Cover image from the circulated pdf edition of Neptune's Notes.
For an updated Naval point of view, see this edition of advice for Naval Officers by Captain (N) (Retired) Robert "Bob" G. Allen:
This MARCOM CPOs' & POs' Mess; Mess Dinners and Mess Customs booklet also offers guidance on Messes and Mess Dinners in the Canadian Forces.
(LINK - pdf)
I am told that the first edition of Neptune's Notes has been of some benefit to the Pollywogs and I hope that this is true. I understand there is a split infinitive hidden somewhere amongst the pages but in my exalted position I can demand that this be disregarded.
There are some points which still seem to be overlooked by my readers and others which evidently require enlarging upon. These will be dealt with in the additions and changes made to this Edition.
When I was a young Pollywog I was a very brash young Pollywog and I made many mistakes embarrassing to both me and others. So that you will not suffer the same agonies I did, I am offering you this little booklet. It will never cover all occasions and circumstances but you may find that the knowledge from it comes in handy.
In the following pages you will find a lot of advice. A number of the statements made herein you will recognise as being opinions only and therefore subject to one's own interpretation. These opinions, however, have been arrived at after some years of experience and observation and I believe they are generally accepted among Naval Officers.
You will find that a considerable amount of space is devoted to matters of Dress, Conduct and Social Activities. This has been done to help smooth your way into circles that you, for reasons of age or otherwise, have not entered before. You may think now that some of it is pure 'humbug'. Those who do, I will only say that time and experience may prove otherwise to you.
I would not like you to lay too much emphasis on the Social side of things. This is only a part of a Naval Officer's life, although it is unquestionably an important part. Some of the points I have covered may seem very old – fashioned to you and you may think they are so out of date that they do not need to he taken seriously. Let me stress that in this day and age, there are many aspects of a Naval Officer's life that may seem, at first to be out of date, but with experience you will find that it is not necessarily the Navy which is out of date. The sense of values of the community may require looking into.
Men of the Navy both Officers and Ratings are trained to face life with a strong sense of duty, decency and fair play. Naturally our code of life cannot be expressed in rules but perhaps the creed of a naval officer, a gentleman and a King of England will not be out of place here. George V, who served for 33 years in the Royal Navy is said to have had these lines framed and hung in his cabin:
"Teach me to be obedient to the Rules of the Game.
Teach me to distinguish between sentiment and
sentimentality, admiring the one and despising the other.
Teach me neither to proffer nor to receive cheap praise.
If I am called on to suffer, let me be like a
well – bred beast that goes away to suffer in silence.
Teach me to win if I may: teach me to be a good loser.
Teach me neither to cry for the moon nor to cry over spilt milk."
Naval Cadets and young people in general are often regarded as a fairly low form of human life and they find that breaking into the 'adult world' is not something that can be accomplished easily. Some people linger on in the Juvenile Sphere until they are well past middle age. They don't know what they are missing.
Adults consider their world to be like some sort of Club – a bit difficult to get into – and they like to size up the prospective members pretty carefully before they allow them in. If you are trying to make headway with your girl friend's Mother and Father this, among other things, is probably what they are looking for – A young man who is presentable, who knows his way around, who will not embarrass either the girl or her family and who has something to offer in the way of conversation. How much money you have in the bank just doesn't matter, it is how you behave and what sort of a person you are that counts.
Let's look at things from the adult point of view for awhile. First of all Dress. The first impression you make on a person is with your appearance. If you look 'fresh off the farm', it is unlikely that you are going to get an invitation to a formal Dinner Party. What should you wear? It all depends on the time of day and the circumstances, but a good rule of thumb is "Never wear anything that just happens to be 'in vogue' at the moment". Keep your clothes on the 'conservative' side. These flashy styles and clothes come and go (Zoot suits, stuff cuffs, pink shirts and star – spangled lapels) and you will find they are in fashion with only a small section of the community. The safest, and incidentally in the long run by far the cheapest, is as I have said, something conservative. This may cost you quite a bit more to start with but you will have the confidence of knowing that it is the best, it is never out of fashion and it is never out of place. I should say that a suitable wardrobe to be achieved eventually by every young officer should be:
A Pair of Flannels – (the colour doesn't matter very much but the safest is probably 'grey'). These should be of the best quality' and finest texture your pocket book will allow. The best variety I know are Daks and they cost about $28.00 a pair but they are impeccably cut in a way that few other tailors know how and they have any number of varieties of cloth and weights of cloth. The lighter the weight the better they hold their crease. This is a useful point to remember. You can buy cheaper varieties but these I have mentioned are the best in my experience.
Jacket – I recommend a Blazer, preferably double breasted with no badge on the pocket but with four Brass Buttons on the front and with two (or four) Brass buttons on each sleeve. The best buttons are those with a Silver Crown on them. They are expensive but you will probably need only one set in your entire career in the Navy. The Blazer should be made of some lightweight material. Three varieties of cloth which come to mind which are quite suitable are Flannel, Hopsack and Serge. Of the three I personally think Hopsack is the best. Colour should be Navy Blue or Midnight Blue. The wearing of badges on the pocket is a matter of personal preference. Some do and some don't.
Shirts – There is lots of scope here. You can have either the turned – back cuff which needs Cuff Links, which you may want if somebody has left you a pair of good Cuff Links or the single, and probably a bit less expensive, button cuff. Both are very suitable. The turned – back cuff has probably a bit more 'class', and the button cuff is generally easier to have washed and keep clean – which do you want? The shirts can be in any colour but you must have a few just plain white. They are always in fashion and are always appropriate at any time of day or night. Also get a few pastel (not bright) shades of grey, green, blue, browns etc. While on the subject of colours, it is customary to wear coloured shirts during the daytime, perhaps extending to a Cocktail Party before Dinner but seldom after that. White is the only safe evening colour. The shape of the collar is also worth mentioning. Most shirts have attached collars although separate collars which never did go out of fashion are becoming popular again. Either is quite correct and the separate collar makes a shirt a bit more versatile. You can always wear a white collar with a coloured shirt to a Cocktail Party and it looks 'dressy'. You don't have to wear a stiff white collar. There are any number of soft white collars made – try Van Heusen – better buy a couple of these. When you are picking out the style of collar, keep away from the extremes – not too long a point and not too short.
Shoes – You need a pair of Black Shoes, fairly light in weight, with a toecap, for wearing in the evening and at night. Brown shoes usually should be put away at sunset. To wear the Naval model you have already shows right away that you only have the one pair for work and play. Maybe so, but save up and get another pair as soon as you can. You need also a pair of Brown Shoes and your first pair of these should be a pair of good heavy brogues. These two pairs are about all you will really need but for Special Events you may feel like buying some more so here what is proper.
White Buckskin Shoes – are sometimes worn when in warm climates for afternoon and early evening wear.
Suede Shoes – these come in all sorts of fancy colours. Brown or dark chocolate are by far the best. Don't let anyone sell you blues, greens or yellows! Suede shoes can come with crepe soles and one pair of this variety is not a bad thing to have, although they make a bit of noise on polished floors and may cause all eyes to centre on you as you walk over to shake hands with your prospective Mother–in–Law. For evening wear, a pair of plain–toed Black Patent Leather shoes is pretty well a MUST if you have a Dinner Jacket (sometimes called a 'Tuxedo' among the lower echelons!!) to go with them. You also wear these with Mess Dress and Mess Undress. They are very definitely a MUST NOT if you are thinking of wearing them with anything else. If you don't believe me try it some time. Canvas Shoes, and this includes Tennis Shoes, etc., should for obvious reasons only be worn when engaged in or about to be engaged in some athletic sport. They should be taken off and hidden away as soon as you can after the game. They tend to have a distinct, penetrating aroma, which may not seep through your own consciousness but will probably be very evident to others. While we are on the subject don't forget to have your canvas shoes scrubbed and dried at least once every two weeks, and don't forget to clean them every time you use them. The fellow who arrives on the Tennis Court wearing dirty Tennis shoes, is the same fellow who never brushes his teeth or washes under the armpits.
Ties – Here you have lots of scope but once again be careful. There are any number of fellows lurking in the bushes ready to palm off on you some little number that they make themselves which retails for about $4.95 but beware! Lay off the hand–painted variety and the very bright colours. There are plenty of plain colours in simple stripes, and small polka–dots for you to cut your teeth on. The geometric designs, the hand–painted palm trees and the dancing girls should be given a miss. No matter how much they may appeal to you now, they don't go down well at the Country Club and by then it is too late to change.
Tie Clips – There are mixed feelings about these. There used to be a time when they were never worn. They are still never worn with uniform. Now I think they are quite alright providing they are plain and simple. Throw away the clip with your initials on it or your old High School badge and buy a plain one made of Silver or Gold or something that looks like it. If you can't find one like I describe – do without and if you want to keep your tie in place use an ordinary safety pin and pin it through the shirt from the back so it can't be seen. Some people still use a gold sort of safety pin and this is worn in view from the Front. Stiffeners for collars are quite important. Ask your Haberdasher for a handful of extra ones when he is next trying to sell you a new suit and is in a receptive frame of mind. They are always being lost in the laundry and a shirt without them looks limp and so do you.
Cuff Links – Use any you happen to have handy and if you are especially proud of yours – buy yourself some shirts with sleeves half an inch longer than usual so they will always be in evidence. By the way while we are on this subject the length of sleeve on a coat should always be about half an inch below the wrist and the length of shirt sleeve half an inch to one inch longer again.
Suits – We have already gone into the grey Flannels and Blazer question. Here is what else you need for a basic wardrobe. First of all you will need some sort of 'general purpose' suit, a good old 'reliable'. Glamorous French women say that the backbone of their wardrobe is "the simple black dress" and that they just fix it up with bits of this and that in the way of accessories for the different times of day. Be that as it may, the male equivalent is a Grey Flannel Suit. The suit should be a dark grey and the cloth a worsted flannel. This is suitable to wear in the Forenoon, to Lunch in a New York restaurant, to the Races in the afternoon, to a Cocktail Party in the evening and to an informal Dinner Party at night. Having one of these is essential unless you have a different suit for each occasion. A brown suit would be all right in the Forenoon, quite correct for Lunch, would pass in the Afternoon and might get you as far as the Cocktail Party but for a formal Dinner – no indeed, unless you can convince your hosts you have been in a railroad accident and have lost everything you possess. This grey suit should be single breasted nowadays and it is best to have three buttons in the front. This makes it more formal and therefore more suitable for evening wear and it is quite all right for the other occasions. You might want only two buttons which will make it not quite so appropriate on all occasions and is definitely second best in the suitability line and under no circumstances buy one with only a single button. These are usually reserved for the Race Track crowd, When you buy a suit, buy the matching Waist – coat that goes with it. At a semi – formal Function the man who arrives without a Waistcoat is only half dressed. The Waistcoat is invariably worn with the bottom button undone, a custom which I understand started with Edward VII who was unable to button his up.
Dinner Jacket – Sooner or later you will need a Dinner Jacket. How much you are going to need it will depend very much on what sort of life you intend to lead and where you are going to lead it. Every Officer of Lieutenant's rank should have a Dinner Jacket – single breasted, one button, midnight blue or black in colour. With it you will need a suitable shirt, I would recommend the soft pleated variety with a turn down collar. They are easy on the neck and they are less difficult to have laundered than the stiff and starched kind. Try to get one that buttons from the back. You will thus escape the embarrassment of having studs' pop' at the front as you lean over to whisper in your Dinner Partner's ear.
You should not wear anything but 'gold" studs in Mess Dress or Mess Undress.
Handkerchiefs – Plain white linen handkerchiefs are right for evening wear. Coloured handkerchiefs are for daytime use only. White handkerchiefs are good all day. You wear them in the breast pocket with the edges showing or in the evening – some people tuck them up their sleeve with the edge showing a bit.
Jewellery – The wearing of rings by men is pretty popular in some circles but like the advertisements say, 'those who know' wear only Signet Rings. High School fraternity rings and pins are 'for the birds' and draw inquiring looks when you go abroad. If you don't happen to have a family crest or a signet. ring, remember you are only one of many and just don't wear a ring at all. They rarely do anything for you. Even VENTURE 'Class' rings are a doubtful quantity,
Sweaters – No matter what you may hear to the contrary – be – sweatered gentlemen are never welcome at Cocktail Parties, even though you may try to hide the sweater under your jacket, this is just Not Done even If your A Number One girl friend knitted it herself. The only use for a sweater in the Navy is on the Bridge or when cold, playing Sports, – or about to engage in some athletic activity and that is all. You can wear any kind you like but once again keep it simple if you have a choice. One very handy sort of sweater to have is one made of plain white wool with a 'V neck and red, white and blue Naval Colours at the neck and sometimes at the Waist Band. The cable stitch variety of this is very handsome.
Scarfs – There are two or three kinds and here once again it is the wearer's choice. I can recommend the small silk variety which looks something like a rather large necktie. This is just about what it is. They generally come in what is known as a Paisley pattern and one is worn around the neck knotted in front and the ends tucked dawn inside an open necked shirt. This is a tidy arrangement though it tends to come undone unless you wear a pin of some sort in front or pin it from underneath where it is hidden.
Hats – Pretty well anything you like goes here too. It all depends on whether you think you need one or not, but in the more sophisticated parts of the country they are a 'must' at certain times. Better lay in a small stock of these (They are not expensive) and you will be prepared to conform with the customs of the 'Natives'. I suggest a brown or green 'Porkpie' and perhaps a Cap and if you are going South reach for a Straw Hat with a fancy band on it. Look in the smart magazines to see what they have to offer. I would shy away from grey as a colour in any kind of hat if I were you, perhaps this is because Grey Fedoras are usually associated with. Russian Secret Police.
Light Weight Suits – If you are going to travel in warm climates you are going to find yourself very uncomfortable and most likely embarrassed if you do not provide yourself with a light – weight or tropical suit. These are usually made without any lining and they are worth "their weight in gold" when you really need them. They cost about $40.00 to $60.00 and they keep you cool. This may not sound like anything important at the moment but when the temperature is in the 90's and the humidity up there also, you don't want to find yourself covered in perspiration at someone's house party, especially if you are trying to make an impression. In the Tropics these light – weight suits are appropriate on almost every occasion throughout the day and night. I don't think you will be expected to have tropical evening dress but if you feel flush and want to cut a bit of a 'dash' buy yourself a light–weight cream coloured Dinner Jacket and you will be 'in'.
One more useful bit of equipment is a Tweed Jacket and here I would warn you not to get one that is too heavy. Get a medium weight Tweed in a fairly subdued colour with as little design on it as possible. Single breasted with three buttons and long in length is what you will use most. Perhaps you will want leather buttons and these are quite appropriate. Also you will have a choice of patch pockets or slit pockets. Take your tailor's advice on this and remember that the slit variety are less bulky.
Overcoat – Except in very cold climates you hardly need one. I would suggest, however, a light coloured Raincoat as this is suitable to wear almost anywhere. Mackintosh is a good brand.
Gloves – are not important but they do dress up the costume if you feel like it and they are useful bits of equipment in places like New York, London, and Paris, etc. Brown gloves or Peccary are the two best varieties – never grey or black and these generally look better if they are unlined as that keeps them less bulky,
Socks – By all means get some thick woollen socks to wear with your brown shoes but also get some black silk socks to wear at night with your Dinner Jacket. The three quarter length variety are the best in the evening, no matter what it is you are wearing. When you wear these and cross your legs you do not expose a manly but hairy leg to the rest of the people in the room. Never buy the quarter length variety and when it comes to picking colours and designs, once again shy away from the spectacular.
It is generally wise to remember that all these gentlemen are not in business for their health and therefore they are all set to sell you anything you ask for, no matter how ludicrous your choice may look to them. Some civilian tailors too, haven't the faintest idea of how to dress anyone other than the local commandos. You are therefore safer if you go to a well – established firm of Naval Outfitters and get yourself lined up with them early in your Naval Career. The better ones are remarkable fellows and you can count on them as being reliable and friendly when you are in need. Once you have started in with them they will do almost anything for you and they provide service with a capital "S". The better ones have representatives all over the world or they send their Agents out to Canada to fulfil your wants. While they will not, no matter what you hear, actually lend you money and put it on their Bill, they will do almost anything else. They will look after repairs and alterations for suits and uniforms that are years and years old and make them look like new. They can supply a completed line of first class civilian clothes and uniforms within the price range of Naval Officers and their knowledge of how to get things to you half way around the world, wherever you may happen to be visiting, is almost uncanny. I cannot recommend any particular firm. There are three or four good ones and some provide better coverage than others. You should ask some Naval Officer friend for a recommendation. I was advised in my early days to go to a certain firm which I have never regretted. I did leave them for a period of about four years and I did regret doing that.
Now that we have got you properly outfitted with a good wardrobe, let us take you through a very busy day and see what pitfalls lay ahead. First of all, let us say you have been invited to Lunch at the Country Club. This invitation was probably extended to you through the mail and the invitation probably was an informal one – in which case it would look like this:
Dear Mr. Hornblower:
I am giving a small Luncheon Party at the Country Club on Tuesday, the 19th at 1 o'clock for Mr. and Mrs. Henry Devonian from Calgary and I would be delighted if you could come. Although we have never met, I understand that you are a great friend of the Lesages in Montreal so I am very much looking forward to seeing you.
Now what are you going to do? Do you telephone her, or do you write a letter? The answer is you write a letter if it will get to her in time or if through some mischance her invitation did not arrive until Monday afternoon – you seize the telephone and call her right away explaining why it is you have done so. The main purpose of the exercise is in let your hostess know whether or not you can come in plenty of time for her to get a substitute if necessary. Assuming you have the time, write back and say something along the following lines – keep it in the friendly tone of the original invitation and try not to make it too business–like:
Dear Mrs. Hamilton:
I shall be delighted to come to your Luncheon Party at the Country Club on Tuesday, the 19th at 1 p.m. and I am looking forward very much to meeting you there. Did you know that the Lesages have just recently moved to Halifax – I saw them there last week. Thank you for your invitation.
This is all you need. Don't put any rank or anything under your name. Just put your address in the upper right – hand corner and the date and bung the letter in the mail. Address the outside of the envelope to 'Mrs.' (or 'Miss') Emma Hamilton. Don't forget that.
All right, now you have received the invitation and you are going to the Party – what should you wear and what time should you get there? Well let me say right here and now, the expression "Fashionably Late" is not by any means the keynote and there never was such an expression as "Fashionably Early". Aim to arrive on the dot or within five minutes of 1 o'clock. Don't arrive before 1. Wear your Grey Suit with a coloured or white shirt and your black shoes. You may think for a minute of your Blazer and Flannel Trousers with your brown shoes but don't give them another thought. This obviously is a fairly formal Lunch or it would not be given at the Country Club so you don't want to arrive looking too informal or "corn – fed". The clothes you wear, will dress up the party and help it go better. This is the first duty of a guest. He should not accept an invitation to any function unless he is prepared to do all he can to help the party go and to assist his Host and Hostess in that respect. Too many people forget that these days. Once you start getting the reputation of being a useful man to have at a party, and this is not by any means hard to do, you will find that your services are in great demand and you will have a lot of fun. If on the other hand, you turn up improperly dressed or late a couple of times or if you sit like a 'bump on a log' throughout the affair, you will find you will have plenty of free time to yourself in the long Winter evenings and you can save yourself a lot of money on clothes. You might like to join a good. Book Club.
All right – Here you are at the Country Club and the time is five past one. You enter through the door and look around for your Hostess. If you don't know what she looks like, ask one of the attendants for Mrs. Hamilton's Party and he will direct you over to the right spot. Introduce yourself to Mrs. Hamilton and say how pleased you are to see her. A bare "How do you do is not the best opening gambit, "How do you do – how nice it is to meet you" is much better and it gives your Hostess a chance to say more. She will probably introduce you to one or two people and then get on with the rest of her duties. Start circu1ating and here are some rules you should follow which apply to every social function whether it be a Lunch Party, Supper Party, Dinner Party, Cocktail Party, Reception or Dance.
Remember your primary duty as a guest is to help keep things going. DON'T head for the best looking girl in the party unless she happens to be standing by herself. DO go straight to any female woman of the opposite sex who happens to be temporarily unoccupied and start talking to her. It matters not one bit whether she is half or twice your age – what does matter is that she is another guest for whom your Hostess is responsible and it is up to you as another guest to help her enjoy the party also. Quite apart from it being your duty to go over to talk to her you will probably find that she is a very interesting companion. There must be something about her otherwise your Hostess would not have invited her in the first place.
Now begins an interesting part of the performance. What should you talk about? Well this can be a fascinating game. The ultimate objective is to start a flow of easy conversation while you are busy knocking back the drinks that the white – coated Country Club attendants keep turning up with at your elbow. In nautical language, start taking a few soundings. Ask a couple of questions – "Do you live in (this town)?" "Where would be a good place for me to go fishing this week end?" "Are you fond of fishing?" Two or three simple questions should be sufficient provided you follow up the answers with other questions or statements and keep the conversation going. Of course if you are really aiming for the Book Club subscription, you can blight the proceedings right from the start. If this is your aim, try going up and saying nothing. Wait for the other one to ask the questions and when she does give her a monosyllabic answer. I have heard this done many times and it works very well. Half of the partnership is not likely to go far and I leave it to you to guess which one.
QUESTION: Do you like it here in Pebble Beach?
QUESTION: Are you fond of Golf?
ANSWER: No Ma'am
QUESTION: Where are you from in Canada?
ANSWER: Victoria, B.C.
MUCH LONGER PAUSE
QUESTION: (In desperation) Would you mind getting me another drink? (Male moves off with empty glass)
When you get back with that drink, don't expect to find her where you left her. She will probably be in the middle of another group hiding from you.
Well Hi Ho, here we go again. You had better practice up on your technique. Remember the lesson and move off and try again but be sure to do better next time or you will have the quiet solid comfort of the Wardroom to yourself for keeps. I will assume that you are an ex–VENTURE Cadet and therefore 'know the score' so you are busily talking to a middle – aged lady who is telling you about her last trip to Scandinavia, when your Hostess comes along and announces that you are all about to move in to lunch. Well, you think, it is time to hoist in a few groceries, so take your partner's glass and put it down somewhere for her and help her to stub out her cigarette by producing an ashtray.
This not being a full formal Luncheon (although it is not too informal either) there will probably not be a Seating Plan for you to study but you can be sure that the seating arrangements are firmly fixed in your Hostess' mind so leave it to her "to tell off the hands".
You find yourself seated between an elderly gentleman and a young "dish" that you noticed when you first came into the room. One general fact to remember is that it is the man who probably has to take the initiative whether it be moving around the room to talk or opening the conversation. Here is your chance, if the girl isn't talking to anyone else lean towards her and start to interrogate her and get the conversation going. The rules are still the same as when you were talking to your first partner. Give her a chance to talk a bit on her own and if the going gets tough call in a bit of help from the old geezer on the left. If you need this, lean back a bit in your chair so he can see who you are talking about and then say – "I was talking to Miss Blank here about hunting Bears in Patagonia" (This is a pretty dull subject so no wonder you did not get much response from her) "Have you any advice about this?" or some such question. This gets him into the discussion and soon the conversation gets easier.
Here is another caution – don't try to monopolize Miss Blank's conversation, not that she doesn't like you but a steady conversation with one person through a whole meal is pretty strenuous on anyone and besides she won't know how good you are by comparison unless she has a chance to talk to that dull looking character who is seated on her other side.
We won't go into every detail of the Lunch, it will flow along smoothly enough for you if you give the conversation a push every now and then. A word of caution to you though about the drinks. You may be so busy talking that you don't keep a close enough tab on what you are pouring down your throat and this is not a good thing. The Country Club makes more money on the liquor sales than it does out of its Membership Fees so the attendants are quick to fill up your glass when it is empty. Before you know it you are getting quietly honked – the girl next to you is getting better looking all the time, you have just discovered that you are a sparkling conversationalist and you know a whole lot of jokes that you we sure will go over with a bang and help the party go. This is the time when you should exercise restraint and at the same time exercise the muscles in your neck that turn your head from left to right. You don't really have to sock the Wine Steward to stop him from refilling your glass, no matter how persistent he may seem to be. When he arrives with his jug of 'joy juice' just put a finger over the top of the glass and shake your head ever so slightly – he will get the idea and you won't even have to look at him. A good point to remember too is that it is not necessary for you to empty your glass, in fact to do so is an open invitation to the eager Wine Steward.
Now the meal is over and you're busily smoking your cigarette at the table. The Hostess rises to leave and you follow suit. Generally the guests pause for a few minutes after they leave the Dining Room either in the Hall or in the Lounge while they send for their transportation, powder their noses etc. and here you should say good – bye to the people you spoke to before Lunch and finally offer your thanks and say good – bye to your Hostess and Host. Assuming you have not got a car of your own, you may be wondering how you are going to get away and back to the ship. You will not have been able to arrange for a car beforehand so unless someone offers you a ride, the best way to go about it is to ask the Hall Porter or one of the employees of the Club to get you a taxi – they usually know which is the closest taxi stand. So there you are off back to the Ship with a scrunch of gravel on the drive – way and that wasn't too bad was it? In fact to your surprise you find that the 'old geezer' on your left turned out to be a pretty interesting elderly gentleman – he has a large house and a stable full of convertible cars and he is going to telephone you up tomorrow to make arrangements about coming to his house for Dinner the next night. Maybe he has a daughter – only time will tell.
Cocktail Parties are regarded in many ways by different people. Some think they are a social blight, others regard them as a necessary evil and still others think they are a lot of fun. I think you will find they fall into the latter category. They certainly will if you like meeting people and if you are asked to go to the best ones. The invitations will surely come your way if you show that you are an asset at such an affair. The invitations are usually issued in the form of a note which generally does not require an answer unless, of course, it has a telephone number on the note which infers that you should call up and say whether or not you are coming, or if there is an R.S.V.P. somewhere on the invitation. There is generally no number and no R.S.V.P. if the party is to be a large one, only if it is to be a small party does the hostess want to know if she is to arrange a substitute. In replying to an R.S.V.P. adopt the form of invitation. If it is informal, telephone your reply, if it is formal with the R.S.V .P. write the formal reply. (See Notes for the form of reply).
O.K. here we go. The Party usually starts at 1730 or 1800 or even 1830 and generally lasts about two hours. Timing your arrival is not so essential on these occasions. The Cocktail Party is in a sense an informal affair but you should aim to arrive within fifteen minutes of the time stated on the invitation unless the party is being given by a Senior Officer in which case you should try to arrive within five minutes after the beginning.
What do you wear this time? You had better wear a suit unless the Cocktail Party is given outdoors which is sometimes the case in the Summertime. (On these occasions you could wear your Blazer and flannels and your suede shoes). You can wear your brown shoes if you want but if you are going on to supper somewhere afterwards you had better wear black shoes. The same thing goes for shirts. You can wear a coloured shirt for the Cocktail Party all right but you probably need a white shirt if you are going on anywhere afterwards. You can dress yourself up further with coat, hat and gloves for this affair and each thing you add lends a little more dignity and formality to your dress. This won't hurt believe me.
We are at the door and have pressed the bell and along comes another group ready to do the same thing. Raise your hat and say "Good Evening". You cannot just stand there silently waiting for the door to open. Here is where a hat comes in handy. What would you do without it? Moral – bettor wear a hat.
Once inside the house give your hat, coat and gloves to the maid unless she is busy with other guests in which case she will indicate to you where to park your gear and then wait in sight of the party for your host or hostess to disengage themselves and come out and take you in tow. If you don't know them too well tell them who you are – they may not know who you are either. If your host's name is Kennedy say something like this – "Mrs. Kennedy? I am Horatio Hornblower. How nice of you to ask me to your party". Don't click your heels or stand stiffly to attention even if she is an Admiral's wife – remember this is an informal Party. If she shakes you by the hand don't lock her hand in a vice – like grip and paralyse it for the rest of the evening. A firm but gentle handshake is what is required and it eases the tension a bit if you smile at the same time. Your host or hostess will probably only have time to introduce you to one or two guests before he or she has to leave you so pretty soon you will be on your own. Here is where the same old play as took place at lunch time commences. Don't forget your duties as a guest in the matter of taking care of ladies standing by themselves and ladies talking in groups with no men around. Once again, the fellow who makes a bee–line for the best looking girl in the room is more times than not making a mistake. If she is good–looking as all that she probably knows what good manners are and she knows also that you ought to be attending to your duties somewhere else so you have lost a chance of demonstrating to her that you are not the callow youth she now sees you to be. Walk over to the isolated one first, make a friend out of her. At the end of the evening you will find that you have had a pretty good time and by that time too you will probably have met the girl you were originally aiming for and she may be by this time more receptive to your invitation to take her out to dinner. She certainly should be more mellow than she was at the beginning if the gin has done its deadly work. Remember Cocktail Parties are for conversational purposes. Here are some Do's and Don'ts: – DON'T let your eyes wander around the room while you are talking to anyone. This is a most infuriating habit and it conveys to the person you are conversing with the idea that you are looking around for something better. Watch out for this one – a lot of people don't know they do it. DO if you are joined by more guests and you happen to see some other female guest standing alone or talking to another woman, if you get a suitable opportunity, slip away from the first group and join her or them.
DON'T talk shop about the Navy. No one knows what you are talking about and they care less. You are in desperate straits indeed if you have to fall back onto this line. Really learned talk is not often, found or expected at a Cocktail Party. Keep the conversation light and keep it going. The quickest way of getting off to a good start is to ask a few question and having asked them look as though you are interested in the answers. One question leads to another and when you detect a note of enthusiasm in your conversational partner get after it like a bird dog – you are a success in her mind at least – here is a fellow who has the intelligence to be interested in the same sort of thing she is interested in – what a man!
How many drinks should you have at a Cocktail Party and what should you drink? I think I should say here and now that it is not necessary that you drink at all at a Cocktail Party. Many people don't drink but still go to and enjoy Cocktail Parties. The host invariably has Orange Juice and other things to cater for such guests. If you feel like a drink you are safest on 'straight' drinks and by this I mean none of these fancy mixtures that masquerade as Cocktails. Stick to Gin or Canadian Rye. They are usually found pretty well everywhere. Next in line is Scotch but this being considerably more expensive is sometimes not served. If you are used to Canadian Rye, American Rye or Bourbon tastes like paint remover. A drink with the characteristics of a hydrogen bomb and only slightly less lethal is the Martini. This started in the olden days as being a mixture of three parts Gin to one part of French Vermouth. This was mixed in a Cocktail shaker along with some ice and was poured into your glass along with a twist of lemon peel and an olive on a toothpick. These now come in all sorts of varieties. The proportion of Gin has increased until there is almost no Vermouth in it, the ice is not permitted to come in contact directly with the drink to dilute it and some people have even thrown away the olive and substituted an onion. In the latter case they have thrown away the name too and they call this one "a Gibson". Keep away from Gibsons. You probably won't but it is good advice anyway. My feeling about Cocktails is that you never know what in hell goes in them so how can you be expected to know what is going to mix with them later on in the evening. Hence back to my original theme that straight drinks are best and leave the knock – out drops to someone else. If you are asked to have a cocktail be polite but be firm.
I never know how many drinks to recommend that anyone should take in an evening. It all depends on how strong the drinks are and who is having them. Some people get giggly on one drink and this is no reflection on their manhood. I have known some pretty tough men to fold up after more than two drinks and the smart ones among them thereafter have stuck to the two or less. On the other hand I have known others who seem never to be without a glass in their hand and who stay in perfect form all evening. I suspect that they "nurse" their drinks and this is not a bad idea. What I will say though is that there is nothing worse than a "pie–eyed" guest at a party, be it luncheon, tennis, cocktails or dinner or breakfast either for that matter. They are a general pain–in–the–neck to hosts and other guests alike and for one to reveal himself at a party virtually guarantees that he will never be asked to the house of anyone else on that party until the memory of his indiscretion has faded. This sometimes takes a long, long time. If you feel yourself starting to show the effects of the drinks your host has provided stop drinking and stop talking. Seek out a waiter and ask him for some Ginger Ale then look for a good group of conversationalists and tune in on their talk for awhile. The obvious thing would be for you to disappear then and there but that may not be so easy since you have to run the gauntlet of saying good–bye to your host. Better wait until you cool off a bit. You don't have to tell anyone that you have had one over the eight, it is usually painfully apparent. The glassy look, the vacant stare and the semi–paralyzed walk is only one manifestation. There are others. As I have said before sometimes it takes the form of delusion. The imbiber suddenly has revealed to him that he is a glittering conversationalist, something he has never suspected before, and he runs on and on unconscious of the fact that he is not getting much applause. Others start telling jokes of questionable taste, still others suddenly find that they are close buddies with everyone in the room and start throwing their arms around the other guests' necks and pouring out their troubles to them. Be on the look–out for the signs and if you notice them in one of your friends you will be a true friend if you tell him to knock it off and start making plans to get him out of sight. Unfortunately by the time the signs become evident the 'point of no return' has generally been reached. The first signs are evident only to the person himself. Use restraint and don't go over the three or four drinks in two hours without being pretty sure of yourself.
Now comes the time to leave. Don't leave it too late if the Party is from six until eight. Start making your move within ten minutes of Closing Time and be out through the door by ten past. It usually takes at least fifteen minutes to get away. Thank your host and hostess on the way out and don't forget your hat and coat. Many a party for the rest of the evening is suddenly made up on the doorstep. If you are entering into negotiations here make sure you are either inside or out. Don't block the door, others may be wanting to leave through the same aperture and it is just possible that your hostess may want to shut the door behind you.
You have to be prepared for two types of Dinner Party these days – the informal Dinner or Supper Party and the much less frequent but still important formal Dinner Party. Perhaps, first of all, I should explain the difference between Dinner and Supper. This is not just a couple of words meaning the same thing. In the Navy, Supper means a "running meal". Supper is served in the Mess from say 1900 to 2030 and Officers can have their meal when they wish between those hours. They come in and sit down when and where they wish. Dinner on the other hand is a properly organized affair and is carried out with some formality. Officers gather before Dinner for a libation, they are dressed for the occasion, they seat themselves together at the table and for some there is a very definite seating arrangement. There is a President who keeps the Dinner in hand and those dining must conform to certain customs. While we are on the subject I think I should point out that these customs by no means cut down on the entertainment. They are designed to prevent serious argument at the table and generally speaking they are just plain good manners. For instance, you do not discuss Politics or Religion or Lady friends, in fact the only females that may be discussed are celebrities. Money matters are not discussed. Good manners are required, and "baiting the President" is 'poor form'. Generally he has his hands full trying to entertain some guest or other and he should not have to digress from this to maintain order and discipline at his table. Such practices as throwing buns, tying table napkins together, stealing the President's gavel and disarranging the table or generally discombobulating the Dinner should be left in the Gunroom and not brought into an Officers' Wardroom. I say this because in recent years I have seen all too much of the above although I must confess it is now dying out as it should do. The stewards and the staff go to endless trouble before Officers dine in the Mess – to polish the tables and the silver, press and fold the linen and prepare an excellent meal and their feelings, if their work comes to nothing, I leave to your imagination. Dining in the Mess is a very pleasant affair and with the few exceptions I have mentioned the conversations can be as broad as one wishes providing it is kept almost within the bounds of propriety. Bad language of course is not condoned in any way but this is not necessary to engender stimulating or amusing conversation. The food is a very necessary but quite secondary adjunct to the evening – the conversation is the thing and the various wines that are served assist in loosening the tongue and sharpening the wit. Before leaving this subject I should mention that a Mess Dinner as it is called nowadays is just an ordinary Dinner in the Mess dressed up a bit for the occasion. Dinners are generally given to dine Senior Officers and new Officers or for some special event. On these occasions there is some compulsion about attending and if Flag Officers are present, the members of the Mess wear Mess Dress Uniforms (miniature medals and white waistcoats) on other occasions they wear Mess Undress (miniature ribbons and black waistcoats) but apart from the differences in dress the formalities are the same.
Now to come ashore. Once again there are differences between Dinner and Supper but the differences will vary with the geographical location. The word Dinner generally means that a more formal atmosphere will prevail than normally. The Host helps to indicate how formal the evening will be by the form of his invitation and perhaps by noting on the invitation what the dress is to be.
The most formal type of Dinner is that given by some Government representative acting in his official capacity or by a military official. The invitations read as follows: –
"The Commandant, Esquimalt Military
Garrison, requests the pleasure of the
company of Midshipman Hornblower to Dinner
at the Esquimalt Garrison's Officers Mess
on Friday, 27 October, at 8.00 p.m."
In the lower right hand corner will probably be "Dress: Mess Dress" and in the lower left hand corner "R.S.V.P., Mess Secretary. Whether or not there is a R.S.V.P., you should send a formal acceptance.
For reply see Notes.
As a rule you will find that invitations to most Dinners are given by written invitation. Dinners given by formal written invitation invariably require a formal written answer and the dress to be worn is either Mess Dress, Mess Undress, full Evening Dress (Tails) or Dinner Jacket. It is up to you to find out which. I certainly DO NOT recommend. that you as a Sub – Lieutenant go out and buy Full Evening Dress. You will hardly ever have an occasion to use it. If you get an invitation calling for this rig you should seriously consider getting pneumonia for the occasion.
I have explained a bit about a Dinner in the Mess so I think I should say a bit about the Dinner Party in a home, a club or hotel. First of all you must be pretty well on time. To be more than 10 minutes late is unforgivable on these occasions. It worries the Hostess and it may upset all her arrangements so BE ON TIME.
Before Dinner, drinks are invariably served. Remember this is no contest so use restraint. There will be more drinks along during Dinner. On these occasions before dinner you are generally offered a choice of having a Cocktail, Sherry, or straight drink. I recommend Sherry myself but it is your choice. Just don't ask for Rum. Before Dinner you should make a wholehearted attempt to carry on a conversation with your Hostess and Host and don't be put off in doing this. If by any mischance you are unable to get to them before Dinner, YOU MUST get to them after Dinner and speak with them at some length. It is a very grave social error to fail to do so. You can quite see the point, having asked you to Dinner they obviously want to speak to you and it should not be necessary for them to have to chase after you. Your duty as a guest is to do this on your own.
There is generally a set seating plan for Dinner and at a very formal Dinner you will be told or shown where you are sitting some time before you go in. You should note then who is sitting on either side of you and if you are told you are taking someone into Dinner – seek out that person before Dinner, identify yourself and talk to her for a bit. Then when you take her into Dinner she will not be a complete stranger and this is a good start. As you go into Dinner offer the lady your arm. I am not quite sure which one it is that you offer her but I have gone along for years without knowing so I suppose you can do the same. At any rate you can always resort to the old seaman's trick of looking around seeing which arm the others are offering and doing likewise. Once you have seated the lady, wait for the other ladies to be seated and then seat yourself. The glasses and the hardware you see in front of you will be quite familiar to you and so will the folded napkin. The same layout as is used at a Dinner in the Mess is found in civilian life except that sometimes there are a few extra 'spanners' and occasionally an extra half – moon shaped plate which is used for Salad.
The same conversation and the same opening plays are good at Dinner as for Lunch so you won't need any help here. After Dinner the Hostess usually rises and takes the ladies to another room for their Coffee while the men remain over their Coffee and drinks and cigars. At this time the men generally move up the table to close in around their Host, carrying their drinks with them. The Host will probably regale you with a tale or two and the guests will try to say a few well chosen words themselves. Eventually you will all rise and join the ladies, probably with an option of going via the bathroom. As to the time when you should leave the party there is nothing laid down about this but I think it would be rude to try to go before 11 o'clock unless you have special reasons. Any time after that you could be excused but the guests usually leave together and I advise you to wait until you see the others preparing to leave before you make your own move. Say Goodnight to the guests you have been speaking to and don't forget to say Good – Night and Thank You to your Host and Hostess before you shove off.
Supper Parties are very popular these days and they seem to be taking over a bit from the more formal Dinners. This being the case some of them are being dressed up to the point where it sometimes is necessary to wear a Dinner Jacket. If so, you will certainly be told about this on the invitation or when you receive your bid to the affair, whether it be by word of mouth or over the telephone. For the average Supper Party you should wear a dark suit or if it is given out – of – doors, your Blazer and Flannels may be more appropriate. Supper Parties include Barbecue Parties etc. In warm climates you will undoubtedly be asked to take off your Jacket at these out–door informal affairs so I certainly advise you not to wear braces. Here is where the 'Daks' trousers come in handy as they have a built–in form of suspension.
Supper Parties are so informal that I don't imagine you need any advice but I would warn you not to take your jacket off in spite of what your Host says if you are not properly clothed underneath. If it has been a warm evening, the shirt under your coat will probably be wringing wet particularly if you are in a warm or tropical climate. In this case you must not take off your Jacket under any circumstances. It is for you to suffer in silence and let your Jacket soak up the moisture. Next day send your Jacket to the Cleaners and go out and buy yourself a light – weight suit.
Dances come in two varieties – formal and informal. You have had all the experience with informal dances that you need so I need not dwell on these. I will concentrate on the formal dance. Usually this is preceded by a supper or dinner at someone's house or if you have not bidden to the Preliminaries you should think of organizing a party yourself and get together with some of the other guests. You can always go to a good hotel and have dinner there or you may be able to get the permission of your Mess President to have a supper party on board.
As far as dress goes you need either a Dinner Jacket or Mess Dress or Mess Undress depending on the occasion. Remember that uniform is not worn to non – service functions unless so decreed by the Senior Officer present. If you do not happen to have a Mess Jacket buy one. After you finish your Midshipman days you cannot get by with only a Number 3 Jacket plus a wing collar and bow tie. With any of these you need your patent leather shoes, your pleated shirt and your wing collar (or the turndown variety) and bow tie. White ties are no problem for Naval Officers. All of these rigs I have just mentioned have black bow ties only. For use with your Mess Dress I suggest you get a proper stiff shirt and wing collar. This combination is much better looking than the turned down collar on a soft shirt though it is not perhaps so comfortable. Once gain when selecting your stiff shirt I strongly advise you to get the variety which has all the buttons in the back. These are easier to launder, they get less pulled out of shape and the studs in the front cannot "pop' and expose your hairy chest.
Let's get back to the dance. The time of arrival here, as for the Cocktail Party, is also flexible. As a Junior Officer you will be expected to arrive sometime within half an hour of the time of the dance unless, of course, it is a dance given by your own Ship in which case you must be there pretty well on the dot since you are in fact one of the hosts.
When you arrive at the dance pick out a good table if you can and get yourself organized with the waiters, etc. Once you have everything well in hand, on with the dance and here is where I have some good advice for you. The present teen – age habit of "going steady" carried to the point of excluding all others is regarded by the adult World as being a step backward into the Neanderthal Age. At any rate when you go out with a party it is considered bad manners to ignore everyone else and to just dance with the same girl all evening no matter how attractive she is. And don't think anyone else will steal her from you while you are away. She knows you have duties towards the other guests in your party and it may be that for her to dance with someone else is all she needs to convince her that you are the only one for her. How is she going to know if she never gets a chance to make comparisons? Besides you can be sure that unless you have her firmly hooked she is not going to stay on your line no matter how hard you try to keep her there – at least not unless she wants to be and if that is the case what are you worrying about? Why aren't you fulfilling your other obligations? In everyone's interest society has come to the conclusion that it is good insurance to go with a large party and have people in that party look after one another. This doesn't mean that in a party of twelve you should only spend one – twelfth of your time with your own girl friend but it does mean that for at least a quarter of your time you should be entertaining someone else on the party. Once again the men have to make the first move. You can start it yourself quite easily by saying to your partner "Look, I have to excuse myself for this next dance, save the next one for me. I must dance with my Hostess". Over you go and ask the hostess for the dance and her partner will (or should) come over and take your girl around the floor. It is as simple as that.
At all Parties guests should be particularly careful to go up to and enter into conversation with both the host and hostess. The initial greeting and the final farewell are not sufficient. If the occasion involves dancing, the guest should most definitely dance with his hostess or if the hostess gives the party and sends her daughter along but does not go herself the guest MUST MUST MUST show his appreciation for the invitation by dancing with the daughter. To fail to do this is to be guilty of gross bad manners.
One more caution, don't let the evening develop into a sort of stag party with the men entertaining each other and leaving the girls to look after themselves. You will perhaps see this happen and you will presumably know better than to let yourself become a party to it.
Should you be invited to have a meal at someone's house or at someone else's expenses, the least you can do is to show your appreciation by arriving with a good appetite. I know that in many cases the meal hours of your hosts will be later than the hours at which meals are served at VENTURE or aboard ship and that there will be a strong temptation to have your meal at both places. Certainly there will be opportunity enough. On the other hand if you arrive and just peck at your food, your Hostess is going to think that you are either sick and a menace to the well – being of the rest of her party or that you are indicating she needs to brush up on her drill at the stove. In either case, things won't look bright for you so be warned and take this advice to heart. If your inner man makes such demands upon you that you are unable to heed this advice, at least remember not to tell your host or hostess at any time that you had a meal before you came. It should hardly be necessary for me to mention this matter but I have known of several cases of this nature. Remember that meals cost money – a good deal of money – and no host wants to throw money away where it is not appreciated. You won't either when you find yourself in the position of being a host, so remember this advice now.
When dishes drop, soup is spilt or someone knocks over a wine glass, you will be doing both your hosts and the unfortunate offender a favour if you keep right on with the conversation or if you seize upon the hush that probably falls and start things going again. It is at times like these that "the men are separated from the boys" as the saying goes. It takes a lot of self control not to leap out of your chair when someone drops a trayful of dishes right behind you but it will be less embarrassing for everyone concerned if you do not do so and if you leave the job of clearing up the mess to be got on with quietly and unobtrusively.
Although smoking is a universal practice it is not always appropriate to every time and place. For example in England no one smokes before the end of the meal. In the U.S. smoking takes place all through the meal however. Then again it is not advisable to smoke on the Dance Floor. It is dangerous to clothing and is generally considered to be poor form. Be careful what you do with the ash from your cigarette and finally what you do with the butt. Don't butt a cigarette on the deck or floor. I should hardly have to mention this but I find through bitter experience that I must.
While on the subject there is the matter of what you may smoke. If you are in male company only, there is no limit to the exotic tastes you may cultivate. On the other hand in private homes it is not advisable to light up a cigar without asking your Hostess's permission. Most hostesses would almost prefer you to light up a bowl of hashish or opium although they generally tolerate the smoking of cigars in the dining room after the ladies have left the dinner table.
Pipes are quite all right but they are usually not produced until after dinner and even then it is best if you ask your host or hostess if they mind you smoking one in the living room.
After you have been entertained, it is generally customary to express your appreciation somehow. If you have been to a Cocktail Party, it is only necessary for you to thank the Hostess on the way out. You can, of course, write a letter of thanks if you wish but it is not by any means necessary although it would undoubtedly be welcomed. The same thing holds good for the casual invitation to Supper as for the Cocktail Party or for a Supper Party to which you have received a written invitation. The 'Thank You' after the party is really enough but you can be sure your Hostess would be impressed if you telephoned her the next day or if you took the trouble to drop her a line or send her some flowers. Nothing more than that is needed. If you did so, it would be a passport to Social Success. I suggest you do a little more than is absolutely necessary if you want to get along in the social whirl.
If you have been to a formal Dinner or if you have spent a week – end as a guest at someone's house or if you have been the 'guest of honour' at any party, you must at least write a 'thank you letter'. Depending upon the circumstances it may be appropriate for you to send along some little gift to your Hostess.
This need not be expensive and Flowers or Chocolates are generally sufficient but if you have spent a week or so living with friends you should consider doing more. Take your Host and Hostess out to Dinner yourself or send your Host's wife a pretty good gift. When you are selecting this gift be careful not to send her something that will give her the impression that you found her household inventory deficient in any department. Shy away from the towels and soap.
You should remember it is to the wife of your host alone that you address your "Thank You" letter, and not to the host himself or to the host and the wife. Therefore, if you feel obliged to write a note of appreciation after some hospitality has been extended to you, address your note of thanks to your Hostess. Make sure at the same time that it is a proper informal note and not merely a curt receipt for food and drink,
Here are some odds and ends:
You are expected to call on the Commanding Officer's wife and on the Executive Officer's wife of the Ship in which you are serving. Also upon the Flag Officer in Command and the Lieutenant – Governor of the Province. You will need Calling Cards. These should be engraved not printed. You will find that a box of fifty is quite enough for you until you advance in rank and then you will have to get a new engraving plate to cater for your new rank. Find out from the Captain's Secretary when the Captain's wife and Executive Officer's wife will receive your call and plan your visit accordingly. You should proceed ashore in plain clothes (with hat and calling cards). The time of making such a call is usually during the week at about 1600 so that you can have a cup of Tea, followed by a drink. The calling procedure usually lasts only about an hour and it gives you a chance to meet the wives of your Senior Officers. You may like to seek company when you make your call, in which case, go along with someone you know who has not yet made his call either. If the lady on whom you call is out, it is quite acceptable to leave your card and the call will be considered made. When calling on the Lieutenant – Governor you should be dressed as if you expected to meet him personally, although you never will on the first visit. There will be a book for you to sign and a place for you to leave your cards. Leave two. The result of this visit will probably be that you will be invited to a party of some sort at Government House and this is very well worthwhile.
Remember Juniors enter the boat first and leave the boat last and if you have your girl friend in the boat and it is a mixed party, even though ladies naturally have no rank, I advise you to tell her to accompany you and not go off on her own alone first. Of course this will not have any effects on you no matter what she does unless you happen to be engaged or married to the girl but the fact of the matter is the Senior Officer gets into the boat last and out first so that he doesn't have people scrambling over his knees and I think it follows that his Wife should receive the same sort of consideration. There is no seniority among wives or girl friends but for your own good I would suggest that you think there is and play it accordingly.
I have never been able to solve this business of 'tipping' properly and I doubt very much whether anyone ever will but here are a few rules that will stop you from getting into deep water and you will find that they are generally adequate. In better restaurants and in taxis you generally tip 15% to 20% of the Bill. In the sort of restaurant you go to every day 10% to 15% is quite sufficient.
When you ask the doorman at your hotel to get you a taxi, you will find that you get better service if you slip him a quarter when you ask him to get the taxi or if you cannot find a way to get the money to him when you make your request you should do so as you get into the cab. Tell him where it is you want to go, give him the tip then and he will tell the driver. He will give you a royal send – off.
When you stay at a house which employs a cook or a maid and you are there for a few days causing them extra work it is customary on the final day to seek out an opportunity if you can and convey to them a couple of dollars to guarantee your well – being should you return again. The best way to do this is to put the money in an envelope and address the outside to whoever it is you are after. Carry the money around in your pocket and use it when you see a suitable opportunity. Thank them at the time for looking after you. If all else fails you can leave the envelopes in your room and the maid will deal with them you may be sure. On Trans – Atlantic Voyages you also have Bar Stewards, Table Stewards, Bath Attendants, Elevator Boys and Head Waiters to attend to but I won't worry you with details about this. Ask a seasoned traveller on the boat for advice. I will say, however, that one very good bit of advice to you is to remember that money undoubtedly talks when your want service and it is just knowing when and how to hand the money over that you need to know. For instance, when you check your hat pay the money when you get the hat back, not as you check it in. On the other hand if you are trying to get your party into a well – patronized restaurant and you don't have a reservation, the first thing you should do when you arrive is to seek out the head waiter and slip him a couple of dollars or $5.00 if it is a really top place. He will get you a table alright – and fast too. This is how he really makes his money. If he can't do anything for you, you may be pretty sure the room really is as full as he says so you can go elsewhere knowing you have done your best. Just don't let go of the money while he is telling you his tale of woe. At the Rainbow Room on the top of Rockefeller Centre I have never known there to be less than fifty people waiting in line trying to get in for drinks at the Cocktail hour. I like to go there because the view is unparalleled, you can see the sea, and the drinks put you in the proper frame of mind for an evening in New York. I have never failed yet to get a table immediately and right by the window at that, by walking straight up to the head waiter passing the long line of thirsty waiting customers, holding out my right hand with the $2.00 folded in the palm and asking if he has my table. You don't have to try to show the $2.00 in fact he would prefer it if you don't but he will know it is there and get the idea. Remember he is an expert and this is his living. You will save yourself unnecessary embarrassment and waiting in line with the judicious use of a few dollars and believe me they are very well spent, especially if you are trying to impress someone with your knowledge of the World. The only man you should not try to impress is the Customs Collector.
I think you will probably be interested in a bit of information about Wines and Spirits and how they are used both inside and outside of the Navy. First of all, let us start on the 'Hard Stuff'. In the Navy these are known as Spirits although you don't always hear them called that nowadays. In the eyes of the public the Navy is always associated with Rum. This may be so but it is a late arrival in the Wardroom. Once again it is a matter for personal preference but you won't find rum at most parties given ashore. If you must have Rum the lighter coloured varieties are the best.
GIN: This is the Navy's Wardroom drink. It mixes well since it has little taste to it and it has little smell which makes it desirable. Then too, I have often heard it said and I believe it to be true that the effects of Gin are easier to throw off in a hurry if need be, than those from any other drink. It is a good social libation in the Wardroom. It is often drunk with just plain water or perhaps a dash of Bitters and often with Tonic Water or Ginger Ale.
RYE: Canadian Rye, is also very popular. If anything it is more popular in the evening than before lunch. Once again this is probably because of the smell. As you can see it is a bad thing all around if people go about their work in the afternoon smelling like a Distillery – hence the popularity of Gin. Rye and Water is a popular mixture and Rye and Ginger Ale, the only other mixture I know of. This latter drink is regarded as being somewhat effeminate and fattening and because it costs .05 ¢ more than one without Ginger Ale, it probably won't interest you.
SCOTCH: Is usually an evening drink. It is very seldom consumed in the Wardroom at Lunchtime except by visitors with expensive tastes.
BRANDY: Is an expensive drink and as a result is not often consumed in Wardrooms except with Ginger ale as a pick me up' when it comes with Lemon peel and ice and is known as a "Horse's Neck". This latter drink generally achieves tremendous popularity the morning after Gala functions ashore or afloat.
This about completes the usual line of Spirits on board ship. Price – wise Gin is the cheapest and Brandy the most expensive with Rum, Rye and Scotch in between in order of ascending cost. Spirits are generally served on board in small quantities, generally about 1 oz. per drink. The practice of calling for 'doubles' is seldom followed in Wardrooms except by the most hardened customers, so the person who has three or four Gins before Lunchtime is not really a confirmed alcoholic. Work it out for yourself. This is hardly more than what would be regarded as one good drink ashore. Beware, therefore, when you go ashore, for there if you try to follow your regular Wardroom habits regarding number of drinks, you will find that the actual quantity of spirits you get is increased three – fold or more and the consequences may be dire.
Next we come to WINES and here it is that we Canadians are usually not in a very good position when we compare our Wine – drinking habits to those of Europeans. We just don't know much about Wines – probably because Wines are not used as a matter of course in Canadian homes as they are throughout Europe.
There seems to be an impression in Canada that to drink anything other than 'raw spirit' is something less than manly – that Wines are served for Grandmother and the Kiddies. This is quite wrong. To start with some Wines are very powerful indeed – that is the fortified varieties such as Sherry and Port. The various types of Wine originating in different parts of Europe are generally associated with certain kinds of food and this is easy to understand since with the passage of time and experience they have been found to support one another. It is well to remember this when you find yourself having to order Wine in some restaurant. I am no expert but here are a few fundamentals which will probably get you by.
Here are some of the best known wines: –
The Australians make several good Burgundy and Hock – type wines. As these are usually cheaper than the originals, they are worth remembering.
Most of these wines run about $2.00 to $4.00 a bottle served in a small restaurant and you can take your choice. Many of them can also be bought by the half bottle. A half bottle is normally enough for two people.
Sherries are from Spain and Portugal and come in many types of varying sweetness.
You must experiment around with these to find out what you like. I am going to leave the subject of Wines because it is a large subject and it is a matter for individual tastes. I strongly recommend that you do a little research on your own. Any investigation you do on wines you will find most rewarding.
I will mention Liqueurs only briefly. There are 52,000 varieties at least. A great number of. these are sickly sweet. Men usually stick to Brandy or Drambuie or Grand Marnier. Creme de Menthe (called "Sticky Green") Cointreau and Cherry Heering are well known ladies favourites.
Even as a very Junior Officer you will be invited from time to time to visit other Messes within the Navy and within the other Branches of the Armed Services. You will also probably find yourself made an Honorary Member of various Clubs when you travel abroad. Then too in Halifax, Ottawa and Victoria you will find that you are eligible for a Service Membership in some Civilian Clubs under conditions which compare very favourably to those which apply to the plain civilian who owns the Club. You should therefore have some idea of the social conduct required of you in all of these places.
First of all, let us discuss your own Wardroom Mess. The Top Dog here is the Executive Officer because he is the President of the Mess. It is he who sets the tone of the Mess and who lays down the ground rules. Messes differ throughout the Navy but you can always tell a good one a moment or two after you enter. The Officers will be well – dressed and cheerful. One of them will descend on you right away and make you feel at home. He may be Senior to you or Junior to you but a good Mess regards any visitor as being a guest of the Mess and hence it is the responsibility of the Mess in general to make you fully welcome. If the time is right you will probably be offered a drink and a cigarette and they will send along for the person you came over to see.
You will find in a really good Mess of Destroyer's size or below that no one sits down to lunch or dinner before the Mess President unless he has a special reason for doing so in which case he will ask the permission of the President and will take his place at the table and have his meal as unostentatiously as he can. Quite apart from this being good manners it is also good sense. It is a lot easier to serve hot meals and to give good service if everyone sits down together and the Stewards not dividing their efforts between the Mess and the Ante – room.
It is customary for all Officers to stand up when the Commanding Officer comes into the room or if any visitor arrives who is equivalent in rank or senior to the Mess President. Officers should never enter the Wardroom in anything but uniform without saying to the senior member present in the Mess "Excuse my rig". If you say this you can enter wearing pretty well anything you like unless, of course, the senior one objects and says so as he is entitled to. While on this subject, I should stress that Naval Uniform should be worn on board at all times except when waiting to go ashore or just having come off from shore. In the latter case you should change back into uniform within half an hour or so of returning on board unless, of course, it is very late in the evening and you are just waiting to turn in. You are not permitted to return on board at four in the afternoon and still be in civilian clothes at five. It follows that you are not permitted to have your meals in civilian clothes in the Wardroom Mess unless yours is a very slack Wardroom. Do not contribute to its slackness in any event.
Bringing ladies into the Wardroom is a bit of a tricky business. A good Wardroom Mess President will not permit it except on special occasions. These special occasions may be once a week or more but you can be sure that you are not allowed to bring ladies on board every night. Remember the Wardroom Mess is an Officer's home as well as being his Club. He does not like the restraining influence of feminine company too often. Let me say this though – that Officers being what they are, if you make a mistake and do commit a tremendous 'floater' it is not likely they will pick you up on it right away, especially if your girl friend is present. This would cause you embarrassment and one of the prime attributes of a good Wardroom Officer is that he has consideration for others. You will get it in the neck the next day when there is no one else around.
When you go abroad you will be allowed to visit Officers Clubs in the U.S. Navy. In the case of Cadets this is a great concession on the part of our brother Officers in the U.S. Navy for they do not have an equivalent rank to that of Cadet, but being the generous people they are, they are anxious to be good hosts. Do not abuse the privilege they offer. In the U.S. Navy the Officers' Club is a social club used by 0fficers wives and children as well as by the Officers themselves. There is usually a swimming pool and some have tennis courts attached to the Club and there is generally an excellent restaurant and a good bar. Dances are frequently held and bingo games or something else goes on almost every night. You can participate in all these things and all you are asked to do is to pay your own way and to conform to the rules of the Club. These rules are quite simple and perhaps the most important one is that you should not come into the Club House itself unless you are dressed properly. What "properly dressed" means depends upon where the Club is but if you are in doubt ask someone. Don't try to wear your bathing suit.
Don't try to 'take over" the Club. I have seen this done by enthusiastic Cadets gathering in a group around the bar and getting slightly tipsy to the point where they have started to raise their voices in song. This disturbs the other guests so if you feel the temptation, even if you are encouraged by one of the members of the Club (there will always be one who doesn't give a damn) I advise you not to. It is too easy to give the R.C.N. a bad reputation that way. Ask your genial Club member to come back on board, and then give him the musical treatment.
Being able to use Civilian Clubs is a privilege the navy has had for some time and it is a very valuable one you will find, because it gives you somewhere you can go and entertain outside the Navy. These Clubs generally have a Ladies' Annex and a Dining Room where the food and drinks are both good and inexpensive and the atmosphere extremely pleasant. You don't have to 'tip' here and this is a useful point to remember when figuring costs. The better Clubs are affiliated with other Clubs throughout the World and this, too, is good for the peripatetic Naval Officer. For example, the Union Club in Victoria is affiliated with the Vancouver Club in Vancouver, the St. James Club in Montreal and the East India and Sports Club in London England to name just a few. If you get yourself a Service membership, pay your bills and don't sit in "The Elder member's" chair and you will be perfectly all right. They are very glad to see new blood.
Now we are discussing this sort of thing for what it is worth I would suggest that you don't get married too young. Married Junior Naval Officers just cannot live adequately on their Pay, and no matter how romantic the idea may seem for two of you to 'starve in a garret' it just doesn't quite pan out that way. Far better for you to wait a few years and enjoy your bachelor days while your wife – to – be stays at home with her old man footing the bills. Quite apart from this men and women's ideas change as they mature so if you marry young you are taking a bit of an unnecessary risk. I can see nothing appealing in the picture on the corner waiting for a Bus with a week's groceries tucked under his arm as he wends his way home to an evening of baby – sitting. At the same time his bachelor term – mate is just starting off for an evening's entertainment in his bright red Convertible car. I know there is more to it than that but pause and consider before you make the 'fatal plunge'. The life of a Junior Naval Officers' wife is not too easy. The moral of this is don't marry until you have a little seniority and position in the Navy. Your wife will then get off to a good start.
Be careful what you say in your own Wardroom. In regard to this I cannot do better than to quote the views of the famous British Admiral, Earl St. Vincent, who some two hundred years ago wrote: –
"Discipline begins in a Wardroom.
I dread not the seamen. It is the
indiscreet conversation of the
Officers and their presumptuous
discussion of the orders they
received that produce all our ills".
Here is a useful "don't" to remember: – DON'T criticize other Officers in the Mess particularly if they are not present and particularly if it is a Mess you are only visiting. This is considered to be extremely bad form. It may well be that the Officer you are criticizing is a friend or is particularly admired by someone within earshot. In this case you will deserve, and will probably get, a good swift kick in the pants.
An early appreciation of the position and value of Officers' Stewards will be a great help to you.
Every wardroom is provided with Wardroom Stewards and you will have a lot to do with them because you rub shoulders with them every day. In charge of them there are the usual number of Leading and Petty Officer Stewards and perhaps even a Chief Steward. Those Stewards are unquestionably the closest contact that Wardroom Officers have with the Lower Deck. They know all your secrets and they are a remarkably good group so be sure you treat them well. First of all, don't think there is anything menial about a Steward just because he is waiting on you, handing out the food and drink and keeping your Mess tidy. They are all men and good men too. Treat each one accordingly and you will have made some lifelong friends. You will never be able to be really friendly with them but that is understood by both sides and if you occasionally, (be sure this is only very occasionally) when no one is around, offer them a drink as they close the bar at the end of the evening it will be very much appreciated. Don't offer two drinks or you are well on the way to getting the man into serious trouble for being drunk on duty. If you are stupid enough to do this make sure you stand behind him and have the entire blame shifted on to your own shoulders.
Don't be brusque with Stewards or Cooks. This is not necessary and everyone knows it and if they do not perform their duties well you must not make a "big thing" out of giving them a blast in the Wardroom Mess. Speak to their Divisional Officer or to the Wardroom Secretary. Give him the facts and he will do all that is necessary. One more thing, if you don't like the food you are getting don't blame the Steward, he is only serving it to you. He doesn't cook it. Neither does he make out the Menu. Bring the matter to the attention of a representative of the Mess Committee. That is what the committee is for.
I have known a lot of Stewards in my time and it has been a rewarding experience. When you go to another Wardroom and find there a smiling Steward who served with you in your last Ship you will know what I mean. On the other hand, if you are always complaining and ordering Stewards around for the sake of exerting your authority, an authority that they don't dispute, you will probably find that you are letting yourself in for a hard time later on. Sometime in the future when you need help from them you won't deserve it and you won't get it.
It is customary within the Naval Service for Officers to salute all other Officers senior to them within their own Ship if they meet on the Upper Deck before 0900. At the same time it is customary to bid them a "Good Morning". This is a pleasant way to start the day. The first time you see the Commanding Officer at any time during the day you should salute him and bid him "Good Morning Sir" or "Good Afternoon Sir" as the case may be.
When you go ashore you should salute all Officers senior to you before you pass whether they or you are in civilian clothes or not. When you visit another Ship the salute you give as you come over the side will suffice except that should you see an Officer of Captains' or Commanders' rank on the Upper Deck you should salute him and wish him "Good Day, Sir".
Remember too that we salute Officers senior to us of the other Military Services of Canada and of foreign countries and vice versa. If you are a Lieutenant RCN and you pass a Major in the Russian Army he is entitled to the respect of a military salute from you.
There are various ways of saluting and you all know how to do it when you are in uniform. You know also that when you are wearing a hat, you doff it as a salute when you pass or see someone who is entitled to this form of respect. What to do when you are wearing no cap at all is, I admit, a bit of a problem. Some Officers have solved this, in regard to paying respects when coming on board or leaving a ship without a cap, by standing to attention for a brief moment at the top of the gangway or the brow. This is alright I suppose but I would not like to see the practice rigidly observed on all occasions ashore. I suppose it is alright if you are standing in a group, to come to attention and to click your heels when someone senior to you passes by or joins your group. In fact it is probably as good a way of doing it as any. On the other hand if you are walking or on the move it is obvious that this is not a suitable way of doing things. Neither is the form laid down in the Gunnery Handbook of "turning the head and eyes smartly to the left or right". That is alright if you are in uniform in the Dockyard for some reason without a cap on but in civilian clothes it looks silly and is too much to expect when you are downtown walking along the street, particularly when you are in some foreign port where the local inhabitants don't know what it is you are doing. Nowadays, when going ashore without headgear is a fairly common though deplorable practice, I think it is quite sufficient if as you pass someone who is entitled to a mark of respect you should look over towards him, smile, and as he passes wish him 'Good Morning', 'Good Afternoon', or 'Good Evening Sir'.
You can avoid all these complications by buying a hat or cap.
The important thing is not the manner but the matter of giving salutes. I notice very frequently that young Officers seem to be reluctant to salute Officers senior to themselves or at least that is the impression I get. Too often do they develop a temporary blindness when Senior Officers pass them, either on foot or in a car either in civilian clothes or in uniform. I get the impression that young officers will seize upon any available excuse to dodge their obligation to pay suitable respects. "I didn't see you Sir", "Your were too far away, I thought, Sir", "I didn't see who it was Sir", "I didn't actually pass you by Sir". These are the tricks one would expect of an Ordinary Seaman and not of a young Officer and I would like to leave this thought in your minds. Senior Officers are not as dumb or as blind as you may think and most of them have memories like elephants. You may have a reason, known only to yourself, why you want to avoid giving some sort of a salute and you may fail to do so and think you have gotten away with it. On the other hand, it is most unlikely that you really have done so and your act of neglect will have attracted to yourself not good attention but undesirable attention. You will be marked in that Officer's mind, in future, as being someone who is not prepared to go all the way for the system, but someone instead who has acquired the veneer of being an officer with nothing much underneath it.
Remember what I have said previously about saluting. It is an acknowledgement of mutual respect and it is a pleasant way to remind officers of your existence and to show them what a smart young fellow you are.
It is easy to get into the habit of using slang expressions and clichés and of speaking the queen's English in a sloppy manner. This is a type of speech not expected of Naval Officers so you must be on your guard against it. Remember to pronounce the ends of words. Don't talk about "Nothin". I cannot go into more detail about this but is is a failing that many young Officers have and it is preventing them in many cases from enjoying a life of a Naval Officer to the full. Educated and polished civilians just will not invite those sort of people into their homes. They expect more of young Naval Officers. Wear this shoe if it fits.
Wherever you go and whatever you are doing, as long as you have a partner for the occasion, your first duty is to see to it that your partner has all the attention you can offer. You must devote your efforts and time to her and this means that you must see to it that she meets other people besides yourself. Not only must she meet them, but at a Dance you must give her a chance to dance with them. You have no idea how many times I have heard complaints from young girls that when they go to Dances they dance only with the person who takes them. How often they are bored stiff with this procedure. Their complaint is that they never meet anyone. When they go to a Dance where this simian singleness of purpose is not observed, they are over – joyed. It is a new experience to them. What it really is of course is that they are just gaining an insight into the adult world. Make sure that you give them this opportunity and show yourself to be an adult in this respect.
In the preceding notes you have been told occasionally to write letters of 'Thanks' or 'Acceptance'. Here is what this consists of. First of all, get some good notepaper and by this I do not mean flimsy air mail variety. You should buy some Bond White (not coloured) Notepaper with matching envelopes. The paper which comes in blocks is not suitable, and as far as lined paper goes, this is never used. Use this good Bond paper for writing your Thank You Letters and your Acceptances. Some Messes keep stocks of paper such as I have described and it often has the Ship's Crest embossed on it. This is quite suitable for most letters but the paper should be perfectly plain (with no Crest) for the really formal letters.
Use blue, blue – black or black ink. Leave the violet and green colours alone. Here are a couple of sample replies to a formal invitation to Dinner.
Midshipman Horatio Hornblower accepts with
much pleasure the kind invitation of the
Lieutenant–Governor of British Columbia to
Dinner at Government House on Friday, 20
November at 8.00 p.m.
Invitations from Senior Officers and Senior Government officials or representatives of the Queen are virtually 'Command Performances'. You must go unless you are actually on your death – bed or have a previous invitation.
Midshipman Horatio Hornblower regrets
that because of a previous engagement
he is unable to accept the kind invitation
of Commander and Mrs. Bligh to Dinner on
Friday, 20th November at 7.30 p.m.
You need not go into a long explanation as to why it is you cannot go to the party – "because of illness", "previous engagement", or "Ships movements" is quite sufficient.
Here are some less formal varieties:
Dear Mrs. Bligh:
I am very sorry I shall be unable to accept your kind invitation to Dinner on Friday the 20th but unfortunately I have a previous engagement. I am so sorry as I should have liked to have come very much. I hope you will ask me again.
Here is a sample "Thank you" letter:
Dear Mrs. Bligh:
I had a most enjoyable time at your Dinner Party last night and I want to thank you very much for inviting me.
My Dinner partner was Gina Lolabrigidia who I had never met before and who I have been hoping to meet for a long time.
It is very good of you to think of us Young Warriors when you are making out your invitation Lists. I do hope that at some early date I will have an opportunity of returning your hospitality.
Try to keep a letter of this sort informal and friendly. This will dress up the bare "Thank You" into an acceptable form.
All you have to do now is to remember to invite Commander and Mrs. Bligh out to your Ship sometime when you are giving a Cocktail Party or to have them to Dinner sometime on board or at your Club.
Finally I want to make one more effort to point out to you the value of good manners. Little things like standing up when ladies enter the room are considered essential. It is not considered just bad manners to fail to do so, it is more in the manner of a calculated insult and some Hosts see red if you, a guest in their house, behave in that way. Ladies expect to have doors opened for them, to have their cigarettes lit and ashtrays provided for them – Bless them! Help them on and off with their coats and be prepared to do anything for them except lend them money.
When considering the matter of Advice and Correction given by Officers irrespective of their rank, I think it is well for you not to underestimate the spirit in which advice and correction is given and the strong bond which exists between the one giving and the one receiving it. The feeling of brotherhood which exists within the Armed Services extends beyond the individual service and exists among all Military men. It is even difficult to extinguish in time of War between enemies. Remember that the next time you are picked up or corrected by another Officer for some error on your part, whether it be a social error or a military error. It would be very easy for him to not say anything at all but would that be in your interest? This is the point. When a brother Officer says to you – "Look here Hornblower you really must clean your nails and have a haircut and for Heaven's sake don't walk around with your trousers unpressed." Or if he says "Hornblower you Fathead who ever heard of anyone drinking Port with his Soup" or if he says "I don't like to mention this but that was appalling conduct of yours the other night at the Smith's Party". – he is not getting after you for anything you have done to him personally. It is unlikely that you can harm him – he has it made already – but he sees you doing harm to yourself and he is man enough to tell you about it. It is in your own interest that he do so. He is not likely to harp on the subject and if you don't choose to take his well – meant advice, you don't have to but you yourself will most certainly suffer in consequence. He has probably been through the same thing himself and it is because of this feeling of brotherhood that he is troubling with you.
This atmosphere of true brotherly affection is something unique to the Military Services. You won't find it anywhere in civilian life that I know of.
All through these Notes you will find that emphasis is laid on restraint – steering a middle course. The same thing applies to Haircuts. At VENTURE you must keep your hair cut short, either very short – which needs little brushing, or medium short which requires some attention and grooming. Once you leave VENTURE you have more choice but I would not advise you to adopt any of the more exotic varieties – Ducktail, Waterfall, etc. These should be left in the High School or Movies where, if anywhere, they belong. Keep away from sideburns too, they are absolutely 'verboten' and you probably know what they are called in the Navy. Adopt a conventional haircut and keep your hair trimmed and properly brushed.
If you are tempted to keep liquor onboard or to take liquor into your cabin on board ship or in any Fleet establishment, my advice to you is DON'T. Naval Regulations are very explicit on the matter. You can, however, organize a Supper Party in your Cabin if you happen to have one large enough, which is unlikely these days, and then you can have the Steward provide you with all you wish.
If you find yourself ashore with a bottle that you have purchased that is not empty, it is up to you whether or not you wish to fly in the face of the Law and Naval Regulations about bringing it back to the Ship in your car but if you do you should turn it over to the Wardroom Steward for safe custody, and use it up in the Mess. Don't try to take it ashore again. If you try to keep it in your cabin there is a very good chance it will get not only you into trouble but also the Cabin Hand or Steward who finds it while he is attending to his duties in your cabin and discovers that he can't resist a temptation to sample it. Also think of the position you will be in if it disappears from your cabin. It shouldn't have been there in the first place so what are you going to do about it? You will certainly look like a 'mug' to someone.
There is no objection whatsoever to having any male visitor into your cabin but naturally this does not apply to visitors of the gentler sex. To start with your cabin is probably only one of three or four in the same Flat. This being so to have lady guests in the Flat may well prove to be an embarrassment to the occupants of the other cabins. Confine your entertainment to the Wardroom.
One more thing, when you have guests on board, they invariably want to be asked to look over the Ship and undoubtedly you will anticipate their wishes and will invite them to do so. When you are walking around, show consideration for your Ship's Company and send the Quartermaster ahead of you over your prospective route to warn the men who may be in the vicinity that you are about to pass by with some guests. This is not done with a view to having them strew flower petals in your path but rather to advise Sunbathers that they had best make themselves scarce and to warn the men that they should moderate their language for a brief period. Experience will show you that this is good advice. Do not, on any account, try to take guests of either sex anywhere below decks in the Crew's quarters after working hours. Remember this is their home and they don't want you barging around in it because being an Officer your presence requires that they show respect to you as you pass through their midst and in fact you should demand it if it is not forthcoming. You should not therefore go onto the men's Mess Decks during non – working hours unless you are there in an official capacity.
I have already explained to you the marks of respect expected of Officers when they visit other Ships and when they meet their Seniors early in the morning. I think though that young Officers would like some advice as to what is expected of them at other times. First of all let me draw the distinction between what is expected of you while you are "On Duty" and "Off Duty". When you are "On Duty" (during work hours, or when you are sent for by a superior officer, or at any time when acting in an official capacity,) you should be full of 'spit and polish'. Do everything but click your heels (This is an Army habit). By all means stand to attention but do not be too stiff about it – do not adopt the 'wooden Indian' attitude, staring straight ahead of you, stiff as a ramrod and saying "Yes Sir", "No Sir", "Three bags full Sir", but be sensible about your posture. When you enter a Senior Officer's cabin, knock firmly on the door which will probably be open, draw aside the curtain when you are bidden to enter, take off your Cap as you step into the cabin, tuck it under your left elbow, stand to attention when you get inside and say something along the lines of: "You sent for me Sir?" or if the occasion demands it say "I wonder if you have time to discuss the Sports t Program with me Sir" – or "the Boat Routine" or "my forthcoming marriage" or whatever else it is you want to talk to the 'Old Man' about and then permit yourself to relax a bit. Remember all the time irrespective of his rank he is a brother officer and he can feel no sense of comradeship with a 'wooden Indian'. He is interested in what you have to say, so say it in a way and in a manner which will encourage this interest.
Do not on the other hand forget that you are still a Junior Officer in the presence of your Senior. You won't get very far if on coming into the cabin (or office) you relax to the point of sitting down and offering your superior a cigarette before you light up one yourself. If he asks you to smoke by all means go ahead, but don't you be the one who makes the first move and don't forget to say 'Sir' at every available opportunity. A common failing among Junior Officers is that they remember the preliminaries alright but they forget their position once the meeting has started. Possibly as a result of their relief at finding that the meeting is not as 'sticky' as they expected it was going to be, they relax to the point where they forget to show any respect at all to the Senior Officer they are addressing. This places him in a rather unenviable position. If he permits this state of affairs to continue he is encouraging even further indiscretion on the part of the Junior Officer and he is setting a standard for future conversations. If on the other hand he brings up this young gentleman with the 'round turn' he deserves, he will probably frighten him to the point where he is unable to put his point across in a coherent manner. Don't place your Seniors in this quandary. Show your Senior Officer the respect he is entitled to right from the beginning and all during your conversation with him.
When you are "Off Duty, a slightly different atmosphere prevails. Even then do not forget that no matter where he is and no matter what dress he is wearing, whether it be a bathingsuit, fishing rig, or the full dress of his rank, he is still your Senior Officer and is entitled to your respect. On the other hand on these occasions, and these include social occasions ashore or afloat and particularly in the Wardroom Mess or in the Captain's or Admiral's cabin, it is easier all around if your conversation becomes less stilted than it would be on a formal occasion. By all means keep the conversation light and full of interesting trivia. Tell a joke or two if you want to. The general idea is to relax and to assist the conversation. Do not however use bad language although you may find it necessary to use some robust language as part of your tale. This does not matter as long as it is purely male audience, as long as the language is not crude and providing it is part of the story and not just part of the general conversation. The Officer who swears constantly in his general conversation is not long for this Naval world. Similarly the Officer who knows nothing but smutty stories, had better start looking for a job with a civilian company. On the other hand there are lots of amusing or interesting things to talk about and it is up to you to seek them out and polish them up for general consumption.
While I am on the subject here is some more advice that you would do well to remember and this concerns your contact with senior officers and their wives at social functions both civilian and military. To begin with remember that Canadian senior officers and their wives WANT to meet you. On the other hand their opportunities of meeting you are limited. It is hardly necessary for me to point out that it is the senior officer's military duties which come first and his social engagements compete with his family life for the remainder of his time. It follows that he has only a limited amount of time to entertain and to be entertained. He must therefore turn down a number of invitations both within and without the Naval Service. But when he is at a social function in all probability he is attending it not just because he wants to meet the host and hostess but also because he and his wife want to meet the other guests. THIS MEANS YOU and don't forget it. He will see you at this party without a doubt and if he knows you at all he will remember afterwards that you were there. Make sure that he remembers also that you came up and spoke to him for a few minutes, and do not ignore his wife. There may be six or seven senior officers and their wives present – you should speak to all of them and by this I do not mean a straight "How do you do". You should talk and exchange pleasantries for at least five minutes with each. You won't find this to be as difficult as you may think at first. Before too many functions have passed you will know one another quite well and will have lots to talk about and you will in turn be introduced to many new and interesting people.
By these means you will discover one more agreeable facet of a Naval Officer's life. But not only will you find it very pleasant for you to behave in this manner, you will also find that it is very much to your advantage to do so. The Report on Officers (S 206) is a very comprehensive document and there is a large section in it devoted to "Social Qualities". Unless you take it upon yourself to approach the senior officer and his wife and to strike up a conversation with them you can be perfectly sure that they are not going to come over to you. As a result you yourself will suffer, for unless the officer in question knows you, how can he ever report on you? This is not 'Apple Polishing' – it is plain good manners and common sense. 'Apple Polishers' are obvious to everyone, Senior officers included. On the other hand what I have just outlined is a pleasant and profitable social convention that young Naval Officers disregard at their peril.
While we are on the subject, there is an ill – found rumour that Junior Officers should wait for their Seniors to speak first. This is not so. It is up to you to approach the senior one or his wife and it is up to you to introduce yourself and when you have an opportunity to enter into the conversation.
In talking of "Senior Officers" I mean anyone senior to you yourself. As a Sub – Lieutenant this is a pretty large field so you must limit your endeavours. Start at the top and work down and don't forget your Commanding Officer, Executive Officer and the Head of your Department and their wives.
Here is the word on Introductions. When introducing yourself it is usual to say "Mrs. ________ I should like to introduce myself, I am Midshipman Hornblower from Bonaventure" or if you don't know who it is you are talking to just wait for a suitable opportunity and then say "Please let me introduce myself, I am Midshipman Hornblower from Bonaventure" or you could say "Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Hornblower and I am from the Bonaventure". There are a number of variations of this.
When it comes to introducing two other people there are a few formalities to be followed. It is customary to introduce men to ladies and when introducing two ladies to one another or two gentlemen to one another introduce the younger to the older, if you can tell which is which. In military circles the junior is introduced to the senior and in the case of wives or girl friends the junior officer's wife to the senior officer's wife. This does not mean that you should mention the younger one's name first. It means that you should in effect verbally lead the young up to the old and then carry on with the introduction. We will assume you are introducing the young Miss Eaton to the old Mrs. Simpson. You should say "Mrs. Simpson, I should like to present Miss Eaton". That is all there is to it but this is a rather formal type of introduction. To be less formal you could say "Mrs. Simpson, have you met Miss Eaton?" That is all there is to that; no matter what she says in reply you have done what is necessary. Or it may be that your friend Miss Eaton wants to be introduced to Mrs. Simpson. Therefore you take up up and say "Mrs. Simpson I don't think you have met Miss Eaton". – Once again that is all there is to it. So much for that sort of introduction.
Now let me talk about what you should say and do when you are introducing yourself or being introduced to someone. It is perhaps a bit trite to say "I'm pleased to meet you" in reply to an introduction. I have no doubt that some time ago this was quite correct for it certainly does not look wrong on paper but general usage has put this beyond the pale, especially in its "Pleasedtameetcha" form. You can say "How do you do" or "Good morning/afternoon/ evening" as appropriate. This is all about that is necessary these days and this conversational gambit is in the same class as the "How do you do" – "How are you" exchange. No one really wants to know how you are so you don't start telling them about the main in your old football injury that always tells you when it is going to rain.
Here is a word of caution to the self–conscious – DON'T SIMPER and wriggle about when you are effecting an introduction. I've seen this done many times. This is the 'tee – hee' sort of introduction and it implies that the person you are introducing is regarded by you as being a bit of a joke. And leave out the hand motions. Don't jerk your thumb in the direction of the person you are introducing – I have actually seen this done too! One more thing, if your charming partner starts to imitate you in saying 'Sir' to officers that you pay such respects to use every available means to discourage her. The 'Sir' business is a matter of courtesy between men only and women in uniform. The correct form for ladies is to call officers by rank and name if they don't know them well enough to call them by their first name.
In a Formal Receiving Line it is customary for the gentleman to precede the lady. He introduces himself and then presents his partner. It may be that there is someone calling out the names as the guests pass before the members of the Receiving Line in which case the gentleman should give his own and his partner's name to the 'caller'. Say something as you shake hands with the members of the line even if it is only 'Good evening' or 'How do you do'.
When you are invited to some private entertainment and you discover that young ladies are present, you will be well advised not to jump to conclusions to assume that this is some plot cunningly designed either to separate your affections from the young lady of your present choice and who is not at the affair or to entice you away from your present state of happy bachelorhood. This is something that you should perhaps consider carefully later on if the play is repeated over and over again with the same cast but at the outset you should be careful only to act the part of a civilized guest. This type of behaviour doesn't come naturally. I have known one blighted young man for instance who on being invited to become a member of a party, shortly after he arrived, demonstrated a dismal lack of worldliness by addressing himself to the young lady he was supposed to take and informing her that he really couldn't be expected to fulfil properly his obligations as her partner because he was engaged to a girl back home in Broken Jaw or some place. This is true! Since the girl in question had a host of happy followers of her own and as the young man was no bargain to begin with, you can imagine what a clot he looked to her even if he didn't realize it himself.
Accept the situation as it is obviously meant to be – a means of introducing you to young ladies of an appropriate age and behave accordingly. If you don't do your stuff properly you can expect your list of invitations in that particular league to slacken off pretty quickly. The danger to you is that you will eventually find yourself invited out only to places where manners don't matter. It's your choice.
I should like to emphasize to you young Officers the importance, in fact the vital necessity of developing interests and hobbies outside the Naval Service. By this I do not mean feminine company. Within limits I will leave that department entirely up to you. But I do mean that you must seek interests and outlets outside the RCN for your intelligence and energy. There is an old saying: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" and this is so true. The person who is married to the Service is a crashing bore not just socially when he goes ashore but to his Messmates in the Wardroom afloat. After a day's work they certainly don't want to hear 'shop' forever being talked in the Mess, in fact some Messes prohibit such conversation at certain times and they take steps to discourage it by imposing fines.
When you travel with the Fleet and you visit other ports and places, you will find your visit much more pleasurable if you have some interests to pursue when you get there. People with similar interests generally manage to get together and it follows that if you have some speciality you are already half way towards making new acquaintances and friends in those ports.
What I am trying to say is that you who are young, intelligent and active must have some outlet for these mental and physical energies or if you don't you are going to wind up either introverted or in trouble. Too often have I seen young Officers with nothing in particular to do, devoting their time and attention to becoming steady patrons at some Pub or other. I have nothing against Pubs but I do not believe they are an end in themselves. As with all other things they should be used with restraint. If you find that you do not have any fun unless you are in one, you should seriously think of resigning your Commission because evidently you have made a mistake in selecting a Naval Career and you are not getting the satisfaction out of a Naval life that you should. Before you make a final decision, however, take a good look at yourself and see whether or not you have any outside interests to help you along. Take a quick look around your Cabin. A young Officer's Cabin should be positively bulging with Golf Clubs, Tennis Rackets and sports' equipment and there should be a raft of books, newspapers and periodicals arriving for him every month. He should have a whole section in his Cabin devoted to some hobby. These are the tools that help keep things in their proper perspective and they are important adjuncts to living. They refresh and stimulate the mind and body and they provide food for conversation, thought and discussion. They sharpen the intelligence and wit and they prevent you from becoming a bore and from being bored with life. They help introduce you to new friends.
I notice that some young Officers have difficulty in writing letters to Senior Officers. There is always a tendency to be too formal and to resort therefore to some form of official formal letter. Lord Chesterfield knew what he was talking about when he wrote this in 1739 for what he said then applies equally well today.
"Most persons who write ill do so because they aim at writing better than they can, by which means they acquire a formal and unnatural style. Whereas, to write well, we must write easily and naturally. For instance, if you want to write a letter to me, you should consider what you would say if you were me, and then write it in plain terms just as if you were conversing. Take as little trouble as possible. By that means, you will by degrees write perfectly well, with ease."
If a Senior Officer thinks enough of you that he takes the trouble to write you a personal letter when you are, for instance, in Hospital, enquiring after the state of your health, remember it is a personal matter he is enquiring about and in reply to him you won't go far wrong if you adopt the tone and form of his own letter to you. By all means start off your reply with "Dear Commander Blank" and sign it
at the end. DO NOT start out "Dear Sir" and sign it "I have the honour to be, Sir, etc." This advice does for all forms of personal letters to officers Senior to yourself, unless they are so very little Senior to you that you are on a first name's basis – in which case you can write what you like.
One more thing on the subject of writing letters. 1 may have mentioned this before but it is worth repeating. Avoid writing typed letters – use your own handwriting. There is nothing personal about a type – written letter. There may be times when a typewriter is the only thing you can use but keep its use to a minimum.
I hope you are not thinking after reading these Notes that too much opposition faces you when you go on your way from VENTURE. Quite the reverse – the Navy and Naval Officers in particular have an excellent name wherever they are known and civilians and Senior Officers alike expect the younger Officers to make mistakes. They did so themselves in their day. NEPTUNE's NOTES have been prepared for you to give you 'the Word' and they should give you an idea what there is you must guard against. The way ahead is full of smooth sailing and there is lots of entertainment and fun to be had while you are still doing your Duty. – Over to you – off you go – I will see you on the way.