Friday, May 17, 2013

The mystique of the Canadian Mess

The mystique of the Canadian Mess

By John Hall
The Daily Magi
December 23, 2043


Messing in the Canadian Forces generally follows the British model (see United Kingdom below), from whom most traditions have descended. Basic regulations regarding the establishment and administration of messes is contained in the Queen's Regulations and Orders and the Canadian Forces Administrative Orders.

As in the British Forces, there are normally three messes: the Officers' Mess (called the Wardroom in Naval establishments), for commissioned officers and officer cadets; the Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess (Navy: Chiefs' and Petty Officers' Mess), for senior non-commissioned officers and warrant officers; and the Junior Ranks Mess, for junior non-commissioned officers, privates, and seamen. Some bases, such as CFB Kingston in the 1980s, had a Master Corporals' Mess separate from the Junior Ranks'; all of these, with the exception of the CFB Valcartier Master Corporals mess (known as the "Mess des chefs"), have since been amalgamated with the Junior Ranks' Messes. Certain other bases, mainly training establishments such HMCS Venture have messes known as the Gun Room for the use of subordinate officers (Naval or Officer Cadets).

Most bases and stations have three messes (Officers', Warrant Officers' and Sergeants', and Junior Ranks'). Many of these establishments have lodger units (such as air squadrons, army regiments, etc.) who also have their own messes. All of Her Majesty's Canadian Ships have three messes aboard; this extends to Naval Reserve Divisions and other Naval shore establishments which bear the title HMCS (see stone frigate). Due to limited budgets and declining revenues, many messes have been forced to close or amalgamate: for example, at CFS St. John's, the Junior Ranks' Mess of the Newfoundland Militia District closed, its members moving to the Station's Junior Ranks'; the Station's Officers' Mess and Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess later amalgamated.

Headgear is not worn in Canadian Messes[citation needed], except:

  • by personnel on duty, such as a Duty or Watch Officer, or the Military Police;
  • as permitted on special occasions, such as during costume parties, theme events, etc.;
  • by personnel for whom wearing headgear is mandatory (e.g. for religious reasons).

All Canadian Forces personnel, Regular and Reserve, must belong to a mess, and are termed ordinary members of their particular mess. Although normally on Federal property, messes have been ordered to comply with the legal drinking age laws of their province; for example, an 18-year-old soldier may legally consume alcohol in a Quebec mess, but not in one in Ontario, where the legal age is 19. However, despite being underage, the soldier may not be prohibited entry into the mess.

Canadian Forces personnel are normally welcome in any mess of their appropriate rank group, regardless of element; thus a Regimental Sergeant-Major of an Infantry battalion is welcome in a Chiefs' and Petty Officers' Mess (inter-service rivalries notwithstanding). Personnel of a different rank (except as noted below) must ask for permission to enter; that may be granted by the President of the Mess Committee, his designate, or the senior member present.

These restrictions are normally waived on certain special occasions, when the messes are "opened" to all personnel, regardless of rank. These occasions may include (and will be locally published by the Mess Committee):

  • New Year's Day, January 1, called a "Levee"
  • Canada Day, July 1
  • Remembrance Day, November 11

The Commanding Officer of the establishment or unit that owns the mess is permitted access to all his messes; thus a ship's captain has access to his vessel's Chiefs' and Petty Officers' Mess, the Commanding Officer of a regiment may enter any of his regimental messes, and the Base Commander of a Canadian Forces Base is welcome in any of his base's messes. In practice, Commanding Officers rarely enter anything other than the Officers' Mess unless invited, as a point of etiquette. In addition, duty personnel — such as a Duty NCO or Officer of the Watch — or the Military Police have access to any and all messes for the purposes of maintaining good order and discipline. Chaplains are usually welcomed in all messes.

As in the UK, Canadian messes are run by the Mess Committee, a group democratically elected by the members of the mess. One exception is on warships, where the president of the junior ranks mess is appointed by the Commanding Officer. The Committee members are generally the same as those of their British counterparts, with the addition of special representatives for such things as sports, housing, morale, etc. These positions are normally spelled out in the mess constitution, which sets out the bylaws, regulations, and guidelines for such things as conduct of mess meetings, associate memberships, dress regulations within the mess, or booking of the mess by civilian organizations. The constitution and any amendments are voted upon by the members of the mess.

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