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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A mess is the place where military personnel socialise, eat, and (in some cases) live. In some societies this military usage has extended to other disciplined services eateries such as civilian fire fighting and police forces. The root of "mess" is the Old French "mes," portion of food, drawn from the Latin verb "mittere," meaning "to send" or "to put," the original sense being "a course of a meal put on the table." This sense of "mess," which appeared in English in the 13th century, was often used for cooked or liquid dishes in particular, as in the "mess of pottage" (porridge or soup) for which Esau in Genesis traded his birthright. By the 15th century, a group of people who ate together was also known as a "mess," and it is this sense that persists in the "mess halls" of today's military.



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[1] and the Canadian Forces Administrative Orders[2].

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.

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 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, 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 (i.e. Religious reasons)

The usual "penalty" (which may only be executed if the offender voluntarily submits) applied to personnel who neglect to remove their headdress is to buy a round of drinks for the members present. The area from the entrance to the cloakroom, however, is normally considered a "neutral zone", and exempt from the no-headgear policy.

This prohibition is also extended to civilians, who are normally requested to remove their headdress upon entering; should they decline, they may be refused entry; they are not, however, normally subject to the "round for the house" rule.

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):

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.

Every mess has a 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.


The Federal German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) differentiates between three different mess areas.

1. HBG (Heimbetriebsgesellschaft) - More commonly called Enlisted Mess (Mannschaftsheim), it is common for most bases to have one, where food and drink can be purchased, as well as newspapers and in some cases equipment and souvenirs (such as key chains etc,). There is generally no strict regulation of conduct, even though access is not limited to enlisted personnel, and NCOs or Officers may also be present, ensuring a more regulated conduct.

2. UHG (Noncommissioned Officer's Mess/Unteroffizierheimgesellschaft(Gesellschaft lit. Society)) - Also called UK (NCO Comradeship/Unteroffizierkameradschaft), this is the area where NCO can dine or spend their evenings. As opposed to the HBG, the UHG has a constitution, bylaws and a board. Access is usually restricted to NCOs, while Officers can gain entry, even though it is usually frowned upon by the NCO. Some Bases have a joint NCO and Officer's Mess.-

3. OHG (Officer's Mess/Offizierheimgesellschaft) - Also called Casino (Kasino or Offizierkasino). Much like the UHG, the Kasino also has a constitution, bylaws and a board. Gentlemanly conduct is mandatory. For instance upon entering the main hall, Officers are expected to stand at attention and perform a small bow. Additionally veteran's meeting are usually held either in a UHG or in a Kasino. As with the UHG, Kasinos have permanent personnel, as a general rule enlisted men, called Ordonnanzen(Military term for waiter or barman). Some 'Kasinos' have grand pianos, and hold recitals, as well as having music played during luncheons or dinners. Usually, official events, such also balls, but also unofficial events such as weddings, informational events and the like are held here.

The German Navy call their messes 'Messe', with the distinction Offiziermesse. The Land based messes are also called Offiziermesse.


The Indian Army too follows a system which is quite similar to the British. A typical regiment/unit would have three messes. One for the commissioned officers, one for the Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) and one for the NCOs. Havildars/Daffadars (equivalent to Sergeants) are considered to be NCOs and do not go to the officer's or JCO mess. The Air Force however has an SNCO (Sr. NCO) mess, in which Warrant Officers and Sergeants would be members, while the lower ranks would be members in the NCOs mess.

In the officer's mess and the JCO's mess, there also is rank of Mess Havildar. A Mess Havildar is a senior NCO, who manages and executes the day to day activities of the mess.

On Republic Day (January 26) the JCOs are formally invited for cocktails at the Officers mess. The same is recriprocated on Independence Day (August 15), by the JCOs.



Israeli Navy

In the Israeli Navy, although Hebrew speaking, dining rooms on the Missile Boats, Dolphin submarines, and the kitchen in the Patrol Boats are named Messes, Crew Mess and Officers' Mess. Also, every special meal brought by a crewmember, say celebrating a birthday or a rank promotion, is called Mess. Few of the sailors in the Israeli Navy actually know the origins of the word, offering alternative explanations, such as "Short for Messiba (party in Hebrew)".

The word is probably left over from the Royal Navy.

United Kingdom

On a Royal Navy establishment, British Army garrison or Royal Air Force station, there are usually 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); and, the Junior Rates' Mess (JRM), for Junior Ranks, including Junior Non-Commissioned Officers. Officers and SNCOs usually live (if they are unmarried and do not want to live off base), eat and socialise in their Messes, whereas Junior Ranks usually just eat there, being accommodated in barrack blocks and socialising in the NAAFI bar. A Regiment may also establish a Corporals' Club or Mess, which vary in role and make-up.

There are various customs associated with the Messes. When a Senior Officer visits an Officers' Mess, they will leave their hat on the table in the foyer to give fair warning of their presence. Headdresses are removed upon entering a mess (service personnel without headdress are "out of uniform", and those out of uniform cannot salute). The typical tradition is that anyone wearing a form of headdress inside the mess (due to forgetfulness or inexperience) must buy a round of drinks[citation needed].

All service personnel belong to a Mess, which is typically located near the unit's HQ. Most Messes have dues (monthly or yearly, depending upon the Mess), and are non-profit. This allows the Mess to have substantially lower prices when compared with civilian bars and clubs. A soldier, sailor or airman is welcome in any Mess equivalent to his rank, should they be away from their home unit, as long as they are paying dues in at least one mess. Any servicemen of a different rank (excluding the unit's Commanding Officer, the Duty Officer, duty NCO and Military Police) must ask permission to enter the Mess. No discipline normally arises for not allowing someone of higher rank into a mess[citation needed], or not doing so in a timely manner. One is often required to buy a round to be allowed entry into a mess[citation needed]. The main exceptions are for the Duty Officer and Duty NCO, who are required to keep order in the Mess. For the Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess the CO is the Commanding Officer of the Mess, while the RSM or ranking Enlisted person is known as the Presiding Member. In Commonwealth armies an ex-enlisted officer such as the Quartermaster acts as the CO's representative/inspecting/supervising officer.

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

  1. President of the Mess Committee - Mr 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/she is raely the actually the deputy of the PMC (normally this is the Secretary) but the most jumior 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.

Despite it being a democracy, the Commanding Officer (CO) of the unit has right of veto over the mess, and any large changes or events must have his approval. The CO is always 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 run by the First Lieutenant or Executive Officer (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 as the dress.

Meals and messes

In some messes the reduction in people living in the mess has meant that economies are conducted and meals may be taken in another rank's mess[citation needed]. For instance, the officers may eat in the SNCO's mess. In this case, the officers will observe normal courtesies and seek out the senior member of the WO & SNCO's mess who is present, chat briefly and in doing so ask permission to use the mess, and also buy a drink at the bar (often buying for the senior person's group) as a way of offering some extra payment for the use of the mess beyond the meal payment between messes. The visiting person will not normally stay in the mess after the meal unless quite specifically invited by a member; and, the higher ranking person will not assume that this invitation will be extended.

United States

United States Army

In the United States Army, officers historically have had to purchase their own food using funds allocated to each officer. In the far flung forts of the old west, officers would organize their food service in two ways. A "Closed Mess" was when the few officers of a small fort would pool all of their funds to provide all meals to only the members, thus being "closed" to outsiders except as guests. In a larger post, the larger pool of officers could allow the officers to purchase meals on an individual meal basis (after payment of a small monthly dues amount). Such arrangements were called "Open Messes".

The mess now is called a DFAC or "Dining Facility." The Officers' Club is an outgrowth comparable of the Officers' Open Mess, but also providing areas to allow officers entertain guests. A mess can also refer to the formal affair of having a dining in/out. A dining in being held for military members and is closed to the public. A dining out is a social event for military personnel and their families.

United States Air Force

Fort Bragg NCO Club in 1954

Social clubs on United States Air Force installations were at one time called Open Messes, even though most were known in vernacular as Officers Clubs or NCO clubs. At one time each squadron had its club, but these disappeared after World War II and the club became a facility of a base rather than a unit. Most are now officially referred to as officer or enlisted clubs; the term "mess" has largely disappeared from the Air Force lexicon. Though a few bases (usually major training bases) have separate Airmen's Clubs for junior enlisted and NCO Clubs for noncommissioned officers, this is no longer normally the case. Physically separate Officers' Clubs are still the norm; however, smaller Air Force installations may have one consolidated club with separate lounges. Membership is voluntary, though highly encouraged for senior NCOs and officers. Most NCO and Officers Clubs contain a sit-down restaurant in addition to social lounges, meeting/dining rooms, and bars.

Mess halls in the USAF, where unmarried junior enlisted residing in the dormitories are expected to eat, are officially referred to as "dining facilities," but are colloquially called "chow halls," although dining facility workers traditionally take offense at the term.

United States Marine Corps

In the United States Marine Corps, dining facilities are commonly referred to as 'chow halls.'

See also


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MESS (an adaptation of O. Fr. mes, mod. mets; Ital. messo; derived from the Late Lat. missum, past participle of mittere " to send or place in position"), a service of meat, a dish sent to table. The term is also used of the persons who are in the habit of eating their meals together, and thus particularly of the parties into which a ship's company or a regiment is divided, either according to their rank, or for convenience in catering. Originally, a mess in this sense was a group of four persons sitting at one table and helped from the same dishes. In the Inns of Court, London, the original number is preserved, four benchers or four students dining together.

In early times the word mess was applied to food of a more or less, liquid character, as soup, porridge, broth, &c. It is probably in allusion to the sloppy nature of semi-liquid messes of food that a mess has come also to mean a state of disorder, confusion and discomfort. Skeat takes the word in this sense to be a variant of "mash," originally to mix up.

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

a portion of food given to a guest (Gen. 43:34; 2 Sam. 11:8).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)


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