1952 - 1965

WO1 (GSM) George Stone MVO MBE, Irish Guards

WO1 GSM George Stone, MBE, RVM, Irish GuardsGeorge Stone enlisted as a boy in the Irish Guards in 1927, and served as a Drummer from that date until March, 1939, when he transferred to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as Drum-Major. However, when the war began six months later, a vacancy occurred in the 1st Battalion as Drum Major, so he transferred back to the Regiment, and served in that capacity during the campaign in Norway, where, when acting as Intelligence Sergeant, he was Mentioned in Despatches for his action in destroying secret documents when temporarily cut off by the enemy.

In 1941 he "went to duty" for the first time as a Company Sergeant-Major in the 1st Battalion, and in 1943 moved with the Battalion to North Africa. On arrival in North Africa, the Battalion took up its allocated positions in the Medjez El Bab sector, and it was at this time that the specialist platoons of the Battalion were grouped together in a single company, and he then became the first Company Sergeant-Major of the newly designation Support Company, and it was very largely due to his encouragement and common sense that it was quickly welded into a most efficient and happy company. He remained with Support Company during the time that he Battalion was in Tunisia, and moved with it to Italy during the winter.

The following year he continued to serve with Support Company, and went with it into Anzio. During this time the Company suffered almost one hundred per cent. casualties, and yet the standard he maintained in it was never lowered, and his men knew that wherever they were, his familiar figure would appear just when he was most needed for encouragement or direction. When the Battalion returned home from Italy during the spring of 1944, they were quartered temporarily in London, and it was at this time that the remnants of the Battalion provided King's Guard. There was no Drum Major in the Battalion at the time, and the only person who could act as Drum Major on this occasion was himself, and he was disguised as a Sergeant for the day, and led the King's Guards when it mounted.

After the war he served as Drill Sergeant at No. 1 Guards Training Battalion for two years, and returned to the 1st Battalion in time to go to Palestine at the beginning of 1947, where he remained until the final evacuation the following year.

After eighteen months in Chelsea Barracks, he went out to Germany with the Battalion and his appointment as Garrison Sergeant-Major, H.Q., London District, followed on 6 February 1952 and his first ceremonial tasks were the State Funeral of HM King George VI, followed by the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II. Although his first name was Gerald, the initial G was inevitably interpreted as George in his early soldiering days and so that name stuck throughout his long, distinguished and colourful career.

He had excellent credentials to take up his tour of duty as GSM, London District, including pre-war experience as a Sergeant in the Corps of Drums, then as Drum Major and later as Drill Sergeant. His wide knowledge of martial as well as other music and his friendship and close association with bands and Directors of Music provided an ideal background. In his previous rank of Drum Major, he had been on the Birthday parade many times and knew the musical side and the role of the Drum Major very well.

When he became GSM, he concentrated upon the ceremonial side of life and began to write or re-write the Brigade Standing Orders, and to measure up the ceremonial routes. He compiled a table of routes wherever it was necessary to mount street lines of troops. So many yards equalled so many men.

He also, for the first time, got into the drilling of bands effectively. He would run a Drum Majors' course with all five of them on the square and would make sure that the staff drill was absolutely right. Then he would go through with them the interior movements of the band, before going near the bands themselves. There would follow six or seven massed band drills working through every phase of the birthday parade. Marching on, forming up, each year a different format depending on many factors.

His service culminated in the preparation for the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. State funerals have to be organised extremely quickly, so much of the planning has to be done in advance.

He was the first GSM to become totally involved with all aspects of ceremonial as well as attending to his other duties and laid the ground rules for the post as it continues to the present day.

His appointment as Garrison Sergeant-Major, H.Q., London District could not have been a happier or more appropriate one. His great experience for the position, and his cheerful and imperturbable manner, which so frequently helped to keep up morale in the face of the enemy, must similarly on many occasions have comforted his superior officers in the face of imminent ceremonial disasters, which somehow he always seemed to manage to avert.

His service to the Household Brigade and London District was recognised in 1959 with the award of the M.B.E. He also holds the Royal Victorian Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.

When George Stone laid aside his sword and pacestick in 1965, he took up employment at the Metropolitan Police College, Hendon.

Video clip of George Stone's retirement speech in 1965.

Further information

The Irish Guards Journal, 1962
On the Word of Command, A Pictorial History of the Regimental Sergeant Major, Richard Alford, Spellmount Ltd, 1990, ISBN 0-946771-65-0

British Military Ceremonial
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