As far as I can tell...... Mess silver has it's roots in the formation of regiments in the begining. During the 17th and into the 18th Century the Regiment was the property of the man who paid for it to be raised. As such said man was a bit on the rich side. Said diamond geezer was expected to dine his dependants in some style, with silver and gold plate, cutlery etc etc on the table.
This use of the term "Dependants" means those men who suported and expected to be supported by said rich bugger. The Officers who would have been selected by the rather rich newly minted Colonel were his dependants, in the sense that their position depended upon the Colonel.
The continined fine dinning came both out of the Colonel's deep pocket and the increasing number of Officer Messes and their subs. As the regiments became more stable, with fewer disbandments after a quick war the Mess would attract gifts to remember events and battles.
Why not visit ANY infantry or cavalry regiments' museum - you'll see first hand who presented silver, how some pieces were acquired and who paid for the rest. The museum's curator, I'm sure, will be delighted to elaborate - he may even have an example of an old mess bill handy to show how much each member was levied for some of the items!
This work seeks to demonstrate that the silver owned by the armed forces is much more than beautifully-crafted precious metalwork. This is silver with a human face. By virtue of the wording engraved upon it, each piece has a story to tell. Its provenance and history is there to be read and interpreted. The opening chapters describe the ways in which military and naval silver has been conceived and created since the late 18th century, the work of some of the famous silversmiths involved, and the distinctive styles of design which they have employed. Regimental silver is "family silver". It reflects the pride and honour of the officers, and the senior other ranks, whose collections symbolize their achievements in times of war and peace. Here is the silver which stands at the heart of each unit's "esprit de corps". The last two chapters (and the appendices) are written for the collector, present and future. Other sections describe the treasures of the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the armies of British India and much more besides. The book is packed with stories. Based upon extensive research and the guidance of more than 200 contributors, they illuminate the valour and devotion of men who are long gone but whose services the Crown endure in the silver inherited by their successors. The book brings together the two separate areas of silverware and military history.
From personal experince....a great show was made of recording it , then presenting it to the 'new Regiments' with the odd promise made to return it to some of the people and families who had donated some of it, etc.....then it was generally robbed and sold by thieving, deceitful people called Officers who used the proceeds to either line their own pockets or buy favours elsewhere for when they left the forces and needed a well paid civvy job