Bars in Messes
Image and text excerpted from:
Officers' Mess Life and Customs in the Regiments, by Lt. Col. R.J. Dickinson, Essex Regt and RAOC; with illustrations by Lt. Col. Frank Wilson, Parachute Regt and Queen's; Chapel River Press, 1977
This delightful volume wonderfully describes officers' mess to the middle decades of the 20th century. It is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the regimental life of the British Empire officer of this period.
The scene is a station mess in India, at the end of the war. A Sikh Major who has long and gallant service in the Indian Army, is explaining the meaning of the expression 'Do Ungli Sikh Peg' (two finger Sikh peg) to two officers, whose knees are not yet brown. The forefinger and little finger are extended to measure a 'King size' whisky.
The barman is not amused, he is a Muslim, does not drink like Sikhs, or like them either. He has known better days with a famous regiment of Indian cavalry, when officers were 'pukka sahibs' relaxing leather arm chairs after polo, pig sticking or shooting.
The colonel is slightly sad at the change, but supposed that he will be doing the same thing in that old inn in his village when he retires in a few months.
The new fangled idea of bars in officers' messes was introduced during the last war. These bars were usually made of three ply wood and painted in gay colours. They were placed in what had been the card room, or often in a corner of the ante-room. They were decorated with beer labels, advertisements for whisky and 'cut-outs' of ladies with few clothes on.
Officers even stood each other drinks, unheard of in the old days. Such expressions as "What's yours?", "Have this on me", "Let me buy you a drink" or "It's my turn to stand a round" were heard.
The older members who remembered more rigid days viewed the subject with sorrow, but kindness.In the East they felt it probably made the 'young fellows' feel more at home and reminded them of their 'local' and was better than them having drinking parties in their rooms.
In the past a bell was rung ti summon the wine waiter. In India the bells rarely worked, a cry of "Koi-Hai" (anybody there) and an answer of "coming sahib" was the method getting refreshments.
In officers' messes where British and Indian officers got on happily together, there was only one slight flaw. At meals there were separate dishes for the British and the Indians.
The British officers far preferred the spicy curries to their own tough 'beef roast' and, as a result an Indian Officer arriving late discovered all Indian dushes 'were off the menu'!