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Aldershot Army Show

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The origins of the show go back to the 1920s and grew out of military activities, particularly those of the Cavalry Regiment. The Aldershot Army Show was a resounding success and featured a grand display of British military vehicles and equipment, an exciting main arena programme, funfair, activity zone, helicopter rides, over 200 traders and exhibitors, extensive catering, musical entertainment and fun for all the family.

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      29.08.2006 18:20
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      A good day out for all ages but comfortable shoes must be a priority.

      Aldershot Army Show:

      On the 16th July, my family and I attended the Aldershot Army Show. This was the second time we had attended and as previously, had a fantastic day out. I would like to share with you some of our experiences and some photographs of the 2006 show.


      ****** HISTORY OF THE SHOW ******

      Aldershot is a military area. In 1918 a horse show was staged here for the first time which saw both officers and civilians compete in certain events. This was known as "The Horse and Hound Show".

      By 1930, the show was growing in popularity and it was renamed "The Aldershot Show". In 1961 the Army introduced a new variety of displays. However due to heavy usage of Rushmoor Arena in world war two, it was decided to use Queens Parade as its venue.

      The event was known as the KAPE campaign, which means, Keep the Army in the Public Eye. At this time the show did not recreate battles as previously done, but instead showed the talent and skills of the new modern army.

      With the unrest in Northern Ireland back in the late 1970's, early 80's, the show was cancelled. It wasn't until 2001 when Queen Elizabeth celebrated her golden jubilee that the show re-opened. Last years show attracted over 65,000 visitors.


      **** GETTING THERE - Queens Avenue, Aldershot. *****

      BY CAR:

      Usually two weeks before the show begins, large yellow signs appear on the side of the M3 towards Yateley. Aldershot is close by, just off the M3 on the Hampshire/Surrey border. However this year the Farnborough Air Show was also on at the same time and both share the same route in. This made it somewhat confusing as the Air Show directions were alongside the Army Show signs and we ended up taking the wrong turning in.

      Normally though, it is very easy to get to. From the M3, leave at junction 4, follow the yellow signs to Aldershot / Farnborough. Driving through the military village and past the small selection of shops, you then exit the A331 at the A3011 turn off, sign posted Aldershot South, Ash Vale, North Camp.

      From then on follow "Parking for the Aldershot Army Show" signs.

      The car park is a large field which is always prepared for a heavy flow of traffic. There is no shade. Boards and ramps are laid down incase of bad weather and vehicles becoming stuck. Attendants are everywhere and they direct you to the nearest parking slot.

      There is no charge for parking.
      If you have a Sat Nav, use the postcode GU11 2BY to direct you there.

      BY TRAIN:

      Farnborough Main, North Camp and Aldershot all run a service to the show. As train times differ from year to year, I recommend calling National Rail on 0845 7484950 or visit the website - www.nationalrail.co.uk nearer the time.
      BY BUS:

      As above, please contact Stagecoach UK on 0870 6082608 for a full timetable and pick up points. They run a bus service every ten minutes around the area.

      *** PRICES AND SHOW TIMES ******

      The army show is usually around 15th/16th July. The show begins at 10 am but due to the huge amount of visitors this attracts, try to aim to arrive in the car park by 9.30 am the latest. It starts to wind down at 5.30pm with closure at 6 pm.

      Those in first can park adjacent to the entrance and ticket sale booths. This is particularly handy if you wish to keep your picnic in the car rather than carry a heavy cool box around all day. You are permitted to return to your vehicle but must have a stamp on the back of your hand.

      Tickets cost £6 per adult and under 16's are free. If you buy in advance from various points in Aldershot or on the website, then you pay £4 per adult. There is cut off point with the website, usually two weeks before the show begins. Prices quoted were for 2005 and 2006 shows.

      Tickets are obtainable nearer the time from :

      Aldershot Visitor Information Centre
      ° Princes Hall
      ° Aldershot Military Museum
      ° Aldershot Pools
      ° Alpine Snow Sports
      ° Connaught Leisure Centre
      ° Farnborough Leisure Centre
      ° Princes Gardens Cash Office
      ° Rushmoor Borough Council Offices

      If you buy on the day, there are army green ticket porta cabins next to the entrance. You can pay by either cash, credit or debit cards. Once you have paid, hand your tickets into the staff by the entrance and they give you a free book detailing all the days' events and times. This 61-page A5 sized brochure is an invaluable key to your day out as it also has a map inside with where the arenas are and of course, the toilets!

      *** FIRST APPEARNCES ****
      As you get inside the show, it feels more like a market or craft fair. With over 200 traders and exhibits there are tents and tables everywhere selling or promoting a large variety of goods.
      Being a typical female, I was attracted to the handbags with prices from £10, the cotton stall selling gypsy skirts, t string tops all from £10 again and the fudge stall.

      My children would not come away from the many toy stalls, as my husband would not leave the "any tools for a £1" tent. There are pet stalls, holistic medicine tents, massage units, Usborne Books, replica swords for sale, air rifles, a South African food stall, Army stalls with camouflage gear and water bottles.

      **THE ARENA'S***
      If you can tear yourself away from the retail outlets which are placed strategically all over the field , then try and get to the arena area's in good time. The two arenas are where all displays are and I recommend you get there at least 30 minutes before the shows begin. There is a metal fence surrounding both pitches and the audience is not permitted to go beyond this point.

      The displays draw most of the crowd and spaces are limited. Unfortunately if you have young children, they do get agitated waiting but if you don't grab yourself a good view, then all you will see is the back of peoples heads and a few puffs of smoke.
      In the arena's this year, some of the shows we saw included:
      The White Helmets Display Team.

      This group of both men and women perform amazing skills on motorcycles, hence the "white helmet" name. The team are volunteer members from the Royal Corps of Signals and receive no Government funding. The team rely on sponsorship to keep going.

      Members serve three years with the display team after completing a rigorous training course, and then they return to their normal military duties, with no extra pay.

      The amazing stunts include human pyramids on bikes, using at least 10 men, jumping through haystacks and loops on fire and steering the bike around the course sitting the wrong way round. Quite a spectacular show that lasts around 20 minutes. Children and adults are told not to have hands and feet hanging over the railings as accidents can occur.

      Massed Bands of The Queen's and Light Division:
      The Minden Band of the Queens Division serenades you with military music for about 15 minutes depending on the schedule. Dressed in full military uniform, not only do they look impressive but they sound impressive.

      This year also saw the start of the Farnborough Air Show. Just as the soldiers began to play, the brand new airbus took off and circulated the air above the field. Unfortunately not only did the plane drown out the sound of the music but everyone lost interest in the band, preferring to watch this beautiful piece of machinery perform a lap of honour.

      My children amongst others found this really boring after the initial few minutes and became irritated just standing about. This is probably due to the fact that the band performs no stunts; they just parade around the field playing their brass instruments. In the heat of last weekend, I feel they all deserved ample recognition.

      The Napoleonic Battle Display and Infantry Battle Display:

      A re-enactment of a battle in the Napoleonic age complete with masses of smoke and guns blasting. A very life like performance by the 88th Foot Rangers. This was immediately followed by the Princess Of Wales Royal Regiment in which most of its members have seen active service in the Middle East. Both displays lasted around an hour but is not one to be missed. If you like noise, drama and smoke then this show is for you.

      The Red Devils Parachute Display Team:

      This premier Army Free Fall Team are selected from three Battalions of the parachute regiment. They are dropped from the sky to land at selected targets on the field. However this year, due to the Farnborough show again, the Red Devils were only given a small amount of airtime in which to perform the drop. Also there were a few members short as some of the regiment were ill. Not as good as the previous year, quite disappointing.


      Rockwood Dog Display and Birds of Prey :

      First to perform were the dogs and their handlers, performing various skills to a captivated audience. The variety of dogs which included some stunning Alsations, were awarded a rapturous round of applause and many oohh's and arrhhs from the crowd. The display shows all aspects of dog training, including mini agility, criminal handling and jumping through hoops. This is one show not to be missed.
      As soon as the dogs were placed back in their pens, the falcons were released. As with the dog show, the commentator Charlotte Hill, gives a brief introduction to the act and the history of falconry.

      The first bird was released. After the handler praised the tagging equipment on the bird's leg and how reliable it was in retrieving the Falcon, we all saw the bird just fly and fly she did. Infact she didn't come back! The handler resorted to lots of whistle blowing and calling and waved around what looked like a TV aerial to detect her signal. After ten minutes she gave up and had to introduce the next two birds which did return to the handlers arm.

      Not sure if they ever retrieved the Falcon as they show finished and still there was no sign of her. We were assured they would pick up her signal eventually and blamed the air show for interference.

      You can view the falcons in their pens alongside a few Tawny Owls but we could not get near the dogs for the amount of people already there.

      Last years finale was a Chinook Helicopter taking off, this years show ended on the Red Devils parachute team.

      *** FOOD OUTLETS and PICNIC AREA *****

      There are a few fast food joints littered around the field selling the usual bowel churning burgers, fat laden sausages and greasy chips. The Cornish pasty stall looked delicious but the food wasn't refrigerated so this deterred me from buying. Prices are expensive and I noticed that chips started at £2 and burgers £3.50.

      The ice cream vans made a tidy profit that weekend, what with the heat, they were almost sold out of cold drinks and lollies. For a price comparison, a small bottle of diet coke cost £2.50, the same variety that retails in my local supermarket at the moment for £1.50 for two. Unfortunately as we had drunk everything we brought with us, this was our only option. However, due to the heat, standpipes were opened up for visitors to fill water bottles from. It wasn't quite Evian but it was thirst quenching and much appreciated.

      Ice creams were also £2 upwards.

      I recommend taking your own picnic with as many ice blocks as you can pack. We found this much easier, especially as you can leave it in your car until needed. However if it's a hot day, do not pack anything chocolate as my friend did. What once resembled a packet of penguin bars now looked more like a cowpat.

      As for picnic seating, there is only one place and that is situated right in the middle of the complex. It consists of a few wooden tables and chairs cramped underneath a large canopy.


      However with no one to take away any left rubbish or wipe down the tables, the place was swarming with insects. Bins are provided everywhere so there was no reason to leave littler other than sheer laziness.

      We packed a picnic blanket and headed for the shade of the trees. I suggest you do the same.

      For those of you wanting something a little stronger, then you will pleased to see the mobile bar and cider van.

      *** TOILETS***
      Situated at the rear of the field near the fair ground. Absolutely disgusting, the most foul and revolting WC's I have ever had the misfortune of using. They were so bad that I made my little girl crouch behind a large Sycamore tree using her potty when she needed to go. Fortunately I never go anywhere without it.
      The toilets are porta loos. As soon as you walk inside the cubicle, due to the lack of turning circle, the back of your legs touch the seat, which is normally dripping in urine. Urine was splashed everywhere and there was no water in the sink to wash with afterwards.

      If anyone had an upset stomach, then sitting on one of these germ-laden loos must be one of the most humiliating experiences you can be put through. Not only are they dirty but every sound echoes and you can hear what your neighbour is doing five blocks down!

      I know it's an Army Show and I am not blaming the staff for lack of service maintaining the toilets, I am blaming the general public and their lack of cleanliness and personal hygiene standards. There is no reason to pebble dash the entire cubicle with your bodily functions, would they do it in their own property? I think not. Take heed all those guilty of spraying.

      These toilets are not designed for disabled visitors and whilst I was there, I spotted no disabled facilities. If you have a carer who needs to accompany you inside, then unfortunately these one miniscule cubicles will never get you both inside unless you leave the door wide open.

      Invest in some hand wipes or anti bacterial hand gel for afterwards as there is nowhere to wash your hands. The water is not connected inside the loos, other than a chemical flush in the toilet pan itself.

      *** THE EXHIBITS ***
      Lots of military equipment to view and on some occasions, to actually go inside such as the tanks and helicopters. The guns are sectioned off however as during the day a re-enactment takes place and the guns are fired.

      You can see soldiers dressed in WW1 uniform, the medical core, the US Air Force and the immaculately dressed Ghurkha's.
      The section that fascinated me was the medical core and just how basic the facilities were for wounded soldiers. The set up was very similar to the TV show Mash in the 1970's. I wondered if Hot Lips Hoolahan was present.
      I couldn't help but notice there was a lorry with layers of brown slats and a board at the end of each one. It had the letters FBAR on the side.
      Me being just a naive civilian thought it transported food supplies to the medical team. How wrong was I. A friend of ours who accompanied us to the show is ex army he was stationed in South Africa where he was born. In South Africa national service was compulsory whilst Stephan was a teenager and our friend gave four years service before coming to live in England. He told me that in the army he was never told what a FBAR lorry stood for unless he was to see it in action.
      Steph later found out that a FBAR lorry is where bodies are kept when they died on the battle field and FBAR stands for " F***ed Beyond Any Recognition ".

      *** THE FAIRGROUND *****
      On a lighter note, in addition to the shows, the exhibits and the stalls, there is also a fair ground. With a good selection of thrill seeking rides, including a gut churning bungee ball, prices start at £2.

      With a large family this fair ground works out very expensive and the rides only last a few minutes. The children only have a small selection to go on, most of the rides are adult only. Even the bumper cars were quite rough for young ones as the teenagers go out of their way to hit you with such force that you think you have a army tank behind you.

      The bungee ball ride costs a staggering £10.50. In this two people sit inside a cradle or ball and are catapulted into the air. They spend the next three minutes being bounced from the ground back into the air again until the ball settles in its cradle. For a further £5 you can have a CD of your ride. If you have an unsettled stomach, then avoid this at all costs.

      Children's trampolines are the right hand side of the fairground. There are 8 mini trampolines with a net around the edge for safety. This is aimed for children under 10 and will cost you £2 a bounce.

      *** GETTING AROUND ****

      For disabled users as this show is in a large open field, there is no problems to encounter such as steep slopes or steps. The only problem you will meet is the toilets as I have already mentioned.

      Wear comfortable shoes, trainers would be more suited. My friend and I wore toe post sandals which was a huge mistake. Yes they were flat and yes they were comfortable but as the field was so dry and dusty our feet were filthy and felt revolting. Stiletto heels are out unless you want to have painful feet at the end of the day and equally sore calf muscles.

      Buggies and prams are manoeuvred easily.

      *** DISABLED FACILITIES ****

      From what I can see there isn't much. However, the show does supply wheel chairs if need be and these are obtained from the main entrance. These are free of charge but proof or name and address will be required.

      *** POINTS TO REMEMBER *****
      If you do attend next years show, then here is a list of important places you may need to visit:

      Lost Children:
      Next to the event control point near the main entrance. Wrist tags are provided free to tag your tots.

      First Aid:
      In the same place as the Lost Children.


      Security:
      Surprisingly this year there were no handbag searches or body searches which really alarmed me. After all this is a military area and security should have been tight. If you need to report anything suspect then there are many police officers patrolling the grounds.

      Telephone Contacts:
      Main Contac Sponsorship and arena displays
      Major Corin Pearce
      01252 349539
      email cosaldgar@tigercomd.co.uk
      Marketing, publicity and community displays
      Phil Stoneman
      01252 398760
      email pstoneman@rushmoor.gov.uk
      Event management
      Traders, exhibitors, attractions.

      Event Essentials
      01342 843373
      email eveess@tiscali.co.uk


      There is no shade so if possible be well prepared with sun block, water and if possible an umbrella for the children. When you wait in the full sun with little one's it can be very distressing. Just placing a golfing umbrella on the floor provides enough shade for them to wait under whilst sitting on the grass.
      This is not a show aimed for bad weather. Any sign of rain then I would not recommend that you attend. Not only is there no shade on the field, there is also no shelter.

      The Website:
      www.thearmyshow.co.uk

      A very informative site that not only provides you with the days attractions but also a countdown clock until the next show. At this time of writing the clock stood at 357 days 17h 34m 43s until the next show in 2007.

      The website is also a good point of call for anyone wishing to enlist in the army and where or how to sign up.
      There is also a Kids Section with free downloadable games, which includes my old favourite - Tetris.


      *** TO CONCLUDE ****

      If you are prepared for being on your feet all day, can put up with dust and dirt and smelly toilets, then this is a great family day out. I realise the fair ground is expensive and draws the kids to it like magnets, but if you can steer them away it can work out to be a reasonable trip. After all, remember kids are free and lets hope they keep it that way !

      Thanks for reading and hope to see you there next year.

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