This is a re-print of the JUNIOR OFFICER’S GUIDE put out in
1959. The only changes that have been made are for clarity, and in the revision
of the Commissioning Scroll paragraph.
It is my hope that the reader will be both humored and
informed by the contents of this guide. Many of the items found within are still
relevant today, making the guide a useful source. Also, it serves to remind us
of many traditions that have gone by the wayside, and will hopefully in the end
produce a more “enlightened” officer.
Junior Officer’s Guide
“These notes are intended as a guide and a help rather than
as an all embracing set of rules. However, if the principles, procedures and
customs set out in these notes are followed it is more than possible the newly
appointed officer will be spared many embarrassing moments.
“The written notes have been carefully checked by Senior
Officers serving in the Active and Reserve Defence Force and have met with their
approval and believed to be fully consistent with current customs in the
OFFICER AND GENTLEMAN
“He became an officer and a gentleman which is
an enviable thing”
- From “Only A Subaltern” By
(A) ON BEING AN OFFICER
1. The main difference between an officer and his comrades in
the Ranks is this: An officer is personally responsible to the Queen, by
virtue of holding the Queen’s Commission, for the good name and efficiency of
the Army. The soldier in the Ranks does not have this personal link with the
Sovereign: he is engaged to serve under the command of the Queen’s Officers
and to obey them.
2. The Queen’s Commission is simply this: it is the Queen’s
authority delegated to selected persons, thus creating them Officers, so
that they can exercise command over the Army on the Queen’s behalf.
When he receives his Commission the newly appointed
“We reposing especial Trust and Confidence in your
Loyalty, Courage and Integrity do by these Presents Constitute and Appoint
you to be an Officer in our Canadian Armed Forces. You are therefore
carefully and diligently to discharge your Duty as such in the Rank of
__________________ or in such other Rank as We may from time to time
hereafter be pleased to promote or appoint you to, and you are in such
manner and on such occasions as may be prescribed by us to exercise and well
discipline both the Inferior Officers and Non-Commissioned Members serving
under you and use your best endeavor to keep them in good Order and
Discipline, and We do hereby Command them to Obey you as their Superior
Officer, and you to observe and follow such Orders and Directions as from
time to time you shall receive from Us, or any other your Superior Officer
according to Law, in pursuance of the Trust hereby Reposed in you.”
(B) ON BEING A GENTLEMAN
3. To possess authority over one’s fellow men is no mean
thing. The Queen’s Commission can make an Officer, but it cannot make a
Gentleman. Yet if the Army is to receive the respect that is due it, and the
soldier in the Rank is to be given the leadership he deserves, it is essential
that officers at all times are worthy of the name Gentleman. The qualities of a
Gentleman can be no better stated than by the philosopher Amiel who said
“The gentleman, then, is the man who is master of
himself, who respects himself and makes other respect him. The essence of
gentlemanliness is self-rule. From self respect a thousand other things are
derived, such as care of a man’s person, of his language, of his manners,
watchfulness over his body and over his soul, dominion over his instincts
and his passions, the effort to be self sufficient, the pride which will
accept no favours, carefulness not to expose himself to any humiliation or
mortification, and to maintain himself independent of any human caprice: the
constant protection of his Honour and his Self Respect.
In order to lay himself open to no reproach, a gentleman
will keep himself irreproachable: in order to be treated with consideration,
he will always be careful to observe distances, to apportion respect, and to
observe all gradations of conventional politeness, according to rank, age
(C) RESPONSIBILITY AND REWARD
4. An officer has a dual responsibility which can never
be shirked, forgotten or allowed to take the background. He is responsible
to those set above him that he at all times carries out their orders and
directions to the best of his ability, and with no thought of his own
personal desires, comfort or safety. He is responsible to those placed under
him that he is in every way worthy of being their leader under any
circumstances of hardship, danger or despair.
5. To be capable of assuming such responsibility an
officer must possess a STRONG CHARACTER and to achieve this he must
have moral and physical courage, self respect, loyalty, tenacity and honesty
in his make up. He must be capable of SOUND JUDGMENT, and this can be
developed by learning to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad,
strength and weakness : by acquiring a sense of values and by practicing
logical thinking. An officer must be full of ENERGY and only when he
keeps himself mentally enthusiastic, physically fit and possesses or
develops personal “drive” will he have the energy needed. To these
qualities must be added a SENSE OF HUMOUR. The gloomy fellow, the “sad
sack” will never be a complete officer: no matter how brave, how brilliant
or how otherwise acceptable he may be.
6. Twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year the
Army officer is liable to the demands of the Service. Always he must be
ready to discharge his duties with a deep sense of responsibility. This is
his task. As to his reward, that is not to be thought of. Suffice it to say
“Who does in the wars more than his Captain can
become his Captain’s Captain.”
“RULES OF THE GAME”
(a) Every military station, formation and unit has its
own Standing Orders and Officers must be perfectly familiar with them.
Ignorance of orders is never taken as an excuse for non observance.
(b) In addition, every unit issues Daily Orders with
which Officers are also expected to be familiar. On returning from leave
read any orders that may have been issued while you were away.
(c) Read Canadian Army Orders and other orders of the
higher formations. All of which you can see in your Company Office. Make
this a habit.
(a) The parade square of all good units is “sacred
ground.” You should not smoke on it or go across it in plain clothes
during duty hours. When you cross it you must move in a smart and
(b) Never pass between any body of troops on parade
and it’s commander or indeed anyone, whatever he may be doing, who is
interested in that parade.
SALUTING -- GENERAL
(a) On parade the practice of saluting must be
carried out with careful formality. When you have the occasion on parade
to address an officer senior to you, even if he is only one place above
you in seniority, say “Sir” and salute him. This is a normal custom
of the service, so you need not feel self-conscious about it.
(b) Off parade, Subalterns salute Field Officers
(i.e.: Majors and above) and address them as “Sir”. Always salute
Captains the first time you see them in the morning, and when taking
leave of them at night. Subalterns address Captains and other subalterns
by their names only. Do not call officers below the rank of Major “Sir”
in the Mess.
(c) Be careful to return salutes smartly and readily:
never with anything in your saluting hand or with a cigarette or pipe in
your mouth. Look directly at the person whose salute you are returning
and remember that salutes are “returned” not merely acknowledged.
(d) Also be careful to return, punctiliously, salutes
paid you by bodies of troops on dismissal and compliments paid by bodies
of troops on the march or otherwise.
SALUTING -- OTHER COMPLIMENTS
(a) When in uniform always salute uncased colours and
funerals. In plain clothes raise your hat.
(b) When the National Anthem and O Canada are played
stand to attention and salute, or in plain clothes remove your hat.
(c) When the Guard turns out to a Commanding Officer
or to a General Officer, everybody nearby stands to attention but they
do not salute.
(d) If there is an officer in any military office you
may have occasion to enter, you should salute him whether he is senior
to you or not. If you are not wearing uniform ask the senior officer to
excuse your dress.
SALUTING -- OTHER SERVICES
Remember to salute senior officers of the Navy and Air
Force, and of friendly foreign Powers. If you have occasion to visit a
warship always remember to salute the Quarter-deck both on arrival and
It is unsoldierly and a serious matter to be late for
parades. It is unmannerly to be late for an appointment. Always make a point
of being ready five minutes ahead of time so that your arrival is “on the
“He who would command must first learn to obey.”
(a) Never reprove and NCO in the hearing of any of
(b) In dealing with NCOs and men be courteous, just
and consistent, but do not be familiar. Always address them by their
military rank : “Sergeant Brown” not “Brown.”
(c) It is custom for the Commander of a squad, troop,
platoon, etc. to ask permission to dismiss or march off. Do not be “deaf.”
If you hear an NCO say “Dismiss, Sir, please” return his salute and
reply “Dismiss, please” and it is a matter of politeness to stand
and return the salute of the men as they dismiss.
(d) When you are being instructed by an NCO, remember
he is in a difficult position and you must assist him by courteous
behavior. Don’t be afraid to ask him questions as he is your
(e) NCOs are of great importance to the Army, but
they naturally have their limitations. Remember that you are the
responsible officer and don’t give NCOs responsibilities which are not
in keeping with their rank.
(f) Your turn-out, bearing and behavior both in and
out of uniform must be such as to command the respect of your men at all
(g) The standard of intelligence of men in the ranks
is comparatively high. It is essential therefore that you should
interest them in their work and make certain that they understand why a
particular task it to be done. Only by so doing will you ensure keen and
intelligent work on their part. Men are to be led, not driven.
(h) Get to know your men individually: learn their
names and all particulars about them. There is no better way of doing
this than by organizing and joining in unit sports activities, concerts,
etc. Nevertheless, always remember to keep your distance. You can play
on the same team as an NCO or Private soldier without allowing liberties
of conduct on his part, or by letting down the necessary barriers
(j) Be your man’s champion. This does NOT mean that
you should allow yourself to be influenced by the “grouser.” It does
mean that you should see that no injustice is done to them either
collectively or individually. Men always respect an officer who takes
their part, but they despise the weakling who seeks popularity by
helping them “dodge the issue.” If your men have an unpleasant task
to do your example must encourage them to carry it out. Perhaps you can
reward them later when the job is done.
(k) Always support your NCOs. If they are not worthy
of support take steps to get rid of them. You cannot have a good unit
without good NCOs. Respect the wisdom of NCOs whose experience is
greater than yours, but always remember that you are the officer. Ensure
that your subordinates no matter how long their service or how extensive
their experience, are kept in their proper place.
(l) Correct error, punish misdemeanor, reward the
deserving and always be fair and above-board. If you make a mistake be
man enough to admit it: but DO NOT make the same mistake again. The men
know you are human too, but they expect that extra “something” from
(m) If your station is such that you are allowed a
soldier servant (batman) don’t get the idea that it is because
personal “housekeeping” is beneath your dignity. Such is not the
case. Officers are allowed servants for two reasons only: first, so that
they are freed from minor personal tasks for the purpose of looking
after their men’s welfare, and second, so that they can obtain the
necessary relaxation to help them carry the heavier and more demanding
responsibilities of their rank. This is especially true in war when the
officer is called upon to carry out many exacting and difficult tasks
while his men are waiting for their job to begin - a job in which the
officer must also play his difficult part. An officer who allows himself
to be beaten into the ground by petty labours and personal worries is a
bad officer. A good officer saves his strength for burdens and problems
that really matter.
“Some men are born leaders, some must make
themselves leaders by constant effort.”
FORMS OF ADDRESS
(a) When entering the ante room before dinner say “Good
Evening Sir” to the senior officer present. Also if your Commanding
Officer or any General or Field Officer enters after you, stand up and
say “Good Evening Sir.”
Do NOT click your heels at anytime nor stand to
attention on entering the ante room or dinning room.
(b) On parade an officer should always address other
officers senior to him, whether by rank or appointment as “Sir.”
(c) When a subaltern is addressed on parade or
referred to in an unofficial way he is mentioned as “Mr. Smith,” but
in an official way he is referred to by his actual rank, i.e. “Lieutenant
Smith” or “2nd Lieutenant Smith.”
(d) Except on parade it is advisable to avoid
addressing a Captain as “Captain Jones.” However if it is desirable
for any reason to address an officer by his rank this form may be used.
It is quite wrong to address a Captain as “Captain” without using
(e) Field Officers should be addressed as “Sir”
by Captains and subalterns, but it should not be laboured, or used so
frequently as to make the conversation sound ridiculous. It is not
incorrect to address a Colonel or Major by his rank alone, but the
possibility of appearing unduly familiar makes it advisable for junior
officers to adopt this habit only after considerable length of service,
and more than an ordinary acquaintance with the Senior. Obviously a
subaltern is rarely in a position to do so.
(f) It is customary when meeting any officer of the
Armed Forces in the street to bid him “Good Morning” whether you
know him or not. It is for the junior to speak first. If he is of field
rank he should also be saluted.
(g) Warrant Officers Class I are addressed on parade
by the title of their appointment e.g. “Sergeant-Major Brown” but
off parade they are usually addressed as “Mr.”
(h) Other Warrant Officers and Non-Commissioned
Officers are always addressed by their rank.
(j) Private soldiers are always addressed by their
(k) Other Ranks address Officers by their rank and
name except subalterns whom they address by using “Mr.” and their
name. In answering an Officer or Warrant Officer, Other Ranks always say
“Sir.” Do not allow “Yes, Major,” “Yes Lieutenant,” or any
other bizarre form to be used by your subordinates.
“Speech is a mirror of the soul: as a man speaks,
so is he”
MESS CUSTOMS AND ETIQUETTE
(a) When the Commanding Officer first enters the
ante-room of the Mess in the morning all officers should rise and greet
him. This does not apply in the mess room where the officers are dining.
Similarly, any Officer entering the ante room will greet the Commanding
Officer should he be there.
(b) The Mess is not only your home but that of your
brother officers. Bear this in mind.
(c) Every Mess has a constitution with which you must
make yourself familiar.
(d) When your Commanding Officer, the General or
guests come into the ante room, stand up and let them have the best
chairs, but don’t be still or too formal.
(e) Stand up when spoken to by older civilians to
whom you as a private individual would pay the same courtesy.
(f) When visitors come to the Mess whether you know
them or not, you must act as their host. The whole Mess is liable to be
judged by the way strangers are received. If they are your private
guests, what they take is put down on your mess bill, but if they have
come to call or are members of a visiting team, you should tell the Mess
Steward afterward to put their drinks down to “Mess Guests.” Don’t
shirk this duty, but rather go out of your way to do it.
(g) Remove your Sam Browne or Webb belt when you
enter the ante room of the mess room. Only the Orderly Officer wears his
belt in the Mess, for him it is “equipment” rather than an item of
(h) Change out of your working clothes for the
evening meal. In any case, do NOT wear shorts or short sleeves in the
evening. If you come into the Mess after dinner in your working clothes,
ask the senior Officer present to excuse your dress.
(j) Regimental business should not be conducted in
the ante room or mess room, but the discussion of professional affairs
should be encouraged.
(k) Politics, religion, or other controversial
subjects, which might give offence should not be discussed in a Mess,
nor should a lady’s name be mentioned.
(l) Bridge, billiards and other recreational games
should not be played for more than the points fixed by the Mess
(m) Breakfast, luncheon and dinner are normally
informal meals and Officers are at liberty to sit down or leave the
table at their convenience within the time limits laid down. As far as
possible the service for these meals is arranged so that, to a large
extent, Officers can help themselves from a side table. The same applies
when cold supper is served.
(n) Avoid forming Mess cliques, they kill the family
spirit in the Mess.
(o) Do not find fault with, or make complaints to a
Mess servant. If there is anything wrong, you may complain afterwards to
the Mess Secretary, or your representative of the Mess Committee.
(p) When you are made an honourary member of another
mess write and thank the officers of that mess in the following manner:
“Mr. John Snooks thanks Lt-Colonel U.R. Gallant,
OBE and the officers of The Adanac Regiment for their kind invitation to
consider himself an honourary member of their Mess, a privilege of which
he will have much pleasure in availing himself.”
(q) When you have a guest, be sure to introduce him
to the PMC.
(r) Noisy behavior, singing, ragging, etc. at the
Mess table are bad forms at all times.
(s) Help the Mess servants to keep the Mess in order.
Return newspapers and magazines to the tables provided for this purpose.
DO NOT take Mess property to your Quarters: this includes publications
subscribed to by the Mess.
(t) The practice of dropping cigarette end or ashes
on the floor or leaving a lighted cigarette on a table are examples of
thoughtless bad manners.
(u) The senior subaltern is responsible for behavior
of all subalterns in the Mess. He will tell you if you make mistakes: it
is his job to give you advice, so go to him if you are in doubt about
procedure or Mess custom.
(v) As a member of the Mess you must assist as a host
at entertainments given by the Mess. This means spending time and
sometimes money, but all Officers should do their part.
(w) Take a pride in your appearance both in uniform
and in plain clothes. Neckties should invariably be worn unless special
permission has been granted to the contrary. One sloppy looking officer
will let down the Mess in the eyes of visitors. It is extremely bad
manners to appear in the Mess untidily dressed.
(x) Employ a good tailor. It is cheaper in the end.
Well cut clothes are indicative of the smartly groomed officer. “Flashy”
haberdashery and exaggerated styles are NOT expected of an officer.
(y) Exotic hair styling, long nails or public
use of combs, nail files, and toothpicks cannot be tolerated.
(z) Junior officers should not be afraid of entering
into conversation with senior officers in the Mess, especially at meals,
but excessive familiarity should be avoided.
16. VISITING CARDS
(a) Officers must provide themselves with visiting
cards for use on those occasions when they visit or take final leave of
Messes, or visit private homes, etc. An officer’s card must be of
standard size and must always be engraved (NOT printed) in a proper
(b) On no account will an officer who has received an
order or decoration reflect this by the use of letters on his visiting
card. Similarly, it is customary that the given name of the officer will
be set out on his card, not merely his initials. Of course, if an
officer has more given names than can be accommodated on his card, and
for personal reasons wishes his other initials to appear, he may have
his card engraved as for Figure 1. Normally is should be as for Figure
(c) Second Lieutenants and Lieutenants do not show
their rank on visiting cards, but use the prefix “Mr.” with their
Corps or Regiment. This in itself indicates that they are subaltern
(d) The name should not be in fancy type, but in
plain script. Abbreviations in regimental titles should not be used
except as absolutely necessary, due to subsidiary or exceptionally
lengthy titles which could not otherwise be accommodated on the card.
Corps or Regimental titles are in smaller script than the officer’s
(e) Correct cards are as follows:
Lieutenant J. J. C. R. Smudge, MC, The Royal Canadian Regiment, will
appear on his card as:
Mr. John Joseph C. R. Smudge
The Royal Canadian Regiment
Major Thomas P. Muggins, MBE, PPCLI will appear on his card as:
Major Thomas Peabody Muggins
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry
(f) Officers make use of their visiting cards in the
same way as gentlemen of civilian status. In addition however, custom
dictates that when calling on a Mess the officer leaves two cards: One
for the G.O.C. or Commanding Officer and one for the officers.
The officer leaving the card writes in ink in his own hand in the upper
left hand corner on the one card:
Major-General X. Y.
Zedd, CBE, DSO
General Officer Commanding.
and on the other:
Major-General X. Y. Zedd, CBE, DSO and the Officers
Headquarters, Southeastern Command
From the above it can be seen that the visiting
officer leaves a card for the G.O.C. or Commanding Officer personally,
and one for the “Mess Membership.”
(g) When an officer has been posted away from his
station he leaves two cards as above, but this time he places the
letters “P.P.C.” in the lower left hand corner as well. This is the
abbreviation for “Pour Prendre Congé”, the accepted French term,
roughly translated: “On Taking Leave.”
(h) Young officers are advised to make themselves
familiar with the subject of formal calls, and any variations to normal
custom which certain situations may employ, immediately when they arrive
at a new station. The best person from whom to seek guidance is the
Adjutant. In these informal times many of the one time considered “social
niceties” have been dropped, but the fact remains that it is better to
check with local customs first, than to expose oneself to social
17. FORMAL MESS DINNERS
(a) Although officers meet in the Mess on a footing
of social equality, it nevertheless must be distinctly understood that a
Mess Dinner is a parade. Officers so according are under the same
military discipline and are as much under orders as though they were
actually under arms. The senior combatant Officer present is always in
charge, and is responsible for all that takes place at the table and in
the Mess premises both before and after the dinner.
(b) When entering the ante room before dinner say “Good
Evening, Sir” to the senior officer present. Also, if your Commanding
Officer or any General Officer or Colonel enters after you, stand up and
say “Good Evening Sir.” Remember, do NOT click your heels at
anytime nor stand to attention on entering the ante room.
(c) When dinner is announced, the PMC will escort the
senior Officer present in to dinner followed by Mess guests. Other
officers then follow into the Mess room and remain standing until the
Senior Officer present takes his seat. The Senior Officer sits at the
centre of the head table. The senior guest sits on the right hand of the
Senior Officer which is the place of honour. Except as specified above,
places are not normally reserved for officers, neither do they sit
according to rank, although it is customary for the next senior officer
to sit opposite the senior officer on Guest night.
(d) The PMC sits at one end of the table and is
responsible for the correct carrying out of every detail connected with
the service of the table. Certain duties in connection with the service
of dinner may be delegated to the Vice PMC.
(e) The Vice PMC usually sits at the opposite end of
the table to the PMC and nearest the point of entrance for the servants.
He assists the PMC in the execution of his duties.
(f) No letters should be opened or notes written at
the table without the permission of the senior officer present or the
(g) When, at the conclusion of dinner, the table has
been cleared and the wine placed before the PMC and Vice PMC, on a
signal from the PMC the wine is passed from right to left until each set
of decanters reaches the point from where the next set started (The
decanters may contain vintage port, light port, sherry or Ma deira).
(h) The custom of drinking the health of the reigning
sovereign is universal, but the procedure is not the same in all units.
(j) The following procedure for drinking the health
of the Queen is the most commonly used in Canadian Army messes. As soon
as the wine shall have made the tour of the table, the PMC shall rise
and call “Mr. Vice, ‘The Queen.’” The Vice PMC then rises and
says “Gentlemen, ‘The Queen,’” when and not before
officers rise and take their wine, saying “The Queen” without any
qualifying words. It is not imperative that the Queen’s health be
drunk in wine.
(k) After dinner and while still at the table,
smoking of cigars and cigarettes (but not pipes) is permitted with the
consent of the senior Officer present, but this should never occur until
the health of the Queen has been drunk.
(l) When a senior Officer or other distinguished
guest dines at a Mess, all officers should rise when he leaves the table
after dinner, but it is not necessary for them to follow him.
(m) The Vice PMC remains at the table until all other
officers have left the Mess room.
(n) It is customary not to touch the dessert course
until the Queen’s health has been drunk.
(o) At formal Mess Dinners no one leaves the table
before the PMC. However, should you have urgent reason to leave the
table for any reason during dinner, send a message through one of the
stewards to the PMC requesting permission.
(p) On Guest nights, Officers sitting at the side
tables and wishing to send a request or suggestion to the PMC should do
so through the Vice-PMC. If speeches are made after dinner, give the
speaker a courteous hearing -- even if he fails to be witty or is
inaudible to you.