Barren Mess?

#1
Is it just me or is the Officers' Mess barren? It may just be personal experience but it's what I've observed over the past 20-something years. Subalterns much prefer staying in their rooms rather than socialising in the mess. I suppose many of the attraction previously found only in the anteroom are now readily available in the officers' quarters. Plus, greater workload means one would much prefer relaxing in his own room rather than dressing up for the mess after returning from shop.

Any recommendations on how to rekindle mess life?
 
#2
... and those living out are much more conscious/concerned about DUI, so rarely frequent the Mess, and even more rarely stay beyond a swift orange juice.
 
#3
Is it just me or is the Officers' Mess barren? It may just be personal experience but it's what I've observed over the past 20-something years. Subalterns much prefer staying in their rooms rather than socialising in the mess. I suppose many of the attraction previously found only in the anteroom are now readily available in the officers' quarters. Plus, greater workload means one would much prefer relaxing in his own room rather than dressing up for the mess after returning from shop.

Any recommendations on how to rekindle mess life?
The same as the Sgt's and WOs Mess, not having miserable bastards with rank that lived in the 1950s dictating what they think is acceptable.
 
#5
Well, something which I hear a lot of the time is that officers (especially those on the staff) get free around 1700 or 1800, and simply much prefer ordering food from the mess in their accommodations rather than actually dining in the mess.
And don't even get me started on the SLIMs.
 
#6
I think it's reflective of changing societal attitudes. I've been a PMC (late 00s) and a DPMC before that (mid 00s) and even then you were seeing 'differing' attitudes towards Mess ethos, Mess life etc. Simply, those joining nowadays (and I bracket that as from the mid to late 90s onwards) view the Mess as somewhere to live, eat and hold the occasional hoofing party. That's about it. Some may (IMHO quite rightly) say that this was a consequence of PAYD, or encouraging SP to buy houses in the local area.

I have had to advise an SO3 at a headquarters that "No, it isn't acceptable to eat lunch on your lap in the ante room wearing a puffa jacket and trackie bottoms on a midday when the dining room and other public rooms are in use"; regrettably, this wasn't an isolated occurrence.
 
#7
I think it's reflective of changing societal attitudes. I've been a PMC (late 00s) and a DPMC before that (mid 00s) and even then you were seeing 'differing' attitudes towards Mess ethos, Mess life etc. Simply, those joining nowadays (and I bracket that as from the mid to late 90s onwards) view the Mess as somewhere to live, eat and hold the occasional hoofing party. That's about it. Some may (IMHO quite rightly) say that this was a consequence of PAYD, or encouraging SP to buy houses in the local area.

I have had to advise an SO3 at a headquarters that "No, it isn't acceptable to eat lunch on your lap in the ante room wearing a puffa jacket and trackie bottoms on a midday when the dining room and other public rooms are in use"; regrettably, this wasn't an isolated occurrence.
Why isn’t dressing how you want in ‘your home’ acceptable?
 
#8
Why isn’t dressing how you want in ‘your home’ acceptable?
Errrm, because everyone who is either a member or associate of a Mess knows that there are times & places for 'dress up' and 'dress down'. If you want to be a member of an Officers' or WOs + Sergeants' Mess, then please observe the culture and rules of the respective institutions.

Otherwise, please f**k off.
 
#9
I have had to advise an SO3 at a headquarters that "No, it isn't acceptable to eat lunch on your lap in the ante room wearing a puffa jacket and trackie bottoms on a midday when the dining room and other public rooms are in use"; regrettably, this wasn't an isolated occurrence.
Why isn’t it acceptable?

One of the contributing factors to why I left (3 years ago)was the childish way in which the livers-in were treated. If I was working late (which due to manning cuts I was 4-5 days a week) why couldn’t I eat in my uniform? Even if I wasn’t, why did I have to put a suit on to eat - the livers out (who were the ones making the rules) sure as hell weren’t putting on a suit to eat with their family. Why should I have to in my “home”.

Why were we banned from eating in our rooms (including ordering take-away food), when we couldn’t be arsed to do eat in the mess?

The best/most lively/most fun mess I lived in had a relaxed dress policy; jeans and t-shirts in the evenings. Our relaxed evening attire had precisely zero effect on our work performance.
 
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#10
Errrm, because everyone who is either a member or associate of a Mess knows that there are times & places for 'dress up' and 'dress down'. If you want to be a member of an Officers' or WOs + Sergeants' Mess, then please observe the culture and rules of the respective institutions.

Otherwise, please f**k off.
You could have just said “I don’t have a decent reason, but am blindly following archaic rules without applying independent thought”.
 
#11
Errrm, because everyone who is either a member or associate of a Mess knows that there are times & places for 'dress up' and 'dress down'. If you want to be a member of an Officers' or WOs + Sergeants' Mess, then please observe the culture and rules of the respective institutions.

Otherwise, please f**k off.
But many young professionals don’t want to be a member of an Officers’ Mess. They enjoy the job and serving but don’t want to live in a building run by a contractor where some old bell end thinks he can dictate their dress and behavior in their own time.

If you are someone who thinks prurient attention to the dress of others is an important component of fighting power then I can only suggest Dignitas.

Luckily this is a fight the old guard are losing.
 
#12
But many young professionals don’t want to be a member of an Officers’ Mess. They enjoy the job and serving but don’t want to live in a building run by a contractor where some old bell end thinks he can dictate their dress and behavior in their own time.

If you are someone who thinks prurient attention to the dress of others is an important component of fighting power then I can only suggest Dignitas.

Luckily this is a fight the old guard are losing.
As a Lt my CO encountered me one Sunday in the middle of the family’s NAAFI, unshaven & in board shorts/hoody.

The next day the entire regiment’s Officers got an email informing them that shorts were only to be worn for PT, and that at all other times officers must wear a minimum of chinos/polo shirt. Winner.

Needless to say, the Adjt had a quiet word in his ear and the policy was never enforced.
 
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#13
I was PMC in a tri service training establishment for my last two years - 5 years ago. We went with Common sense. Uniform was Ok in the dining room and bar until 8 pm. After that you could still come in wearing uniform/sports/scruffs to get served and go to the TV room (or use the night bar) with a nod to the senior person present - though our regular bar lady was very good at tray service (for a small consideration).

We had Living in Night once a month - Normal evening meal but a bit later, suits required (the Cavalry always wore DJs and I encouraged this) and the Mess would stump up a few bottles of wine. The Mess Manager got on side and put candles out and the whole thing became quite popular. Other times we'd go for mass pizza night.

After a few of these we had some of the senior (Lt col equiv upwards) asking to join in and they were very welcome as were a good few pads who fancied a night on the pop.

There is always something that can be done to improve mess life - all I ever tried to do was bring like-minded folk together.
 

Sarastro

LE
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#14
Errrm, because everyone who is either a member or associate of a Mess knows that there are times & places for 'dress up' and 'dress down'. If you want to be a member of an Officers' or WOs + Sergeants' Mess, then please observe the culture and rules of the respective institutions.

Otherwise, please f**k off.
There you go @Horus, a succinct one paragraph explanation of why messes died.

You need to ask yourself what you mean by 'rekindle' mess life. If you mean: how do we get it to go back to how it used to be, I'm afraid I have nothing for you, because it's simply not going to happen. If you mean: how can we bring people back to the mess, you are probably going to have to kill every sacred cow out there until it is no longer recognisable to you as a mess.

There are two diametrically opposed ideas of what a mess is. One is that it is a club, where there are group rules imposed by the longer standing members on the newer ones. The other is that it is a home, where you eat / relax / live, because you have to, because that is where you are posted. Messes can impose the 'club' version on people, but they cannot force them to use the mess, so the result is that the newer lot just leave for their rooms. Conversely, since the people who want it to be a 'home' cannot impose that on the club part, but they can just go to their rooms...well, they do that. There isn't really a middle ground here - there is only a series of individual invisible lines about what each person finds acceptable on any given day. The general reason that messes are dead is that the invisible lines are way, way too far in the direction of the 'club' element, and so the majority of actual bodies (the younger officers) aren't interested.

The old mess system worked because there was coercion. You had to eat there: there was no other option: and the younger mess members were disciplined if they didn't play along. The best tries at solving the mess problem I've experienced or heard about effectively just re-introduced that coercion in various ways. Without the coercion the system just doesn't work. It also very, very much depends on what the unit / mess is. You can't stoke a vibrant young mess nightlife if you are in (for example), a soulless HQ hell where everyone is just trying to maximise the hours they spend off camp between 0830 on Monday and 1230 on Friday.

If you really want to make it work, I'd suggest cutting the club element back until it is physically uncomfortable for the older lot; banning the kind of comments and harrumphing that @chasndave made; then force the younger officers to fill the gap with their own something(s). Listen to what they say, but I'd suspect a key element is keeping things voluntary rather than voluntold, and that includes dress codes for 95% of the time. The end result might not look much like what you think of as a mess, but it might at least have a pulse.
 
#15
How about a games night? I've heard mini-flare duelling can be a good bit of fun. Done it myself as a LCpl in fact. But we had the sense to do it in an aircraft hangar with foot-thick blast doors :)

 
#16
There you go @Horus, a succinct one paragraph explanation of why messes died.

You need to ask yourself what you mean by 'rekindle' mess life. If you mean: how do we get it to go back to how it used to be, I'm afraid I have nothing for you, because it's simply not going to happen. If you mean: how can we bring people back to the mess, you are probably going to have to kill every sacred cow out there until it is no longer recognisable to you as a mess.

There are two diametrically opposed ideas of what a mess is. One is that it is a club, where there are group rules imposed by the longer standing members on the newer ones. The other is that it is a home, where you eat / relax / live, because you have to, because that is where you are posted. Messes can impose the 'club' version on people, but they cannot force them to use the mess, so the result is that the newer lot just leave for their rooms. Conversely, since the people who want it to be a 'home' cannot impose that on the club part, but they can just go to their rooms...well, they do that. There isn't really a middle ground here - there is only a series of individual invisible lines about what each person finds acceptable on any given day. The general reason that messes are dead is that the invisible lines are way, way too far in the direction of the 'club' element, and so the majority of actual bodies (the younger officers) aren't interested.

The old mess system worked because there was coercion. You had to eat there: there was no other option: and the younger mess members were disciplined if they didn't play along. The best tries at solving the mess problem I've experienced or heard about effectively just re-introduced that coercion in various ways. Without the coercion the system just doesn't work. It also very, very much depends on what the unit / mess is. You can't stoke a vibrant young mess nightlife if you are in (for example), a soulless HQ hell where everyone is just trying to maximise the hours they spend off camp between 0830 on Monday and 1230 on Friday.

If you really want to make it work, I'd suggest cutting the club element back until it is physically uncomfortable for the older lot; banning the kind of comments and harrumphing that @chasndave made; then force the younger officers to fill the gap with their own something(s). Listen to what they say, but I'd suspect a key element is keeping things voluntary rather than voluntold, and that includes dress codes for 95% of the time. The end result might not look much like what you think of as a mess, but it might at least have a pulse.
The Scruffs bar in JSCSC in Shrivenham is full pretty much every night - despite being in a moribund ‘acadmic’ institution.

There are a variety of reasons for this but the combination of no dress code, no rank and cheap drinks certainly contribute.
 
#17
Excellent thread.

General thoughts - firstly, mess life is dying in part because the drinking culture at the heart of the military is dramatically reduced from what it was 20-30 years ago. These days people want to do phys, work late, chill out or just be social with their friends and not get dressed up to the 9s just to have a cheap pint.

Secondly, its grumpy twats with their heads up their own arrse who insist that people MUST wear certain outfits to be seen in public rooms. The moment you make people think it is more hassle than its worth to go and get a beer, then people will not bother. At home in the summer I wear smart designer shorts and polo shirts because it is comfortable, and I can walk into a pub and not be judged. When I lived in a mess I would frankly not bother putting a suit on during a hot summers evening just for an average at best pint.

Accept times have changed, put in place a simple rule saying 'wear what you want, exercise common sense and if you don't mind on very rare occasions like formal dining nights, make an effort and put a jacket/tie on'. You'd see more people in the bar if you acted like it was a millenial bar, not a 19th century bar.

Interestingly Shrivenham has gone fully relaxed and basically said 'wear what you want with reason (e.g. no frayed heavy metal t-shirts)' and mess life seems up (perhaps @alfred_the_great can confirm?). I spoke to a couple of RN mates a few weeks ago at the SO1/OF5 level who've long since popped out of mess life, and their view was that messes are dying because insisting on a 1970s dress code when the members who live in are simply used to wearing open neck shirt and trousers/shorts is a recipe for disaster. They think though that there is hope as younger generations start to fill the PMC slots and begin changing rules.

The biggest killer of messes is the toxic sludge that is the crusty retired officers / life members who insist on 'STANDARDs' without living in, and who want the place to resemble what it was when they lived there. They're the sad bastards who do go to mess meetings and get angry when change is proposed. To reinvigorate mess life I'd ban all retired officers / life members from the mess.

There is a major generational shift coming - my club in London is now trialling a 'relaxed rig' of smart shirt and chinos rather than suit in the bar other than the dining area. The 'old and bold' are VERY upset about this - personally I'm delighted as I'm far more likely to pop in, rather than worrying about if I've got a suit on or not. the same applies to messes - make the mess a place where I feel that if I'm on course I can pop in without feeling like I'm committing a crime (and I still feel the guilt after the PMC of Shrivenham Kitchener hall bollocked me via an SO2 proxy for my twin crimes of entering a mess post transatlantic flight in jeans and fleece in January to get badly needed food AND also for taking my cheese and biscuits into the bar to read the papers), and ditch the ridiculous and frankly out of date dress rules.

I'd turn around and go 'people - once per month we'd like a formal thursday night dinner night where we dress up and use the formal bar prior to supper at 2000'- if thats not for you, please could you dine before us and avoid the main bar unless in rig'. Then otherwise relax the mess dress code, let people feel they can use their phones / ipads and the like in public areas and just chill out - if you treat it like a real home and let people feel welcome, they will come. If you want it to be a 19th century private members club, stand by for it to be a ghost town as your officers don't come and sign off in droves...
 
#18
Errrm, because everyone who is either a member or associate of a Mess knows that there are times & places for 'dress up' and 'dress down'. If you want to be a member of an Officers' or WOs + Sergeants' Mess, then please observe the culture and rules of the respective institutions.

Otherwise, please f**k off.
People are ******* off, one of the reason is the sad old ******* think they are "upholding traditions" rather than being bellends that live in the past.
 
#19
Luckily this is a fight the old guard are losing.

I reckon as a result of messes being unpopular, they will slowly be phased out, partly due to doddering old twats.
 
#20
Excellent thread.

General thoughts - firstly, mess life is dying in part because the drinking culture at the heart of the military is dramatically reduced from what it was 20-30 years ago. These days people want to do phys, work late, chill out or just be social with their friends and not get dressed up to the 9s just to have a cheap pint.

Secondly, its grumpy twats with their heads up their own arrse who insist that people MUST wear certain outfits to be seen in public rooms. The moment you make people think it is more hassle than its worth to go and get a beer, then people will not bother. At home in the summer I wear smart designer shorts and polo shirts because it is comfortable, and I can walk into a pub and not be judged. When I lived in a mess I would frankly not bother putting a suit on during a hot summers evening just for an average at best pint.

Accept times have changed, put in place a simple rule saying 'wear what you want, exercise common sense and if you don't mind on very rare occasions like formal dining nights, make an effort and put a jacket/tie on'. You'd see more people in the bar if you acted like it was a millenial bar, not a 19th century bar.

Interestingly Shrivenham has gone fully relaxed and basically said 'wear what you want with reason (e.g. no frayed heavy metal t-shirts)' and mess life seems up (perhaps @alfred_the_great can confirm?). I spoke to a couple of RN mates a few weeks ago at the SO1/OF5 level who've long since popped out of mess life, and their view was that messes are dying because insisting on a 1970s dress code when the members who live in are simply used to wearing open neck shirt and trousers/shorts is a recipe for disaster. They think though that there is hope as younger generations start to fill the PMC slots and begin changing rules.

The biggest killer of messes is the toxic sludge that is the crusty retired officers / life members who insist on 'STANDARDs' without living in, and who want the place to resemble what it was when they lived there. They're the sad bastards who do go to mess meetings and get angry when change is proposed. To reinvigorate mess life I'd ban all retired officers / life members from the mess.

There is a major generational shift coming - my club in London is now trialling a 'relaxed rig' of smart shirt and chinos rather than suit in the bar other than the dining area. The 'old and bold' are VERY upset about this - personally I'm delighted as I'm far more likely to pop in, rather than worrying about if I've got a suit on or not. the same applies to messes - make the mess a place where I feel that if I'm on course I can pop in without feeling like I'm committing a crime (and I still feel the guilt after the PMC of Shrivenham Kitchener hall bollocked me via an SO2 proxy for my twin crimes of entering a mess post transatlantic flight in jeans and fleece in January to get badly needed food AND also for taking my cheese and biscuits into the bar to read the papers), and ditch the ridiculous and frankly out of date dress rules.

I'd turn around and go 'people - once per month we'd like a formal thursday night dinner night where we dress up and use the formal bar prior to supper at 2000'- if thats not for you, please could you dine before us and avoid the main bar unless in rig'. Then otherwise relax the mess dress code, let people feel they can use their phones / ipads and the like in public areas and just chill out - if you treat it like a real home and let people feel welcome, they will come. If you want it to be a 19th century private members club, stand by for it to be a ghost town as your officers don't come and sign off in droves...
Contractorisation of messes also contributes. They simply aren’t as good value as they used to be. When I was a subbie (which is not aeons ago) we used to put up with the mess bullshit because it was £1 a pint, and DFC meant we ate like kings.

I lived in a HQ mess for a while a couple of years ago. Two 2Lts moved in and got pushed about a bit by the ‘Tweed and Death’ Brigade. Bollocking for stuff like not attending dinner, not putting on a tie to read the papers in the anti room, wanting to leave the bar when the old cnuts still wanted someone to drink with them. Then they disappeared.

It turns out that they had put their heads together and rented a flat in Salisbury with another Lt. Instead of paying £200 a month each for an antiquated en-suite in a building in the middle of nowhere inhabited by 50 year old divorced men who insisted on you putting on a jacket an tie to drink warm Speckled Hen with them or to eat the motorway service station food, they were paying less a month to live in a flat in the middle of a city, dress how they want, eat what and when they want and drink what they want. And finger shop girls they met on Tinder.

People will vote with their feet.
 

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