Annual Pace Sticking Competition returns to Sandhurst

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) has hosted its annual Pace Sticking Competition which took place on Tuesday 13th October. This year was very different from the norm; with COVID-19 causing travel restrictions for international teams and strict government guidelines to be adhered to on social distancing, the All Arms International Pace Sticking was put on hold and instead substituted with The Tri-Service Pace Sticking competition, a first at RMAS. 

The situation was not set to dampen the day or competitors’ spirits, after all awards for the Best Pace Sticking Team, Best International Team, Best Individual Pace Sticker and Best Driver were still up for grabs. Whilst there was some disappointment in camp that some members of the international teams were unable to attend and fight to keep their titles, last year’s international team winners - Pakistan were able to meet the requirements in order to enter the event. Making the event even more unique was the rivalry between Services and of course the appearance by the ‘Old and Bold’ with our Chelsea Pensioners. 
  
There were eight teams in total who took part, these included the Grenadier Guards, the Royal Air Force, The Queen’s Colour Squadron, several RMAS teams from across the Academy including an Officers’ team and a team from the Royal Hospital Chelsea. In-Pensioner Dave Coote, the team’s Driver said, “It’s great to be back and leading the team, I last took part in pace sticking in 1977 as a RMAS Colour Sergeant. Marching on the Drill Square has bought all of the good times flooding back to me.” 
  
The event took place on the parade square in front of the iconic white steps and hallows of Old College. Each of the teams consisted of four members, one Driver who delivered the words of command and three team members. Over the course, the teams marched in slow and quick time whilst alternating turning the stick with the left or right hand. The objective of the pace stick drill was to provide uniformity in the use of a stick and a high standard of steadiness and cohesion amongst the instructors.    
  
Staff Sergeant Cally-Jay Brunton from the RMAS Brand Team gave us her thoughts on how well she felt her team performed; “Our performance was a huge success, we did our best, had fun and most importantly we completed it. It’s great being part of a team and doing something like this, I look forward to competing again next year.” 
  
Pace sticking originated with the Royal Artillery Regiments, it was used by the field gun teams to ensure correct distances between the guns. In 1982 the stick began to be used by the Infantry as a drill aid.  The stick is used to determine the correct length of the pace, distance between the ranks and to check drill movement. By using the stick, the length of pace of marching troops can be lengthened or shortened. 
  
The competition was fierce with all teams wanting to demonstrate the best of the skills at drill. Officiating the results were three of the finest board judges including the Board of Judges President Lieutenant Colonel England, Warrant Officer Class One, Regimental Sergeant Major Reid and Warrant Officer Class One, Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant Cox. The RMAS Commandant, Major General Duncan Capps was on hand to present the prizes. 
  
Major General Capps said, “Pace Sticking is a fine art and it is great to see that the Pace Stick is very much a part of our Armed Forces both here in the UK and in other countries too and that there are people out there that do know how to do it and do it well, it’s important we keep that flame alive. It’s been a really difficult year, so I am hugely grateful to those teams that were able to devote some time and pull teams together in order to be here today, well done to you all!” 
  
The awards went to the following; Pace Sticking winners was The Grenadier Guards, with the runners-up being Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Lords Team. The International winning team and holding onto their title was the Pakistan Military Academy and the Best Driver and Pace Sticker awards also going to team members from within the Grenadier Guards team. 
  
Academy Sergeant Major Andy Purcell said; “The event has been quite unique this year, despite the COVID restrictions it has been a privilege to welcome both the RAF and the Chelsea Pensioners. Pace sticking is about bringing together team work, discipline and cohesion but most importantly the comradery. The teams have been practicing hard in order to meet the correct standard so this is a great opportunity to showcase the precision drills which are historically significant to both the Armed Forces and other nations.”