Mess - United Kingdom

United Kingdom

On a naval or military establishment there are usually two or three Messes:

  • The Officers' Mess, for Commissioned Officers;
  • The Chief Petty Officer's or Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess, for Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) and Warrant Officers (WOs);
  • The Junior Rates' or Corporals Mess (JRM), for Junior NCOs (this latter is less universal than the former two)

Officers and SNCOs are required under Queen's Regulations to be a member of their mess and unmarried members usually live, eat, and socialise in them. The JNCOs mess if established is normally used for socialising only, JNCOs usually being accommodated in barrack blocks eating in the cookhouse alongside private soldiers and able rates. Depending on circumstance, such as lack of finance or space, some regiments may have a JNCO "club" instead of a proper mess. Members of their mess are also required to pay a subscription fee for supplies and upkeep. The amount is decided upon by the commanding officer within the limits stipulated by the Regulations.

Soldiers, sailors or air personnel are welcome in any Mess for their rank or equivalent, should they be away from their home unit, as long as they are paying dues in at least one mess. For the Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess the highest ranking (normally the RSM) member is known as the Presiding Member.

A Mess is run by the Mess Committee, a group democratically elected by the members of the Mess (except Wardrooms), but normally agreed by the CO or RSM.

  1. President of the Mess Committee (PMC) - (Officers' Mess) or Chairman of the Mess Committee (Sergeants'/Petty Officers' Mess)
  2. Vice President of the Mess Committee (Mr Vice), who is responsible for toasts during Mess Dinners. He or she is rarely the deputy of the PMC (normally this is the Secretary) but instead the most junior person in the Mess.
  3. Treasurer
  4. Secretary (Sec), who is responsible for records and minutes, etc.
  5. Wines Member, who is responsible for keeping the bar stocked.
  6. House Member, who is responsible for furniture and infrastructure.
  7. Entertainments (Ents) Member, for any special events or parties in the mess.

Some messes also have a Senior Living-In Member (SLIM) who represents the living-in members and supervises their conduct.

The Commanding Officer (CO) of the unit has right of veto over the mess, and any changes or events must have his approval. The CO is allowed into any Mess (because they are legally all his), but it is often considered an abuse of power, unbecoming conduct or disturbing the order for a CO to drink in a lower rank mess, except when invited on special occasions.

The Officers' Mess in a Royal Navy ship or base is called the Wardroom. Associated with the Wardoom is a Gunroom, the mess for Midshipmen and occasionally junior Sub-Lieutenants. The Captain of a vessel is not normally a member of the Wardroom, which is always run by the First Lieutenant or Executive Officer (XO), thereby known as the Mess President ("Mess Prez"). This post is part of the job of being a ship's XO. Other committee members are generally appointed (voluntarily or otherwise) by the XO.

Mess dress is the military term for the formal evening dress worn in the mess or at other formal occasions. It is also known as mess kit. Mess dress would be worn at occasions requiring white tie or black tie.

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