Officers' Mess (RCAF, 1940)

The Air Force Guide (Chap. IV. Sec. 30), by "Group Captain," Toronto, 1940

1.     Every officer on the training establishment or Reserve of a unit, and every officer attached thereto is to be a member of the unit mess. K.R. (Air) 1130.

2.     Regulations governing an Officers' Mess are laid down in K.R. (Air) 1130-1142E.

3.     The Officers' Mess is the home of the officers who live in, and the club of all. Each of these groups should respect the privileges of the other and remember, although their view-point may be slightly different, all must conduct themselves so as to maintain a smooth running and efficient Mess.

4.     Officers meet in the Mess on a footing of social equality, but it should be distinctly understood that the officers are under the same military discipline and as much under the orders of their seniors as though they were on parade. Informality in a Mess is excellent since it gives the juniors a chance to meet their superiors on a basis of equality. Informality carried too far is deplorable. Nothing could he worse than to hear a junior address his Commanding officer as "Old Sport." There is a story of a young neophyte who, on meeting a General early in the morning, said cheerily, "It's a beautiful morning, Sir" and received the reply, "The morning is all right, it's the people you meet.'

5.     Dress, whether in uniform or 'mufti" is most important.—

i.     Royal Canadian Air Force undress is worn for dinner except on guest nights, when full, Mess Kit is the order. (Except on active Service, when Service Dress is worn.)

ii. "Mufti" when worn on supper nights or on other occasions in the Mess must be of a character compatible with the rooms in the Mess which are to be used. i.e., Flannels and a sweater might be very comfortable in your own quarters, but would not be acceptable in the club rooms of the Mess. At all times, an officer is "an officer and a gentleman" and must behave and clothe himself with this in view.

6.     It is the duty of the Senior Flying Officer to instruct the newly joined officer in Mess Etiquette. The latter would do well to pay very close attention to such instruction, and for some time following it he should keep his eyes and ears open and his mouth shut.

7.     An officer should always stand up when the Commanding Officer or any officer of corresponding rank enters the room. The latter will say "Don't get up gentlemen" and probably prevent all from rising. The Commanding Officer should always be addressed as Sir."

8.     The most scrupulous punctuality should be observed by all officers.

9.     Visitors to the Mess are the guests of all officers. Should a guest arrive and the officer whom he is visiting not be present, it is the duty of those present to entertain him.

10.     Dogs and other animals are not allowed in the Mess.

11.     Officers should not frequent the Mess during working hours. There is no legitimate excuse for this and it will bring credit on neither the officer nor his unit.

12. Years ago it was not the custom to discuss "shop" in the Mess. This has changes, however, and many useful discussions on matters connected with the Force take place in the Mess. It is still considered very bad form, however, to mention a lady's name or enter into any discussion of this kind in the Mess.

13.     Junior officers should be very careful with the use of alcoholic drinks. Many a promising career has been ruined by an officer trying to be a good fellow and standing drinks. This is breaking a King's Regulation and is forbidden. Drinks can be enjoyed with care and moderation, but should not be indulged in until the day's duty is over.

14.     The formal Mess Dinner is a parade for all officers, and it is very serious to be late. Officers meet about fifteen minutes before in the ante-room.

Officers should unobtrusively say "Good evening" to the Senior Officer present when they arrive. Should an officer come within speaking distance of the Commanding Officer, he should say, "Good evening, Sir."

A President and a Vice-President are appointed for Mess nights and should sit one at each end of the table. When dinner is announced, the President asks the senior officer present if he will precede him into the Mess room. Should there be several guests, they will go in in the order of precedence, accompanied by their hosts.

Officers will stand behind their chairs while grace is said by the Chaplain or another officer if the Chaplain is not present.

Should an officer be late, he will go to the President and apologize. He will then take his seat knowing full well that he will hear further about the matter.

After dessert, decanters of port are placed on the table and the President helps himself and passes the port to his left. Port must never be massed to the right. Each officer helps himself and passes the port on until it comes back to the President, all the port glasses having been filled, but no one having touched his glass.

It is not obligatory to drink the King's health in port, and an officer may fill his glass with ginger ale or water, so long as he has a glass of something.

The President then calls for attention and rising, addresses the Vice-President, saying, "Mr. Vice, The King." The Vice-President rises and says, "Gentlemen, The King." All Officers rise. If there is a band, the first six bars of God Save the King are played, officers standing to attention. When the band has stopped, all officers say, "The King" and drink the toast, then sit down.

Coffee is now served, the port circulated, and the President says "Gentlemen, you may smoke." Officers should not smoke until this permission is given or until the President himself lights a cigarette.

If there are any speeches, they are made at this time. No officer may leave the table except for duty, until the President intimates that the formal part of the evening is over. Where an officer is forced to leave by reason of duty, he must excuse himself to the President.

It is not considered good form for an officer to leave the Mess before the Commanding Officer unless he has asked permission from the Commanding Officer.

15.     Only by asking questions can an officer learn, and he should have no hesitation in consulting his seniors. A few "Don'ts" for young officers are given below.

i.     Don't smoke at breakfast or at luncheon until someone else is smoking, or until you have asked permission of the senior officer present. Don't smoke a pipe at breakfast.

ii.     Don't smoke at dinner until after the toast to His Majesty the King.

iii.     Don't fail to stand up when a Field Officer enters the Mess ante-room and remain standing until he tells you to sit down. It is not necessary to stand up is another Field Officer enters, unless such Field Officer is the Commanding Officer. However, if you happen to be occupying the only remaining comfortable chair, it might well be in your best interests unobtrusively to vacate it.

iv.     When the toast to the King is drunk, don't say "God Bless Him." This is a Field Officer's prerogative.

v.     Don't draw your sword, don't mention a woman's name, don't discuss religion of politics in the Mess.

vi.     Don't do or say anything in the Mess that you wouldn't be ashamed to do or say in your own home.

vii.     Don't take a drink when on duty.

viii.     Don't play cards for stakes that you cannot afford.

ix.     Don't forget the limited size of your pay cheque when you feel the urge to order a drink. Remember the Mess bills must be paid by the seventh of each month. Many a promising officer has had to resign his commission because, in attempting to be a good fellow, he lived beyond his means.

The Senior Subaltern

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