Coloured Ink for Formal Letters from Generals

I recall from my clerical training many years ago when the Army was sheer fun, no budgets and every Wednesday afternoon for sport, that there was a rule of etiquette regarding the colour of ink used by 3 and 4 Star Generals for the signing of formal letters.

Can anybody recall the appointed colours to post and are they still used?
Major General, Royal Marines used green ink. Worked in 3CdoBde HQ once, he also used to tell the Home Sercretary, Douglas Hurd, to "talk sense" quite a lot before launching telephones across the room. Happy days.
... are you seriously expecting any ancient staff clerks to read this board?

Don't you know that they have never got as far as the WWW as their TTS taught typing skills wreck any PC keyboard within 30 seconds (it's all in the wrist y'know!).

and anyway their screens are too encrusted with tippex (at least I think it's tippex) to see through anyway!

And besides... Everyone knows that general officers are only allowed red and blue crayons..

Ask Sir Burton Dasset... he was a clerk once (apparantly!)
I don't know about Generals but Admirals have traditionally used green ink as has the Head of MI6 ever since its first Director, Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming RN, initialled his papers "C" in green ink. Admirals' helos and barges (launches) have traditionally been known as 'Green Parrots' too.


Book Reviewer

By Gravelbelly:
"We had a regular CO who would defend such features of JSP101 as the use of appropriately-coloured pens (his example was a blue pen left deliberately by the Sandhurst signing-out book as a "gotcha"). Black was the only colour allowed until you were of suitably exalted rank. By the time he tried to suggest that green ink was reserved for the use of General Officers, so that Staff could recognise their letters on sight, we were having to hold our sides at the lunacy of it all."
for anyone who is interested, you can find said ink here

I've never heard of it being a senior officer thing but then it might well; I wouldn't know, I was never a senior officer. I use the dark green myself rather than the emerald which is a bit showy. As one of the last 14 people left in the country who write letters I'd be interested to know what the other 13 think if you're out there.
Here in civvy street, all letters are to be signed in black ink. Or else! Oh and todays date (here) is 20100202. Nanu nanu.
The civvies that work here insist on signing paperwork with blue ink as apparently the photocopiers are that good here that you cant tell if its the original or photocopy with black ink. Totally off subject and totally geeky. I apologise.
Fronty said:
The use of green ink is a sign of insanity. Apparently
Hope that doesn't extend to green highlighters of chalk.


Book Reviewer
amazing__lobster said:
Personally, I prefer to write using a pencil.

Whilst using a ruler to keep my sentences straight, and using all capital letters :)
You've just made it into the Mess, haven't you? :twisted:


Book Reviewer
eodmatt said:
Here in civvy street, all letters are to be signed in black ink. Or else! Oh and todays date (here) is 20100302. Nanu nanu.
Corrected that date for you old chap!

Actually, using a date in that format is not such a bad idea and is, I believe, a worldwide standard. At the very least, you can sort things properly by year, instead of having them messed up because you have 01012009 next to 01012010.

I use a green ballpoint as well, but only because I lost my last black Bic and I'm not allowed another one until the green one runs out.
Red ink is apparently too aggressive so different colured ink should be used when staff checks are done on reports etc. At Chilwell we used to sign drawings in blue ink to identify orginal drawings, never heard about Generals requiring a specify ink colour though.
Fronty said:
Actually, using a date in that format is not such a bad idea and is, I believe, a worldwide standard.
Used to refer to it as NBS date format, but its the NIST format there days.
It's so you know who has made a comment on a piece of staffwork - Red for the CO, or COS in a headquarters, and Green for anyone of Flag Rank (i.e. a Maj Gen or above). Black for us pleb's!

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