Garrison Sergeant Majors, HQ London District
Garrison Sergeant Majors have been appointed to military districts in the UK and abroad since the mid 19th Century. Since the Second World War they have become increasingly prominent in London District due to its association with ceremonial in London, particularly with the ceremony of Trooping the Colour, held on Her Majesty the Queen's Official Birthday.
The Garrison Sergeant Major is a Senior Warrant Officer in the British Army and his word is law. Soldiers regard the incumbant equally with fear, dread and respect. He must possess an all seeing eye, an obsessive attention to finite detail, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of military drill and presentation. Troops in the Household Division are icons of Britain and the Garrison Sergeant Major is responsible for ensuring that they look and perform to the highest standard every day as well as during historic national State commemorations. The role extends beyond London to encompass State Ceremonial across the UK and wherever our troops are based overseas. He is also responsible for passing on his skills to our allies armed forces as part of the UKs Defence Overseas Engagement.
The change from purely garrison administrational duties to the present ceremonial specialist has been a gradual one. The original administrational appointment bore the title London Garrison Sergeant Major. The appointment in 1952 of GSM George Stone, Irish Guards saw a change of title to Garrison Sergeant Major, HQ London District and It is since his appointment that the duties have become almost wholly associated with ceremonial.
|London Garrison Sergeant Majors 1894 to 1952:|
|1894-1895||WO1 (GSM) F G Dickenson, Coldstream Guards|
|1921-1927||WO1 (GSM) E J Wadham, Scots Guards|
|1927-1935||WO1 (GSM) C E Harradine DCM, Irish Guards|
|1935-1940||WO1 (GSM) J N Paterson, Grenadier Guards|
|1940-1950||WO1 (GSM) Thomas Courtney, Coldstream Guards|
|1950-1951||WO1 (GSM) George Howe, Irish Guards|
Frederick Thomas Aylen, Coldstream Guards
|Garrison Sergeant Majors, Headquarters London District since 1952:|
|1952-1965||WO1 (GSM) George Stone MVO MBE, Irish Guards|
|1965-1977||WO1 (GSM) Tom Taylor MVO MBE, Grenadier Guards|
|1977-1987||WO1 (GSM) Alexander Dumon MVO MBE, Coldstream Guards|
|1987-2002||WO1 (GSM) Alan G 'Perry' Mason MVO MBE, Coldstream Guards|
|2002-2015||WO1 (GSM) William 'Billy' Mott OBE MVO, Welsh Guards|
|2015-present||WO1 (GSM) Andrew 'Vern' Stokes, Coldstream Guards|
Some of the London ceremonial events during the year for which the GSM takes military ceremonial responsibility are:
Trooping the Colour, Horse Guards Parade
The Garter Ceremony, Windsor Castle
Beating Retreat, Horse Guards Parade
The State Opening of Parliament, Westminster
The British Legion Festival of Remembrance, Royal Albert Hall
Remembrance Parade, Whitehall
and other special events such as Royal Weddings, State Funerals, and of course Coronations!
London's pageantry is admired throughout the world and the magnificent Trooping of the Colour, to celebrate our Monarch's birthday, forms a vital part of our national heritage. The above GSMs have all played a prominent part in maintaining the unique ceremonial life of London. The role of the GSM is critical to the successful and world class execution of state ceremonial and Public Duties. He is widely recognised as the expert on the drill of all Arms.
Bibliography: On the Word of Command, A Pictorial History of the Regimental Sergeant Major, Richard Alford, Spellmount Ltd, 1990, ISBN 0-946771-65-0
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The HQ London District official webpage is at: www.householddivision.org.uk
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