How a sergeant major and a metronome app kept the military in step today


Sir Ben explained the complexities of the exercise, as walking has subtle differences between the three forces.

“In the navy, our drill orders are given with the right foot, while in the others, they are given with the left foot,” he said. “As a sailor I had to get used to it, but we all have to align to one standard.”

He added that the pace used in a funeral procession is different from any other pace the military usually uses, describing it as “not a fast march, nor as slow as a slow march”.

“The first practice is moving at 75 steps per minute. The drum is played to that, but it’s not something we’re used to and it’s not a natural marching rhythm,” he said. “You have to get used to walking at this pace without swinging your arms, which is unnatural, and you have to maintain it for a long time. Everyone in this tenure, from the junior to the most experienced, needs to train.

That’s where Sergeant Major Stokes of the Coldstream Guards came in.

Having served as the Queen’s Sergeant Major since 2015, he has played a central role in previous processions, including Prince Philip’s funeral and, more recently, Jubilee celebrations.

Garrison Sergeant Major Stokes told The Telegraph he encouraged leaders to download a metronome app, widely used by musicians to keep to schedules, and practice walking around in their spare time at that pace .

He added: “I treat everyone the same, whether it’s the Chief of the Defense Staff or family members, juniors or seniors. The result is the same; we want it to be absolutely awesome; we want to represent the nation and the Commonwealth.

Garrison Sergeant Major Stokes said today’s funeral would be an example of how everyone involved ‘wants to do the best for Her Majesty and the members of the Royal Family’.

“We do things that are not normal; we haven’t seen the death of a monarch for years. There are a lot of things to remember and we have to go back to basics,” he said.

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