Customs of the Army (1956)

Contents - Sections - I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - VIII - IX



1.     Mess Rules

In different Messes the Mess rules vary, and an officer should make himself acquainted with them. Any such rules should be strictly observed. They are made to ensure the smooth running of the Mess and are not merely there to cause restrictions. "

2.     Behaviour in Mess

(a)     Mess Rules.

The Officers' Mess is not only the home of individual officers, but it is the home of the unit officers as a group. It is essential, therefore, that . an officer should behave as he would wish others to behave in his own home. A great number of personal likes and dislikes must be put aside for the benefit of the Mess as a whole.

Noisy behaviour, ragging, clinking of glasses, and other forms of rowdyism in the Mess, should be avoided, especially at the Mess table. The forming of Mess "cliques" should be avoided at all costs. They kill the family spirit in the Mess, besides causing a lot of bad feeling, which is very quickly evident to visitors and to the rest of the unit.

An officer must realise that the habit of drinking too much is not clever, nor is it amusing for other members of the Mess; it sets a very bad example. Behaviour in an Officers' Mess will very soon become common knowledge in the unit; the Sergeants' and Corporals' Messes will model their behaviour accordingly. It is essential that the behaviour in an Officers' Mess should be exemplary, as it has a direct bearing on the discipline throughout a unit.

(b)     Courtesy to Senior Officers.

When the Commanding Officer, the Brigadier, the General, or any guest comes into the ante-room an officer should stand up and make room, but he must not be stiff or formal about it.

A junior officer should not be afraid to enter into conversation with Senior Officers or guests in the Mess, but excessive familiarity must be avoided. When spoken to by older men, an officer should stand up as he would at home.

(c)     Courtesy to Visitors.

When visitors come to the Mess, whether an officer knows them or not, he must act as their host. The whole Mess is judged by the way strangers are received.

An officer should offer them tea or drinks, etc, depending on the time of the visit. If they have come to call on the Mess, or are members of a visiting team, the Mess staff should be instructed afterwards to put the drinks down to "Mess Guests." This is the duty of any host, and an officer is not expected to bear the cost of entertaining visitors or guests of the unit, except as a general charge to all members of the Mess.

When an officer brings a visitor into the Mess, whether his own guest or not, he should introduce him to the Commanding Officer, if present, otherwise the Senior Officer in the Mess at the time. If an officer invites a very Senior Officer to his Mess he should warn the Mess President and the Commanding Officer beforehand. It must be realised that when he invites a “private" guest to the Mess it is his duty to entertain and pay for him. He must not expect this to be done by other members. He must also remember that he is responsible for the good behaviour of his guest.

(d)     Tidiness.

The Mess staff should be assisted in keeping the Mess in order. Newspapers and magazines should be returned to the tables provided for this purpose, and cigarette ends should be put in the ashtrays provided and not thrown into empty grates or fenders.

Messes are now usually understaffed, and consideration of this sort is particularly important and will help to keep the officers' home more comfortable.

3.     Senior Subaltern

The Senior Subaltern is responsible for the behaviour of all Subalterns both in and out of the Mess. It is his job to give advice to all Subaltern officers and to put them right when they make mistakes. A young officer should go to him when in doubt about procedure or Mess customs.

4.     Mess Entertainments

Members of a Mess will certainly be invited to entertainments by other Messes and by civilians in the neighbourhood. This hospitality will be returned by the Mess, and on these occasions all officers will have to act as hosts. This means spending time and money.

In most Messes subscriptions to entertainments are made on a pro rata basis. Should an officer feel he cannot afford to pay the amount he is asked to, he should not be afraid to say so.

It should be remembered that a party in the Mess, as it would be in his own home, is for the enjoyment of the guests and not solely for the officer himself; he should, therefore, act accordingly and see that the guests do enjoy themselves.

5.     Complaints

An officer should not find fault with, or complain to, the Mess staff unless he is a member of the Mess Committee.

If he has a complaint to make he should approach one of the members of the Mess Committee or the Mess Secretary.

The suggestion book is not the place for complaints; it should be used for constructive suggestions to assist the Mess Committee.

In making suggestions in the book, attempts at humour should be avoided.

6.     Mess Bills

Not only is it laid down in Queen's Regulations that Mess bills must be paid on or before the 7th of each month, but it is a point of honour that they should be paid immediately on receipt. It is an officer's responsibility to see that this is carried out. If Mess bills are produced late they must be paid within seven days of receipt.

7.     Mess Procedure

(a)     Dinner.

When an officer enters the ante-room before dinner he should say, “Good evening" or “Good evening, sir," to the Senior Officer present.

When the Commanding Officer or any guests come in, all officers should stand up and say “Good evening, sir."

When bringing a guest to dinner, an officer should introduce him to the President. It is usual for the President, if he has no guests, or if Mess guests are not present, to ask the officer to bring his guest to sit next to him.

When going in to dinner it is normal to allow the guests and their hosts to go first.

If an officer is late for dinner he should go and apologise to the President. Should he wish to leave the table at any time before the coffee has been round, he should ask the President's permission. There should be no smoking at dinner until the port and/or coffee has been passed round and the President or Senior Officer has lighted up. If the President or Senior Officer does not smoke he will inform the other officers when they may do so.

(b)     Guest or Band Nights.

The procedure up to the passing round of the port is similar in most units.

After the port has been passed round the usual procedure is for the President to stand up and say " Mr. Vice, The Queen." The Vice-President then rises and gives the toast " Gentlemen, The Queen," when all remaining officers and gurests rise and drink the Queen's health.

If the band is present, then, after the Vice- President has given the toast and everyone is standing, the band will play the National Anthem before the toast is drunk.

Many regiments and corps, however, have different customs, so an officer should always ask what the procedure is when joining a new unit or dining as a guest in another unit's Mess.

It is normal for officers not to leave the Mess on a "guest" night until all the Mess guests have departed, or until permission has been obtained from the Senior Officer present. When an officer asks a guest to a "guest" or “band" night he should warn his guest of any particular customs, such as not rising to drink the Queen's health, or drinking silent regimental toasts afterwards.

(c)     Supper.

When supper is served in Mess, as opposed to dinner, there are normally no special formalities.

An officer should find out what the unit dress regulations are for supper nights to ensure that he is correctly dressed.

8. Honorary Membership of Messes

When an officer is made an honorary member of another Mess he should write and thank the officers of that Mess in the following manner:

“Mr. A. Baker thanks Lieut.-Colonel C. D. Fox, D.S.O., and the officers, 1st Bn. The Loamshire Regiment, for their kind invitation to consider himself an Honorary Member of their Mess, a privilege of which he will have much pleasure in availing himself."

Customs of the Army (1956) - Section V

Contents - Sections - I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - VIII - IX