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Object of the Month: December

Published on | General

Charles Haughton Rafter’s pace stick

We had a search through our collection to find something inspired by the festive spirit and were delighted to come across a Christmas gift from Sir Charles Haughton Rafter himself!

In 1926 Rafter was gifted an engraved pace stick by his Superintendents, “as an expression of their loyalty and esteem.” It seemed to have been the popular present of choice that year as he also gifted a pace stick to Chief Superintendent Boulton the same Christmas!

Pace stick’s take their history from ancient Rome – centurions carried a vine staff, showcasing their authority and as a tool for directing military drills and manoeuvres. The practice has been used throughout British history, including ‘swagger sticks’, ‘gunner’s sticks’, and riding cane’s being used in the army by officers of rank.

More than just a symbol of authority, these sticks hold a practical purpose when it comes to drills – being used to measure certain distances. For example, a gunners stick should be the required length of distance between guns in the field, whilst a drill cane (somewhat shorter) should measure the distance between ranks of soldiers.

With such connotations associated with the pace stick, it speaks volumes to the respect held for Rafter by his Superintendents to give him such a gift – a clear acknowledgement of his authority and their trust within it. Similarly, to be gifted one back by the Chief must have felt very honorary indeed for C.S. Boulton.