Customs of the Army (1956)

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



1.     Conduct of an Officer

A very high standard of behaviour and bearing is expected of an officer at all times and wherever he may be.

It must be remembered that the Army is judged by the behaviour of all its members, and that other ranks follow the example of their officers.

2.     Social and Official Relations

The contrast between social and official relations may at first seem paradoxical. If reprimanded for a fault an officer must not brood over it, and must never allow himself to become a man "with a grievance."

The Commanding Officer, the Adjutant, or the officer's Sub-Unit Commander may be severe on parade, but this is always forgotten in the Mess.

Off parade and in the Mess Senior Officers should be treated with natural courtesy due to their rank, age, experience, and responsibility, but the young officer must not be frightened of them. The normal polite behaviour of a gentleman is all that is required.

It is an old custom of the Service to say "Good morning," or "Good morning, sir," as the case may be, to other officers when met for the first time that day. It is for the junior to speak first.

It is usual for Subalterns when addressing Captains or other Subalterns to use only their name, not their rank. When speaking to a Senior Officer, however, and referring to a Captain, the rank should be included, i.e., " Captain Smith gave instructions, etc."

Captains should only be called "Sir" by Subalterns when on duty.

3.     Loyalty

(a)     Own regiment or corps.

An officer must never run down his regiment or corps in the hearing of outsiders. This is being disloyal.

(b)     Any other unit with which he may serve.

An officer may have to serve in units other than his own and his behaviour should be the same as in his own unit.

(c)     Courtesy to other regiments.

Esprit de corps must not tempt the officer into running down other regiments; it is bad manners and does harm. A junior officer should keep his opinions and criticisms to himself until asked for them.

(d)     The Army

Every officer must be careful not to decry the “Army” in the presence of civilians. There is a tendency to criticise the “powers that be” and, in particular: the “War Office” for any unpopular aspect of Army life. Such criticism is generally based on ignorance of the true facts and is consequently unjustified. In any case it is bad for the Army and achieves no useful purpose.

4.     Attitude to Orders

An officer must never apologise for an order. To apologise for an order given by himself is weak; for that given by a superior is disloyal. An officer must always carry out an order to the best of his ability: if he disagrees with an order or thinks it wrong, criticism should be made to the Adjutant or Sub-Unit Commander afterwards.

If a junior officer has to implement an order, given by his superiors, which he knows will be unpopular with his subordinates he must give it out as his own order and take full responsibility for it.

It is disloyal to pass on such, orders in the form " The C.O., or Company Commander, wants us to do, etc., etc.,'. as this implies disagreement on the part of a junior with the policy of his superiors. Such orders must always start with the phrase " I want, etc., etc.," or " You will, etc., etc."

5.     Marrying young

The Army does not officially recognise the marriage of an officer until he is 25 years of age. The reason for this is that a young officer has much to learn before he becomes fully proficient. This includes the bookwork of technical and tactical subjects as well as the practical side of soldiering and man management. Man management is best learnt by being with the men as much as possible, both on parade and off parade, playing games, or organising their sports and recreation. If an officer marries young he is bound to have extra interests outside his Army life and his work and learning will suffer.

A young officer must take into consideration the financial difficulties which he will encounter if he marries young.

An officer is entitled to marriage allowance at the age of 25, but few officers will have the means or the ability to consider marriage at such an early age and still be able to give the service to their regiment which the holding of a commission must imply.

An officer must obtain his Commanding Officer's permission before getting married.

6.     Parade Ground

The parade ground of most units; is" sacred." An officer should never smoke whilst on it, nor walk across it in plain clothes during working hours. This is usually laid down, but if it is not, the Adjutant or R.S.M. should be asked.

An officer should never go between a squad on parade and its commander, or, indeed, between it and any person who is connected with that parade.

7.     Punctuality

It is the duty of every officer to be punctual for a parade or duty and it is bad manners to be late for an appointment. If he makes a practice of always being five minutes early an officer will save himself many embarrassments.

It is the officer's duty, however, to ensure that the men are not paraded unnecessarily early just to ensure punctuality.

8.     Current Events

It is essential that an officer keeps himself in touch at all times with the international, political and military situation. This is expected of any intelligent and educated person, and the officer is also responsible for keeping his men in touch with these matters. To keep himself up to date an officer should read a good newspaper daily and as many periodicals as possible.

An officer is also responsible for participating in or watching as many regimental activities as possible and giving them his wholehearted support even to the extent of putting them, however dull, before his personal amusements.

He should organise games, sports and other forms of recreation for his men.

9.     Financial Matters

(a)     Cheques.

For an officer to write a cheque or a demand on a field cashier for more than he has in the bank, without prior arrangement with the bank, is not only dishonest but also disgraceful.

A dishonoured cheque may lead to a Court Martial.

Never, under any circumstances, write a "blank” cheque for anyone.

(b)     Accounts.

All officers should keep a record of their private accounts, especially on first joining. To assist in this, cheque counterfoils should be filled in.

An arrangement should be made with the officer's agent and/or bank for a monthly statement to be forwarded to him. This should be very carefully checked with the counterfoils and statement of account.

An officer should regulate his expenditure in order to avoid being " hard up." Should be find himself very hard up, he should consult his Unit or Sub-Unit Commander.

(c)     Cash.

An officer should never leave money or valuables lying loose in his quarters. To do so puts his batman in an unfair position.

(d)     Receipts.

The receipt of any money should always be acknowledged. When an officer hands over any money or stores he should always obtain a receipt.

In this way he will ensure that he is free from blame in case of any loss or deficiency.

Letters about money matters should be answered promptly.

(e)     Financial responsibility.

When an officer is put in charge of public funds or stores he is entirely responsible for their safekeeping, and he will be required to make good any deficiencies or loss due to his negligence.

(f)     Subscriptions.

All Mess bills, bills and subscriptions should be paid punctually. If an officer is slack about payments it causes inconvenience to treasurers and secretaries of clubs and business firms, besides being a discredit to the officer, to the regiment and to the Army.

In the case of regular subscriptions officers are recommended to arrange payment by a banker's order to ensure Punctuality.

10. Dress-Plain Clothes

An officer should be smart and well turned out at all times. This is most important in plain clothes.

Old clothes do not prevent an officer from being cleanly and tidily dressed.

When buying plain clothes it will pay the officer to go to a good tailor, as the clothes will last very much longer. They look better than cheap clothes when old, and can therefore be worn longer. Above all, an officer must avoid buying flashy or highly coloured clothes.

As regards the wearing of sports clothes and scarves in the Mess, officers are recommended to seek advice from the Adjutant or from some other officer of the unit, . as customs on this subject vary in different regiments.

Customs of the Army (1956) - Section II

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