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:
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”