Letters to an Adjutant; No. 10
By: "CIX", as published in the Army Quarterly, July, 1924
Letters from Lieut.-Colonel T.G—t, to Lieut. John D—n, 1st Bn. The —— Regiment
I have heard many different opinion as to the position of an Adjutant in the Mess, and strangely enough, there is no aspect of an Adjutant's position on which I hold stronger opinions than this.
I take it that the proper conception of a Mess is that it is one's home—at least a bachelor's home—and that its conduct should approximate as nearly as possible to that of the home of an average English gentleman. This presupposes the complete abolition of rank (without abolishing the normal respect which youth gives to age) and the minimum number of reuls and restrictions. In other words, we should all behave perfectly naturally.
There are only two people who have any standing in the Mess, in virtue of their position—the P.M.C. and the senior subaltern. The former deals with all the domestic arrangements and with the staff; the duties of the latter are too well known to require description. But you should be very careful not to trespass on the duties of either. Anything which you bring to the notice of the former—I mean, of course, on domestic matters—you do as an officer of the Regiment, and as any one else would do. Anything you bring to the notice of the senior subaltern should be done outside the Mess.
I told you that your position as Adjutant gave you no seniority in the Regiment; I tell you now that it gives you no special standing in the Mess.
The position you hold in the Mess and the influence you wield depends—as it should—on your character and personality as an individual.
There might be occasions on which you have to act as the Adjutant in the Mess. These are unpleasant occurrences and should be very rare.
Don't discuss your duties in the Mess; don't allow people to refer to you as "The Adjutant" (but by your name); don't discuss what goes on in the Orderly Room; and don't talk "shop."
When I say don't talk "shop" I am not precluding the discussion of military subjects of general interest; I am begging you to leave regimental matters alone. The relative merits of Lance-Corporal Fishface and Corporal Halfwit are no subjects for discussion in a Mess.
You will perceives that I am advising you to be your natural self; to choose your friends from amongst the subalterns and the captains, and not to make bosom friends of field officers.
If you don't remain your natural self, you will build up a position of unhappy social isolation. If by behaving as a normal individual you lose any standing as an Adjutant, you have shown yourself quite unfitted for the position you hold.
It should be quite possible for a stranger to lie in your Mess for a month without even knowing who was Adjutant of the Battalion, unless, indeed, he detected it by your spurs (and for God's sake, John, wear them high on the counter and echew "chains").