The Minute Book
Thursday, 30 May 2013

Officers' Mess Fines, circa 1810s
Topic: Officers

From: The journal of The Society for Army Historical Research, Vol. XII, No. 45, Spring, 1933

Army Manners and Customs (vol. xi. 170.) In the Officers' Mess of the East Norfolk Militia, a "Bet and Presentation Book" was kept. Extracts from it, commencing on 1 April 1810, when the regiment was in quarters at Sheerness, and covering a period of ten years are given.

Images taken from a set of silk cigarette cards of Canadian Militia uniforms (early 20th century).

Images taken from a set of silk cigarette cards of Canadian Militia uniforms (early 20th century).

The following are long established Fines at the Mess and are to be strictly enforced.

  1. Having a Drawn Sword in the Mess.
  2. Speaking three words of Latin.
  3. Throwing [? anything] across the table.
  4. Taking the Newspaper or Books belonging to the Regiment out of the Mess.
  5. Tearing or other wise defacing the Mess Books or Newspapers.
  6. Indecent conversations at dinner during the time servants are in the room.

[Fines were always paid in one or more bottles of wine. Various offences, for which fines were inflicted and paid, are here set forth, the fine always being ONE bottle of wine, except when otherwise specified.]

  • Half a dozen of wine for having lent many numbers of Cobbett's Register without the permission of the Mess.
  • For pulling his coat off in the Mess Room.
  • For drinking wine and water at dinner, when strangers were in the Mess.
  • For reading without leave of the President.
  • Half a dozen of wine for putting the President and members of a Regimental Court Martial in close confinement by locking the door of the court wherein they were sitting.
  • For buying a pennyworth of orange at the Mess Table.
  • For selling the above pennyworth.
  • For an irregularity for putting a piece of apple peel in Mr. ____'s wine glass.
  • For twice drinking from the black bottle, moreover out of his turn.
  • For throwing a wine glass across the table.
  • For reading at the Mess Table (without leave) a certain publication entitled the "Military Magazine."
  • For an irregularity during dinner in calling Captain _____ "a nincompoop."
  • For indecent conversation during dinner.
  • For an irregularity in filling the President's glass.
  • For a Mess irregularity in having left their glasses full on quitting the table, the above a mistake.
  • For coming into the Mess Room in slippers.
  • For dining in dirty boots.
  • For undressing himself in the Mess.
  • For helping from a dish from which Captain _____ was helping at the same time.
  • For locking the Mess Room door after the retreat Drums were off while Captains _____ and _____ were in the room.
  • For calling the Vice-President "a Newks."
  • For coming to the Mess with dirty hands.
  • For coming into the Mess Room with shoes without strings.
  • For whistling in the Mess Room during dinner.
  • For forcing a sword through the middle of its scabbard in the Mess Room.
  • For throwing the decanter across the table.
  • For abruptly leaving the Mess table before the cloth was withdrawn without permission.
  • For making a bargain at the Mess table in buying three letters from Mr. _____ for three farthings.
  • For making a bargain in selling three letters as above.
  • For talking on his fingers at Mess.
  • For speaking three words of Latin. "Oh, Bolus, Bolus." [Several instances of this offence occur, the words as spoken, being "A Fac Simile," "Non Te Intelligo," "Non, Non, Non," "Tria juncta in," "Aries Taurus Gemini," "Quid pro quo," and "Et caetera, et caetera." One instance is given of "et, is, et, is," with the remark "No fine proved but two words," meaning apparently, that the word "is" is not Latin, and that therefore only two Latin words were used. … Why should the use of three Latin words be considered a fineable offence?

For some more modern Officers' Mess guidance for junior officers:—

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 30 May 2013 7:52 AM EDT

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