Major General James Cowan's Six Tips on Etiquette
In March 2014, Major General James Cowan, General Officer Commanding 3 UK Division, issued a letter to his formation on his opinion and expectations of his officers in their messes. In his comments, he reflects back on traditional practices that would have been in place in his early carreer, but have since been eroded by changing social habits. Maj-Gen Cowan directs a return to traditional expectations with his Six Rules of Etiquette. Perhaps more changes will follow as his staff and subordinate commanders latch onto this trend as way to remain in the General's good graces.
"Quite a few officers in the divisional mess seem to be under the impression that they can eat their food with their hands. The practice of serving rolls and sandwiches in the mess is to stop. A gentleman or lady always uses a knife and fork."
"A good party relies on good conversation. This requires you to come prepared to be free, funny and entertaining.Thank you letters are an art form not a chore. It is generally considered better manners if the spouse is the person who writes."
Knife and fork
"The fork always goes in the left hand and the knife in the right. Holding either like a pen is unacceptable, as are stabbing techniques. The knife and fork should remain in the bottom third of the plate and never be laid down in the top half."
"Ten years ago, officers would stand up when the commanding officer walked into the room. This doesn’t happen any more. I expect a junior officer to make an effort at conversation. Start by introducing yourself and talk on any civilised subject outside work."
"I recently went to a Burns night, spoilt only by a curious decision to sit husbands next to wives. The secret of a successful marriage is never to sit next to your spouse at dinner, except when dining alone at home. It displays a marked degree of insecurity."
"In common with officialdom the world over, military writers love to use pompous words over simpler language. Combined with underlining and italics, the wanton use of capitals, abbreviations and acronyms assaults the eye and leaves the reader exhausted."
- The Telegraph - Army commander bans sandwiches in attack on 'barbaric habits'