How a Sergeant Major and a metronome app have ensured the military stay in step today

Sir Ben explained the complexities of the drill, as marching has subtle differences across the three forces.

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

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

“The first practice is moving at 75 steps a minute. The drum is played at this but it’s not something we are practised in doing and is not a natural walking pace,” he said. “We have to get used to marching at that pace without swinging our arms, which is unnatural, and you have to sustain it for a long time. Everyone in that mandate from junior to the most senior has to practise.”

This is where Sergeant Major Stokes of the Coldstream Guards has come in. 

Having held the role of the Queen’s Sergeant Major since 2015, he has been central to previous processions, including Prince Philip’s funeral and most recently the Jubilee celebrations.

Garrison Sergeant Major Stokes told The Telegraph that he encouraged the chiefs to download a metronome app, widely used among musicians to meet timings, and practise walking around in their spare time to that pace.

He added: “I treat everyone the same whether it is the Chief of Defence Staff or members of the household, junior or senior. The outcome is the same; we want it to be absolutely brilliant; we want to represent the nation and the Commonwealth.” 

Garrison Sergeant Major Stokes said today’s funeral would be an exemplar of how all those involved “want to do their absolute best for Her Majesty and members of the Royal family”.

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

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