- Contributed by
- fred hughes
- People in story:
- Fred Hughes
- Location of story:
- Officers Mess Cowley Barracks
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 March 2004
Despite the shortages of the wartime and immediate post war the traditions of the County Regiments were continued.
I had been a weapon training instructor for some two years when I was asked to take on the Sergeants job, catering for the needs of the officers. I was 20 and had no experience that could help me in such a position. The stone built buildings at Cowley had been used as the Regimental Headquarters for a very long time.
My staff consisted of Batmen, waiters, wine waiters a chef and a cook about whom and what they did I knew nothing. I also had to prepare the mess bills.
Despite this, with the help of those experienced staff the traditions continued as they had both in peacetime and wartime.
I liken it to a top class Hotel except everyone was in uniform and all male. The other exception, the dinner evenings.
Preparation for the meal started early. The dining room had a long mahogany able upon which was put two, even longer, table cloths. Each folded lengthwise and placed along each side leaving a long mahogany strip down the middle. On this strip were placed silver candelabra and various silver ornaments and cigar boxes. Some of which had been donated by previous Colonels of the Regiment. The waiters left to don dress suits, tails and waistcoats. The wine waiters differed. Their waistcoats were blue stripped; the others white. The Officers arrived.
The Regimental Colonel sat in the middle at one side. When the various courses were over waiters stood at each end of the table, grasped the ends of the table cloths, lifted them high, took two steps to one side over the heads of the officers and took them away. The candles were lit and the Port and cigars were passed around the table. Clockwise in the one case and anticlockwise for the other. Meanwhile the Regimental Band had been playing music in the next room during the meal. I, who had been standing supervising proceedings, made note of the number present (usually around 30) and who took a cigar or a Port, to enable me to prepare the mess bill at the end of the month. If the Colonel was happy with the music he would usually ask me to invite the Bandmaster to join him for a glass of Port.
This just left me and my staff clear up just as is the case in any typical good class Hotel.
The end of a very long day. All the staff (including the batmen) had been paraded at 6 am and dinner seldom ended before 11 pm. It was as well that dinner was held on only two or perhaps three evenings a week. The rest were supper evenings without all the trimmings.
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