(a) The hints contained in this pamphlet are not intended to cast the least reflection on the behaviour of officers – rather are they intended to be of assistance to young officers, who, through lack of experience, may, on first entering the Mess, feel somewhat at a loss as to their general line of conduct.
(b) There are many excellent books on the subject.
(c) The rules for and customs of Messes, like those for War, are based on generations of experience which finds them necessary to enable men grouped together to live harmoniously.
The rules for the conduct of Officers’ Messes are few, great latitude being permitted for regimental custom.
Customs are numerous and intricate and become that sacred phrase tradition.
(a) The Mess forms the common meeting ground of Officers of all ranks. Whilst junior Officers are expected to treat their seniors with similar respect to that which they would naturally extend in private life, the formal attitude which exists on parade is not maintained in the Mess. At the same time, there should not be any suspicion of lack of discipline, although officers will treat each other almost as equals.
(b) Any discussion or conversation Etc. such as politics, religion, etc. likely to create discord should be avoided. The names of ladies should not be brought into conversation. Talking shop, (i.e.) daily routine duties, etc., should be avoided. Discussion of general military matters is, however, to be encouraged.
(a) On parade an Officer will address his senior, whether by rank or date, as “Sir”.
(b) When addressing a subaltern on parade, or referring to him in an official way, he is spoken of as “Mr. ______” etc., but in official correspondence he is referred to by his actual rank, i.e. Lieutenant or 2nd Lieutenant.
(c) In general conversation Field Officers should be addressed as “Sir” by Captains and Subalterns, but this title should not be laboured or used so frequently as to make the conversation sound ridiculous. It is not incorrect to address a Colonel or Major as such, but this habit should, as a rule, be indulged in by junior Officers only if having a considerable length of service.
(d) Subalterns and Captains address one another in the Mess by name without prefix or rank,(e.g.) “Huntley”. It is quite incorrect to address a Captain as Captain “B______”. To address him as “Captain” is even worse, and the same applies to Lieutenants.
A young Subaltern often feels diffident in addressing a senior Captain with possibly 20 years service as say – “Huntley” without the prefix, but it is quite correct for him to do so.
However he may prefer to call him “Sir”. It is then up to the senior to check him if he wishes to be called by his surname.
In some regiments the use of christian names and nicknames is customary, but this should be very carefully indulged in.
4. Officers on the staff are regimental Officers employed away from their regiments. As Staff Officers they hold no special authority or privileges and should be treated and addressed naturally according to the rank they hold, and not as some “peculiar animal”.
(a) The custom of the Service requires the following calls to be made by Officers.
All Officers on arriving at a Station should call on:-
(1) The Officers’ Mess of his unit.
(2) The Commanding Officer.
(3) The Senior Officer of the Command,(i.e.) G.O.C., D.O.C., O.C. Troops or O.C.
(4) The Governor General or Lieutenant Governor, as the case may be.
(5) The Anglican Bishop.
(6) The Roman Catholic Bishop.
(7) The Senior Cleric of the United or Presbyterian Church.
(8) The Officers’ mess of other units in the station.
(b) Unmarried officers will, in addition, call on all married Officers of the Regiment.
(c) The wife of a married Officer will call on those mentioned in (a)(4) and, if those in (a)(2 & 3) are married she will call on their wives.
(d) When calling on an Officers’ mess two cards should be left, one for the C.O. and one for the Officers. On the former should be written across the cards:-
Lieut. Colonel D.E. Eff, D.S.O. Commanding 1st Bn. Alberta Light Horse
On the latter:-
The Officers 1st Bn. Alberta Light Horse
(e) Visiting cards bear the rank, name and unit of the individual:-
(1) Brigadier P.W. Arr,
(2) Captain S.,T. Yev
3rd Bn. MacKenzie Fusiliers
Major L.K. Jay
(3) Visiting cards in the case of subalterns should be engraved:-
“Mr. A.B. Cee”
“Lieutenant A.B. Cee”
Decorations and orders do not appear on visiting cards. Cards should be engraved and not printed. Rank and unit should be in full and not abbreviated, if at all possible.
(a) When the Commanding Officer first enters the ante-room in the morning all Officers should rise and greet him. This does not apply in the Mess room. Similarly, any Officer who happens to be sitting in the ante-room, seeing the Commanding Officer for the first time that day, should rise and bid “Good morning, Sir.” At night prior to dinner Officers entering the Mess will bid “Good evening”. On leaving the Mess at night, no Officer should omit to say “Good night” to those in the Mess.
Subalterns encountering a Field Officer under similar circumstances should not act in the same manner.
(b) When a visitor, be he civilian or an Officer of another Corps, enters the mess, remember you are his host whether you happen to know him or not.
(c) On guest nights or other occasions whenever there are regimental guests, Officers must not leave the Mess, except on duty, until such other guests have departed. In many units Officers do not leave without special permission until the Commanding Officer has departed.
7. Treating amongst Officers of the same unit is most undesirable and amounts almost to bad form. In many units it is absolutely prohibited.Servants
(a) Officers should be most punctilious in their dealings with servants as with all other soldiers. Undue familiarity tends to break up the whole scheme of discipline and lowers the standards of respect for Officers as a class. Similarly, the conduct of Officers should always be such that, if described by Mess servants to other soldiers, it will not bring discredit on those concerned or their brother Officers.
(b) All officers are expected to assist in keeping the Mess premises as tidy as possible by avoiding the careless leaving about of hats, coats, books, &c. On no account should matches or cigarettes ends be deposited anywhere else than the receptacles provided. newspapers, &c.,, should be replaced in their proper place after being read.
(c) In order that the Mess servants may tidy up the ante-room before dinner, no Officer should remain in the ante-room after the half-hour “Dress for Mess” call as sounded.
(a) Breakfast, Luncheon and cold supper are informal meals, and Officers are at their liberty to sit down or leave the table at their convenience within the time limit laid down. As far as possible the service of these meals is arranged so that, to a large extent, Officers can help themselves from a side table.
In some regiments smoking is permitted in the Mess room during or after these meals.
(b) Dinner, however, is a parade. Punctuality is essential and every Officer should make a point of being in the ante-room at least five minutes before the dinner hour. No smoking is permitted in the ante-room before dinner, nor for half an hour previous to dinner.
(c) Should an officer be late for dinner, he should apologize to the President, at the head of the table, (who is not necessarily the President of the Committee) before taking his seat.
(d) When the table is cleared prior to the service of “port”, the servants are expected to remove all other glasses, etc., whether empty or not. Officers should be careful not to interfere with this arrangement.
(e) Port, etc., is served at the conclusion of dinner followed by coffee, followed in turn by cigars and cigarettes. Officers should avail themselves of the cigars and cigarettes handed around before producing their own smoking materials. Pipe smoking at table is absolutely taboo. Smoking will not commence until after the toast has been honoured, nor until the senior Officer present commences or has given permission to smoke.
(f) On guest nights the formal toast honoured is that of “The King”. In some regiments, for example Lord Strathcona’s Horse(R.C.), a second or Regimental Toast is honoured. Where more than one toast is honoured, the “Port” should be passed around immediately after “The King”. Officers should not commence drinking their wine prior to the proposal of these toasts. Officers should not commence to rise to drink “The King” until after the Vice-President has given “Gentlemen, The King”.
(g) Except on guest nights, any Officer is at liberty to leave the table after the cigarettes have been passed around; he will, however, ask permission of the senior Officer before leaving. The Vice-President does not leave until permitted by the President, who in turn remain as long as any Officers are seated.
(h) The senior Officer – the President gives the signal for the move on guest nights.
10. When the number of dining members will permit a “President” and “Vice-President” are detailed for a week at a time from among all the officers in turn. Should either of these wish to dine out during his week of duty it is his personal affair to arrange for a substitute, with the sanction of the President of the Mess Committee(P.M.C.)
11. Mess bills form the first claim on an Officer’s pay and allowances. Even if indebted in other ways an Officer should invariably settle his bills in full with absolute promptness.
(a) Officers below Field rank are required when in uniform, but not when on duty, to salute all Field and General Officers on meeting them. Similarly, Field and General Officers shall salute their seniors in rank.
(b) It is customary of Officers to take off their hats when in mufti on meeting their seniors above.
(c) Officers in mufti when returning salutes will do so by taking off their hats.
(d) Extract from War Office Circular of 1928.
When two or more Officers receive a salute, the salute will be returned by the senior only, whether in uniform of not.”
In such occasions the fact that the more junior is in command of a unit, establishment, formation, command, &c. does not affect the entitlement of a MORE SENIOR Officer present to take the salute, whether the latter is in uniform or plain clothes. Where a more senior officer of another Service is present, that Officer will take the salute.”
The only occasion on which a more junior Officer may properly take a salute is when the more senior has for any reason, failed to return it.”
(e) On an Officer meeting an Officer of another Corps on the street or elsewhere, it is customary, if he is not to be saluted in accordance with K.R., to bid him “Good Morning” whether you know him or not.
(a) Officers should be exact in their turnout either in uniform or mufti at all times.
An Officer will always change for dinner. If permitted to dine in mufti, he will wear evening dress.
Changing for supper is a matter for the custom of the unit concerned.
(b) In uniform, Officers, when not wearing a sword, carry a straight swagger cane without a crook or handle. It must not exceed 23” in length.
(c) It is customary for officers to carry a stick when walking in mufti.
(d) In arms units it is customary to remove sword belts before entering the Mess; others it is not.
It is usual, however, for the Orderly Officer to wear a sword belt, cross belt, or sash during his tour of duty.
14. While an officious officer is most objectionable especially when inexperienced, no Officer should perform his Regimental or Garrison duties in a perfunctory manner, whether through boredom or because he is loath to create trouble.
For example – if Barrack or Camp linens of another Coy, or unit, are dirty, he should report it and, further, see that the omission is corrected. Again, at meal hours, if a complaint is made, the Orderly Officer should investigate it, and have the matter put right at once. It is not sufficient to register the matter in his report, which may not be seen for 24 or 48 hours after the event, that is useless.
15. When in doubt about any matter, young Officers should not be afraid to ask the advice of senior Officers. The Second-in-Command is directly responsible for the education of Subalterns. Prior to 1914, the Senior Subaltern was looked upon as the “Prefect”, who kept Subalterns in order and gave them advice. He was the mouth-piece for the Second-in-Command and the Adjutant in do far as Subalterns were concerned.
Unfortunately the “Senior Subaltern” as a power has almost disappeared. He is, however, the best qualified to help young Subalterns were concerned, and the old system should be revived.
Subalterns should treat their superiors as they would a rich uncle from whom they have expectations.
H.T.C. - Major H.T. Cock, M.C.; Joined The RCR in 1912, served in the Great War, was Mentioned in Despatches and won the Military Cross, wounded on 16 September, 1916, following 6 months service in the Field. Instructed at R.M.C. following the War and posted to the staff of Military District 13 before being transferred from St. Jean 1 May 1931 to command “A” Coy in Halifax. Maj Cook was O.C. during the move of “A” Coy from the Halifax Citadel to Wellington Barracks, Dec 1931.