10 March 1971
1. Every member of a Sergeants' Mess is expected to obey certain unwritten laws but there are no regulations or written instructions to assist the newly promoted senior NCO in most of these matters.
This memo is intended to assist those new senior NCOs and refresh the memories of the senior and older members.
The ignorant or unwary, if asked whether they would rather be guests of an officers' mess or sergeants', would probably choose the officers'. They might be motivated by snobbery, but probably also by the notion that that the standards of cuisine, comfort, and general atmosphere would be higher. They would be dead wrong. - opening paragraph to The Whiskey and the Music in The General Danced at Dawn, by G.M. Fraser, 1970
The Sergeants' Mess serves three functions. It is;
a. The Home of all "living-in" members,
b. The Club of every serving member, and
c. The centre of social life of WOs and SGTs of The Royal Canadian Regiment.
On the manner in which each part is conducted the success of the whole depends.
a. By his conduct in his own and other service messes a member can bring credit, but more quickly discredit, to himself and the Regiment to which he has the honour to belong.
b. The wearing of mufti in the mess should not make a difference to the correct behaviour of the members. There is no reason why the normal standard of behaviour should deteriorate because badges of rank are not worn.
c. Informality in the Mess may be carried too far on occasions. Parade ground manners are equally out of place, but a well mannered Mesa is one where normal respect is shown to senior members. Never fail to address the RSM and MWO's as "Sir" even in the closer relationship which mess life brings to all.
Make visitors and guests to the Mess feel at home on dance evenings or other social entertainments. On these occasions remember that every member of the Mess is a host. It is up to each one to see that no guest is neglected.
Be punctual on all occasions, whether it be an appointment, a game or a meal. Nothing disorganizes a Mess more than the slovenly habit of unpunctuality.
Religion, Politics and Women are taboo as topics of conversation. If you wish to be popular amongst your fellow men learn to be a good listener.
A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he heard the less he spoke,
The less he spoke the more he heard,
OH! wasn't he a wise old bird?
a. There is no traditional custom that a senior NCO or warrant Officer must be a heavy drinker. "Treating" or "standing drinks" has been a millstone round the neck of many promising senior NCOs and Warrant Officers and their careers abruptly ended for no other reason. "Standing drinks" and "treating" fellow members in the mess is forbidden. This does not prevent you offering a drink to a Mess guest, but do not overdo your hospitality by pressing additional drinks upon him.
b. To summarize, enjoy your drink, be moderate, do not drink during duty hours. Young sergeants would do well to form this habit at the commencement of their career; those who do will go farther than the remainder.
a. Although senior NCOs and Warrant Officers meet in a mess on a footing of social equality, it nevertheless must be clearly understood that a Mess Dinner and a Dining-In night are parades. It is an offence against good manners and military discipline to be late. If you are late, do not embarrass your seniors or guests by long-winded explanations.
b. All senior NCOs and WO3 and guests assemble thirty minutes before the dinner hour in the ante-room. They should not play cards or read papers at this time. On arriving one says, "Good evening Sir,"to the senior Warrant Officer present.
c. When dinner is ready the PMC will ask the RSH if he is ready to dine. When the RSM is ready he is followed by the other woe and senior NCOs but not necessarily in order of seniority. Each WO and senior NCO will ensure-that he knows his place by referring to the seating plan before dinner.
d. Unfinished drinks are never brought into the dining room.
e. On arrival in the dining room, each senior NCO and WO stands behind his chair. When all are present the PMC will ask a senior NCO (previously warned) to say Grace. The correct form of Grace is "For what we are about to receive, thank God". Everyone then seats himself, moving about the LEFT side of his chair.
f. There is no such thing as a "head table" at a Mess dinner. Other tables may be added however, to the main table, as wings. It is customary for the RSM to sit at the centre of the main table with his guests at the place of honour on his RIGHT. The remaining places are filled at the discretion of the PMC who is responsible for the seating plan.
g. The PMC sits at one end of the table and is responsible for every detail connected with service of the dinner. The Vice PMC sits at the opposite end and assists the PMC as required.
h. Should a senior NCO come in late he must at once make his apologies to the PMC. He may be allowed to take his place.
j. One never begins a course before the RSM. In certain cases the RSM will not begin a course until the whole table is served. one never refuses a course although it is distasteful. one never asks for a second helping. One never asks for a glass of water or other beverage during the dinner. '
k. No letters should be opened or notes passed at the table without permission of the RSH or PMC.
l. When the table has been cleared and swept, a decanter of wine will be set at the end of each wing. The last person on each wing will remove the stopper and place it on the table. On a signal from the PMC, the decanters will be passed to the LEFT. Each person will fill his glass and pass the decanter to the RIGHT of the senior NCO on his LEFT. It is bad form to hang the decanter on the table. During the passage of the port, one's chair should be discreetly moved back from the table.
m. When all glasses have been fled, the PMC will knock on the table, arise, and addressing the Vice PMC say "Mr Vice, The Queen". The Vice PMC will rise and, addressing the company, say "Gentlemen, the Queen". Then and only then, all senior NCOs and WOs will rise carrying their glasses with them. If a band is in attendance it will play the first six bars of the National Anthem while all stand to attention. The senior NCOs will then repeat "The Queen" and take a sip of wine. It is not imperative that the Queen's health be drank in wine. Only the DSH will add "God bless Her."
n. At the conclusion of all toasts, the smoking of cigarettes or cigars (but not pipes) is permissible. However, one must never light up before the RSM or in his absence the PMC.
o. Should a band be in attendance a series of selections will follow the toasts. The selections will be concluded with appropriate Regimental Marches. Although the selections are to be applauded, the Marches are not.
p. The conclusion of the dinner is marked by the PMC who will rise for the second time and stand to attention for 30 seconds. Any senior NCO who chooses may now leave the table.
q. When the RSM and his guests rise to leave, all Senior NCOs rise. They may however, remain at the table if they so desire.
r. If guests are present a senior NCO should not leave before the guests do. When they leave he may ask permission of the RSM or, if he is engaged, the PMC.
s. Mixed Mess Dinners vary but little. A senior NCO is responsible for making himself known to the lady on his RIGHT and for escorting her into the dining room. He will assist her into her chair and assist her to rise for the toasts. After the Queen's health has been drunk, the RSM's wife will generally rise and on that signal all rise and the ladies leave the room. The gentlemen move towards the centre of the table and sometime later join the ladies.
In order to clarify the matter concerning dress to be worn at social functions in the mess the following information has been compiled from books by the following authorities on etiquette:
a. em?Informal, Informal Dinner, or Social Dinner. If the ladies are in evening dress the men wear dinner jackets or No 2. If the ladies are in afternoon dress the men wear a lounge or business suit; blazer and flannels or odd trousers with sports jackets are acceptable.
b. Semi Formal. Semi Formal Dinner or evening the men wear dinner jackets and black bow ties or No 2 and the ladies will wear evening dresses. Evening dresses at a semi formal function may be short or long.
c. Formal. Formal Dinner or Ball. The men will wear full evening dress i.e., white tie and tails, military mess kit or dress blues No 2. The ladies will wear full evening dress, that is, floor length gown and gloves.
1. The words "optional" or "casual" are NEVER used to denote dress at any social functions.
2. Pant suits may be worn in lieu of evening dresses.
a. The Shaking of Hands
(1) If in a receiving line and the guests of honour or patron leaves his gloves on, you will shake hands with gloves ON.
(2) If shaking hands out of doors gloves will be removed if convenient, if not gloves may be left on. At NO time will you apologize for shaking hands with your gloves on.
b. In a receiving line where the gentleman does not have a calling card the gentleman will precede his lady.
c. At a formal function if you are known to any of the honoured guests it is your obligation to approach them and carry out a brief conversation, and also if they are accompanied by a lady it is only proper you should ask the lady to dance with permission through her escort.
It is a Regimental custom in the 1st Battalion Sergeants' Mess that when the decanter of wine is passed at a Mess Dinner, the decanter does not touch the table. This applies to mixed Mess Dinners as well and one occasion where the ladies pour their own drinks.
During a Mess Dinner many Regimental Marches may be played. The only time one should stand is when the Regimental March of the Host unit is played. This is normally the last selection to be played. At a mixed Mess Dinner everyone stands when the Regimental March of the Host unit is played and the ladies should be encouraged to stand through their escorts.