The following 1952 guide tells a young officer what it means to be a junior
officer (i.e. Officer Cadet, 2/Lt. or Lt. or Captain). It was written by
officers of the World War I and World War II generation. What expectations there
are of an officer (although the male gender is used here, the female gender also
applies), how to deal with his NCOs and men, how to interact with senior
officers, and mess etiquette.
Some might view the booklet as "old fashioned", but good manners
do not really go out of fashion, however they DO help to distinguish between a
"an officer and a gentleman" and someone who simply has a commission.
When a recruit mistakenly calls an NCO "Sir", many NCOs reply
"I'm not an officer, I WORK for a living!" This is a mistake. Officers
work far harder than most people realize.
"Horse first, men second, officers last."
My Grandfather, (Captain) William Arnott Stevens of the 19th St. Catharines
Regiment (commissioned in 1907, later the unit was renamed the 19th Lincoln
Regt, and later still the Lincoln & Welland Regt. and the Royal
Flying Corps), told this to my father (Lieutenant Colonel (Pete) Arnott Hume
Macgregor Stevens (Lincoln & Welland Regt.; W Force; Essex Scottish; No. 4
Commando; RCAMC; RCNR) who in turn told me. I in turn taught it to my Air
Cadet NCOs and Junior Officers.
What does the saying mean? When soldiers come in from a battle or training,
they should take care of their horses first in case they must suddenly go
out again. [Note a well trained soldier knows that he should first clean his
weapon - though not everyone in the platoon should clean his at the same time in
a tactical situation in case they are attacked). Today's version of the horse is
your military vehicle. Refuel, lubricate, clean, restock and prepare it to go
out again in case you get a "Pull pole" (strike camp, take down tent
poles) or "Move now!" order suddenly. If you have not cared for your
horse/vehicle, it will break down on you just when you need it the most.
Next the officer has to make sure that his men are taken care of -
food, water, a place to sleep, dry clothes, warmth, and replenishment of their
supplies such as ammunition. A good officer will do the rounds of his men to
ensure that they are bedded down, have taken care of their weapons, their feet,
and that they have eaten.
Lastly, the officer. IF there is any food left over, he can now eat.
IF there was not enough food, the officer goes hungry, but his men are fed. They
realize that their officer is taking care of them. Imagine how they would feel
if they saw their officer eating first, and then there was no food let for the
men? What would that do to morale? Would they follow such an officer into
battle? Would they willingly obey his orders in a life and death situation?
RHIP - "Rank Hath Its Privileges".
It also has its obligations as the "Horses first..." quote shows.
This book contains many other valuable and timeless lessons. These tips are
useful for serving personnel (Army, Navy or Air Force) as well as military
Do you remember the scenes in the Officer's Mess in Cairo in LAWRENCE OF
ARABIA? Obviously if he had read this booklet, he would have been spared many
embarrassing moments. Another good film for understanding Officer's Mess
etiquette is TUNES OF GLORY.
Inside front cover and page 1.
Click on small pictures to enlarge them.
Page 16 and inside rear cover.