Barbaric Baguette Eating Banned at Bulford Army Camp Officer’s Mess

Oh no Hagar can’t have sandwiches for lunch anymore. I had heard about this infamous email beforehand and I have mixed views about it. I think manners are important and it’s useful to understand the more appropriate models of behaviour and maybe this should be delivered at formal functions when receiving delegates from other nations, or any other ambassador based networking, such as with other services, local communities, etc, etc; but should not be so closely adhered to at informal dinner parties. I would consider an informal dinner party at a senior officer’s house to be a relaxed environment where your deportment wasn’t so strictly judged. As a spouse, I wouldn’t expect my behaviour to be professionally judged by my spouse’s professional peers. At the end of the day Hagar should be judged on how he well he delivers military effect and not whether his wife writes an excellent handwritten thank you note.

I believe a modern, professional military to be capable, efficient, productive and effective and the professionalism of the service should not be judged on whether an individual eats a sandwich at lunch time with his or her fingers.

See this article in today’s Telegraph

Here is the article:

“Sandwiches have been banned from an officers’ mess after a commander noticed many soldiers were eating them with their hands as he insisted “a gentleman or a lady uses a knife and fork.”

Major General James Cowan issued the note after he noticed officers were eating sandwiches with their hands and failing to stand when commanders entered the room.

His three-page letter criticised standards at Bulford Camp in Wiltshire where he said he had seen a many “frankly barbaric” techniques and habits displayed by soldiers and officers.

The note, addressed to ‘Chaps’, said: “Quite a few officers in the divisional mess seem to be under the impression that they can eat their food with their hands. The practice of serving rolls and sandwiches must stop,” the Sun reported.

The letter penned by Maj Gen Cowan, who is in charge of 20,000 soldiers and 2,500 officers in 3 UK Division, most based at Bulford, also criticised poor grammar and writing, advising against the “wanton use of capitals, abbreviations and acronyms” because they can leave the reader exhausted.

His note gave a string of etiquette tips.

Maj Gen Cowan advises on the correct way to use a knife and fork, saying “holding either like a pen is unacceptable.”

On the subject of marriage, he is equally direct, advising officers never to sit next to their spouse at dinner or risk showing insecurity. He also clearly outlines that he expects a junior officer to “make an effort at conversation” with one of their superiors.

A spokesman for the Army insisted the three page note, where Maj Gen Cowan also suggested soldiers should stand up when commanders enter the room, was meant to be taken as fun.

They said: “This note was part of a light-hearted correspondence between a commander and his officers about an expected code of behaviour.”

Maj Gen Cowan’s six tips on etiquette:

* Sandwiches

“Quite a few officers in the divisional mess seem to be under the impression that they can eat their food with their hands. The practice of serving rolls and sandwiches in the mess is to stop. A gentleman or lady always uses a knife and fork.”

* Dinner party

“A good party relies on good conversation. This requires you to come prepared to be free, funny and entertaining.Thank you letters are an art form not a chore. It is generally considered better manners if the spouse is the person who writes.”

* Knife and fork

“The fork always goes in the left hand and the knife in the right. Holding either like a pen is unacceptable, as are stabbing techniques. The knife and fork should remain in the bottom third of the plate and never be laid down in the top half.”

* Officers

“Ten years ago, officers would stand up when the commanding officer walked into the room. This doesn’t happen any more. I expect a junior officer to make an effort at conversation. Start by introducing yourself and talk on any civilised subject outside work.”

* Successful marriage

“I recently went to a Burns night, spoilt only by a curious decision to sit husbands next to wives. The secret of a successful marriage is never to sit next to your spouse at dinner, except when dining alone at home. It displays a marked degree of insecurity.”

* Grammar

“In common with officialdom the world over, military writers love to use pompous words over simpler language. Combined with underlining and italics, the wanton use of capitals, abbreviations and acronyms assaults the eye and leaves the reader exhausted.”

10 Comments

  1. Huw Jarse - Troll from ARRSE March 5, 2014 Reply

    OMG, this is outrageous, totally preposterous! How on earth do you get away with being an unofficial representative of the military. You, madam are a buffoon!

    *I am a troll from ARRSE and I like to lick other troll’s balls….mmmmm tasty salty scrotums in my mouth*

    • Hello Troll, would you like a bun?

      • Huw Jarse - Troll from ARRSE March 6, 2014 Reply

        have you read the WHOLE e-mail? No, otherwise you would realise what a pile of rubbish this is.

        *I am a troll from ARRSE and I like to lick other troll’s balls….mmmmm tasty salty scrotums in my mouth and I like rimming*

        • Of course, I have you fucking moron! You are lucky I even approve your comments. Fortunately, for me that is, you come across as a complete cunt. Would you like a bun troll?

          See below:

          Chaps,

          At the risk of sounding like a parent, I should be grateful if you could pass on the following collected wisdom, which I know you know, but others don’t. They should know that when I see/hear/read these things, I become distracted by them, to the detriment of more important matters. Ignorance is no defence in the eyes of the law, but I can well see that if we don’t ever tell people these things, they can’t reasonably be expected to know. I therefore think it only fair that you do know that I take a dim view of those who live in ignorance of these simple rules of civilised life.

          Good Writing

          A lot of military writing is verbose and pompous. Start by following Orwell’s six rules.

          • Never use a metaphor, simile or figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
          • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
          • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
          • Never use the passive when you can use the active
          • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you think everyday English equivalent
          • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous

          Military writers love acronyms. Don’t use them unless they are so familiar as to be commonplace – NATO, UN, MOD are all acceptable. But don’t then clutter up the page by spelling them out: for instance, you don’t need to write ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ in full; it looks clumsy. Instead, find an everyday word we all understand – for instance ‘drone’.

          Military writers misuse numerals. You cannot write ’10 years ago’, it must be ‘ten’, until you reach the teens at which point 13, 14 etc are acceptable. ‘4 Rifles’ is right because it is a title, but ‘4 rifles are missing from the armoury is wrong; it should be ‘four rifles’.

          In common with officialdom the world over, military writers love to use pompous words over simpler language. Don’t write ‘commence’ when you could use ‘start’ or ‘begin’. Similarly, ‘walk’ not ‘proceed’, and ‘buy’ not ‘procure’. Military writers love verbal nouns: for instance ‘we will transition into the Army 2020 structure’. This language offends any civilised person. Why not use ‘move’ instead of transition? Listed below are some more examples. You will note that the left hand column tend to be longer and Latin, the right hand column tend to be simpler and Anglo Saxon (but not exclusively).

          Bad Good
          • Cognisant Aware/know (why do we use this curious word? If your wife asked if you were ‘cognisant’ that it was her birthday, you would think something amiss!)
          • Utilise Use
          • Migrate Move
          • Asymmetric Different
          • Transportation Transport
          • Couch/settee Sofa
          • Serviette Napkin
          • Toilet Loo
          • Pardon? What? (some people think saying ‘what?’ sounds a bit curt, but ‘pardon’ can only be used as a noun or a verb and never as an interrogative).
          • Sufficient Enough
          • Chef Cook
          • Whilst While (you will never see whilst in a well written newspaper)
          • Perfume Scent
          • Pass on Die
          • Wealthy Rich
          • Preserve Jam
          • Sweet/dessert Pudding
          • Cruet Salt and pepper

          John Betjeman’s ‘How to Get on In Polite Society’, gently mocks those who are addicted to this sort of language:

          Phone for the fish knives, Norman
          As cook is a little unnerved;
          You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
          And I must have things daintily served.

          Are the requisites all in the toilet?
          The frills round the cutlets can wait
          Till the girl has replenished the cruets
          And switched on the logs at the grate.

          It’s ever so close in the lounge dear,
          But the vestibule is comfy for tea
          And Howard is riding on horseback
          So do come and take some with me

          Now here is a fork for your pastries
          And do use the couch for your feet;
          I that I wanted to ask you-
          Is trifle sufficient for sweet?

          Milk and then just as it comes dear?
          I’m afraid the preserve’s full of stones;
          Beg pardon, I’m soiling the doileys
          With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.

          Military writers also love capital letters. Take a look at a well written book or newspaper and you will see how few capitals are used. They should only be used at the start of a sentence, or with a proper noun. As an example, Colonel Smith has a capital C, but ‘the colonel’ does not. Combined with underlining and italics, the wanton use of capitals, abbreviations and acronyms assaults the eye and leaves the reader exhausted.

          I notice a great many writers confuse the following words:

          • Verbal for oral
          • Disinterested/uninterested
          • Anticipate for expect
          • Fewer/less
          • Infer/imply
          • Comprise/consist of
          • Require for need
          • Although/though
          • Meet/meet with
          • Gender/sex
          • Male, female/man, woman (the first are adjectives not nouns)

          Others routinely confuse the following:

          • Dependent/dependant
          • Licence/license
          • Practice/practise
          • Principle/principal
          • Lead/led
          • Liaise
          • Stationary/stationery
          • Affect/effect
          • Compliment/complement

          Good Manners

          I turn now to more sensitive territory. Quite rightly, we recruit our officers from a broad pool. I don’t want them to be disadvantaged by innocent ignorance. I would rather they knew what is expected of them. Some examples:
          • Quite a few officers in the divisional mess seem to be under the impression that they can eat their food with their hands. The practice of serving rolls and sandwiches in the mess is to stop. A gentleman or lad uses a knife and fork. And while on the subject of knives and forks, I see a great many frankly barbaric techniques on display. The fork goes in the left hand and the knife in the right, unless the food may be eaten with just a fork, in which case it should be held in the right hand. Holding either like a pen is unacceptable, as are stabbing techniques. The knife and fork should remain in the bottom third of the plate and never laid down on the top half. When finished, they should put together in the six o’clock position.
          • I expect a junior officer to make an effort at conversation. Start by introducing yourself and range widely on any civilised subject outside work.
          • Ten years ago as a CO, officers would stand up when the commanding officer walked into the ante-room. This doesn’t see to happen any more.
          • I recently went to a fun Burns night in the mess, spoilt only by a curious decision to sit husbands next to wives. The secret of a successful marriage is never to sit next to your spouse at dinner, except when dining alone at home where no alternative is possible. The practice displays a marked degree of insecurity and is to stop.
          • I give frequent dinner parties and it has become apparent that many Army couples don’t know that a good party relies on good conversation. This requires you to know that the hostess will begin conversation at the table with the guest seated on her right. The other women should follow suit, and in this way, no one is omitted from the conversation. Halfway through dinner, the hostess will direct her conversation to the guest seated on her left, and the guests should do the same. As you are mostly men, you will bugger this plan up if you start by trying to talk to the woman on your right. However, sometimes there is an imbalance between the numbers of men and women so a courteous guest will always make sure everyone is included.
          • Thank you letters are an art form not a chore. If a military couple come to a dinner party, it looks like a chore if the serving officer is the person who writes the letter. It is generally considered better manners if the spouse is the person who writes. A thank you letter should avoid the following pitfalls:
          o It must always be hand-written
          o It should be on two sides
          o It should never begin with the words ‘thank you’
          o It should absolutely avoid service writing and be in a much more informal style [From: Lt Col I A M A Blithering-Idiot OBE is not necessary]
          o It should seek to amuse and not to list things [the starter was, I liked the red wine, pudding was, etc …. is not a good way to win over your hostess]
          o It absolutely must avoid taking the form of a debrief, a thank you letter is not a hotel suggestions book
          o It should start ‘Dear xxx (the hostess’s first name)
          o It should end Yours ever, John, or love Jane, not Yours sincerely, John, which is how you write to someone you don’t know, such as the bank manager.

          Summary

          For the brigade commanders: on a rather more serious point, I am worried that our officer corps is becoming increasingly introverted and bad at reaching out to wider society. On visits, I keep meeting commanding officers who aren’t using the tools at their disposal: their entertaining allowances; their messes, their bands, their training. We are working on an influence plan to rectify this. In the meantime, I want Cos to start getting into a much more extrovert mindset and to think through their own influence matrix.

          Finally, I should say that the vast majority of people I meet are intelligent, friendly and good company, so this email is simply to help those who need a little nudge. For the 3 Div team, please disseminate as necessary and could someone please hold a mess meeting so that the non 3 Div people who use our mess get the point.

          James

  2. Huw Jarse - Troll from ARRSE March 10, 2014 Reply

    nice cut and paste from ARRSE! A perfectly acceptable communication to the mess.
    oh, and nice language.
    Not a troll, i just think you should appraise yourself of the facts. You really should change your name and remove military from your name .

    *I am a troll from ARRSE and I like to lick other troll’s balls….mmmmm tasty salty scrotums in my mouth and I like rimming*

    • It’s all over the Internet. I don’t visit ARRSE. Appraise myself of the facts – I am well aware of the facts. I know more than you do cretin. I think you should really mind your own business. You must be confusing me with someone who gives a flying fuck what you think troll. If you are not a troll, then why be anonymous. As far as I am concerned, you are a troll and coward, who hides behind anonymity.

  3. Sonia Constant March 10, 2014 Reply

    Can they not just cut the sandwiches up and eat them with a knife and fork? 🙂 xx

    • Yes, I am sure they could. It’s too late – they are still banned!! Only in 3 Div mess though – the rest of the Bulford Messes are eating butties with their fingers.

  4. Huw Jarse - Troll from ARRSE March 10, 2014 Reply

    lol, don’t visit ARRSE??!! I know your user name, you really are a waste of oxygen, and I am now going to stop giving the thing you need to survive.

    *I am a troll from ARRSE and I like to lick other troll’s balls….mmmmm tasty salty scrotums in my mouth and I like rimming*

    • And yet here you are troll – you keep coming back for more.

      I think you’ll find my user name doesn’t exist anymore. I haven’t been to the troll den for a very long. Back to the bowel you go troll where you belong with the homophobes, facists and misogynists. Only place you can go to spout your bile – you are like the Klu Klux Klan, hidden under cloak and dagger – too cowardly to say it out in the open. Yet you have the audacity to preach to me about ‘acceptable’ communication. Seriously, troll fuck you!

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