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Pace sticking is a sport unique to the British Army and one that has become synonymous with tradition, ceremony, expert precision and timing.
Originating in the Roman era when similar devices were used to aid in the construction of roads, a pace stick is akin to a large compass and measures the length of a marching step. First used by the Army as a means of measuring the distance of artillery guns, it now predominantly finds its home on the parade square.
The Chelsea Pensioner Team includes the ‘stickers’ and the ‘driver’, who is responsible for manoeuvring the group as they undertake a number of intricate drills using their pace sticks. Marked to the centimetre, the sport has been described as ‘drill square dressage’.
Pace sticking has enjoyed a renaissance in popularity in recent years and a number of international teams competed against the Chelsea Pensioners at the recent World Championship at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Come along to the – free of charge – History Street and see the Chelsea Pensioner Pace Sticking Team in action. Dressed in their iconic scarlet tunics and tricorne hats, the Team will be (literally) put through their paces as they expertly execute a number of drills for spectators.
Any former soldier of the British Army over the age of 65 can apply for full-time resident at the Royal Hospital Chelsea as a Chelsea Pensioner.
Some 300 veterans call the Royal Hospital home today, including men and women who served in conflicts such as the Second World War, Korea and the First Gulf War. Today’s community, decorated with 730 medals and with 5,373 years of combined military service, represents 69 British Army regiments and corps.
Hailing from across the United Kingdom as well as overseas, members of our veteran population come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, with an average age of 82 years.
Though their service records and civilian lives are entirely individual, each Chelsea Pensioner understands what it means to serve in the armed forces and the potential sacrifice that entails.
The Royal Hospital’s military ethos places a premium on respect and camaraderie. We work in collaboration with the military community to raise awareness of and encourage the nation’s respect, support and affection for its veterans.