Pace Sticking competitors march off

If you are a skilled pace sticker then the Sgt Neil Robertson trophy pictured below is a little like the FA Cup of what some call a forgotten art.

At the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) in Colchester, the trophy has been hotly contested by ten teams of four to prove their marching and pace sticking skills with one of the contestants even taking tips from YouTube.

Being a pace sticker is seen as a symbol of authority and an aid to the military drill as it is used to measure paces on the parade square.

Sgt Neil Robertson trophy

The Sgt Neil Robertson Trophy

The competition was named after a former MPS Regt staff member, Sgt Neil Robertson, who had a passion for pace sticking and competed regularly and coached several teams at various levels including the prestigious World Pace Sticking Championships at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, an event he had previously been a winner at whilst serving with the Scots Guards. Neil sadly passed away in 1999 and the MPS Regt commissioned the trophy and the competition as a fitting tribute.

CREDIT: 1 Military Police Brigade

A novice at pace sticking though not at drill, Corporal Alex Rigby of the MCTC's custody team, was cautiously confident from the start.

"The pace sticking itself I only started learning two weeks ago actually, using YouTube and just pace sticking whilst I've been off shift and learning off my colleague Corporal Hughes."

"I am getting it, I am a novice but I'll do reasonably well today, I'm sure."

Cpl Rigby was calm enough to demonstrate his technique before the start. But none of it was bravado as his team ended up winning the trophy.

WATCH how it is done in the short clip below...

For the first time this year, the tot of port served halfway through the drill was not served by the traditional man in drag.

While a member of staff poured and served the port for each team, Father Pip Smith, chaplain of 13 Air Assault Regiment at nearby Merville Barracks, gave a light-hearted blessing, ten times over.

For the first time in the MCTC, the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) is a woman, WO1 Lisa Johnstone, who explains what it feels like to make history.

"I think every soldier's got to strive for the top, haven't they?

"I'm proud that I've done it and I've made it. Everybody's treated equally aren't they so everyone's in with a shout for it."

More from Forces Network: The Scots Guards Showcase Their World-Class Pace Sticking Skills

A long afternoon of pace sticking for the pace stickers was held under the judgemental eye of VIP guest, Brig D.S. Neal.

Brig D. S. Neal was a judge

Did You Know?

The Pace Stick originated from the Royal Regiment of Artillery. They used a stick with a measure on it to mark the paces between the guns. This was later adopted by the rest of the Army to aid drill manoeuvres.

CREDIT: 1 Military Police Brigade

Pace Sticking time at the MCTC

The annual Pace Sticking competition at the Military Corrective Training Centre, Colchester. The ultimate prize - the Sgt Neil Robertson Trophy. The competitors - ten teams from the MP Brigade. The Inspecting Officer - Brig D. S. Neal Provost Marshal (Army). The best individual sticker was Sgt Fox of MPS HQ1 and her team ("driven" by WO2 Becky Smith) were runners-up for top team. But, making off with the trophy was Cpl Alex Rigby's SCF Company team. The video gives you some idea of the skill involved, and of the port-drinking ritual half way through. Yes, the 13 Air Assault Regt Padre, Father Pip Smith, was officiating and had to give that light-hearted blessing ten times in all. Eleven, if you count the extra march by a team of veterans - and very good they were too!

Posted by BFBS Colchester on Tuesday, 29 May 2018


It was a lot of fun for Forces Radio BFBS Colchester's Liz Mullen who, luckily, was not qualified to enter.

Liz Mullen of BFBS with pace stick

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