guest players from 1939-45. The town’s coat of arms also appeared on shirts shortly after the War. The arms were granted in 1923. Aldershot, as part of the Hundreds of Crondall, anciently belonged to the Bishops of Winchester; hence the mitre in the first quarter of the shield. In 1599 the Manor of Aldershot passed to the Tichborne family, from whose arms the vair (the squiggly blue and white bits – representing fur) in the shield, the hind’s head in the crest, the supporting lions and the motto ‘Pugnia pro Patria’ were taken. By sheer coincidence this Tichborne motto, meaning ‘Fight for the Country’ is especially appropriate to Aldershot, containing the headquarters of the largest military command in the British Empire- a fact to which the crossed swords in the fourth quarter of the shield refer.
Did you know, by the way, that vair as shown in Aldershot’s arms also explains one otherwise inexplicable piece of English storytelling? The story of a poor servant girl and her fur or “vair” slippers came across from France, and “vair” was misquoted as “verre” – meaning glass. Fur slippers became glass slippers, and Cinderella never looked back. Nothing to do with football of course, but educational nevertheless.
The start of the Fifties saw the arrival of a shield inside which an interlocking design of the initials AFC and underneath a scroll inscribing Aldershot FC appeared. This emblem appears on team pictures until the late Fifties. It is a mystery when it ceased to exist.
In 1973 Aldershot took on another insignia, consisting of a red and blue shield, one half containing a canon as a punning device, the other half depicting a football ensigned with the word ‘Shots’, alluding to the club’s nickname.
At the start of the Nineties Aldershot Football Club was sinking deeper into financial turmoil after appalling management from a succession of directors at the club. With debts totalling over £1.2m, Aldershot Football Club was formally wound up in the High Court in March 1992 and ceased all fixtures in mid season, the first club since Accrington Stanley in 1962. The badge disappeared with the sad demise of the club. From the ashes of the disaster rose Aldershot Town FC in 1992. Formed by a committee of fans and local businessmen, the club relies almost entirely on the patronage of several thousand passionate and loyal fans, sponsorship and advertising. Quite apt then that the current crest of the club is a Phoenix rising from the flames.
Eleven years after their formation Aldershot Town reached the top flight of non-league football, having gained promotion to the Nationwide Conference. Starting in 1992 they began their new non-league life in the Isthmian Division 3 by winning the division in their first season, with crowds regularly over 2,000. Promotion was achieved again the following season, and with another step up the non-league ladder in 1998 when they were promoted to the premier section of the Isthmian League. Despite finishing runners-up in their second premier season, they had to wait a further three years before wining the Isthmian League championship and gaining a move to the ‘5th level’ of English football.
It was fitting that their first match back in a national league was against Accrington Stanley, who like Aldershot Town are making their way back up the footballing pyramid.