By the Edwardian Era it was recognised by the military authorities that they needed to provide suitable recreation facilities for their men when off duty. Not only did this encourage productive pastimes such as reading, sports or crafts which kept the men out of trouble, but it also offered an alternative to drinking, fighting and picking up ladies of dubious repute in the towns outside a barracks, all pastimes that could lead to criminality and letters in the press about soldiers dubious moral character! During the Edwardian era many of the larger garrison towns saw specialist recreational buildings built and a general increase in interest in soldier’s welfare. The War Office was reluctant to pay its own money for these facilities so many were paid for by donation or public subscription. They would remain in use for decades to come and today we have a postcard of one of the finest of these establishments, the Smith Dorrien Soldiers’ Home in the Aldershot Garrison:
The building was constructed in 1908 to a design by the architect HB Measures, Director of Barracks Construction, and featured rooms for reading, study, meeting and games. The foundation stone for the building was laid by Lieutenant-General Horace Smith Dorrien himself on the 4th March 1908, when he was commander of the Aldershot Garrison, and was opened to the men in 1909.
The building still stands, being Grade II listed, and is now used as private office space.