North Camp Gymnasium, Aldershot Postcard

Many army bases were upgraded in the late Victorian era with what were, for the time, very advanced facilities. Amongst those facilities were gymnasiums, with physical fitness being recognised as being important in a military setting. These gymnasiums were large high buildings to allow plenty of ventilation when men were exercising. This example is from the North Camp at Aldershot and is typical of these late Victorian buildings:

The importance of physical fitness was explained as:

Broadly speaking, the object and scope of physical training are to enable the man to acquit himself as a soldier. The basis of all good service is physical efficiency. An unsound man may do his best, but this must fall short of the physical capability of a sound man who inevitably can do better… The object of physical training, therefore, is to:

  1. develop character
  2. produce alertness of mind
  3. create bodily fitness in harmonious proportion

The 1931 manual on Physical Training offered instructors this advice on the care of gymnasia:

The proper and free ventilation of the gymnasium should be attended to before, during and after work; but the instructor must take care that the men when heated are not kept standing in a draught. It is a matter of great importance that the building should always be kept clean and free from dust.

The floors of the gymnasia should not be allowed to become slippery.

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