Shropshire Star

Shropshire's hero of the Queen's funeral comes home for Rotary club dinner

The soldier in charge of the Queen's funeral spoke about having the eyes of the world watching him at a Rotary club dinner in Shopshire.

Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew ‘Vern’ Stokes with his Bafta award at Ironbridge Rotary Club dinner where he was guest speaker. Picture: Dave Bagnall

More than 50 people turned out to hear Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew "Vern" Stokes of the Coldstream Guards address a meeting of Ironbridge Rotary Club.

WO1 Stokes won the hearts of the nation when he made a solitary walk along The Mall for a final inspection ahead of a 4,000-strong military parade during the Queen's funeral.

A gentle ripple of applause broke out as he reached the end of The Mall, and WO1 Stokes told guests that he felt a weight lifted from his shoulders as he reached the end of the line.

Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew ‘Vern’ Stokes with Tony Roden, Rachel Waterson and Ironbridge Rotary president Steve Evans at The Valley Hotel. Picture: Dave Bagnall

"He said by the time he had got to the end of The Mall, that was the moment he knew that everything was all right," said Rotarian Rachel Waterson.

He also showed members the Bafta award he received for his part in the Festival of Remembrance on BBC television.

WO1 Stokes, who was accompanied by his fiancée Sue Amer, told members about his remarkable career, growing up in Madeley and attending the Blessed Robert Johnson Catholic College, where a teacher encouraged him to pursue a career in the army.

Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew ‘Vern’ Stokes with his fiancee Sue Amer chatting with Ironbridge club president Steve Evans and Richard Studd, president of Wellington club. Picture: Dave Bagnall

He also organised the ceremonial activities in the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral last year, and played a leading role in the summer's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

"We heard about how close he is to the Royal Family, how he advises them on all aspects of ceremonial activities," said Rachel.

"We were amazed at how far-reaching his expertise is, he is used within the Government for all matters ceremonial."

Garrison Sergeant Major Andrew ‘Vern’ Stokes chatting with guests at Ironbridge Rotary Club where he was guest speaker. Picture: Dave Bagnall

Although he now spends much of his time in the capital, 50-year-old WO1 Stokes said he still had a home in Coalbrookdale, which he still considered home.

"He told how he could look out of his London flat and see not only Hyde Park, but also the Coalbrookdale gates of Hyde Park," said Rachel.

"He is a truly humble chap, very nice, and Vern showed all the characteristics in his job that Rotarians strive for, those of service above self."

The dinner was also attended by guests from Wellington and Telford Central Rotary Clubs.