Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Some notes on Military etiquette

Etiquette for the uninitiated, part II

The issue of organising something approaching military etiquette for a fictional country in an unspecified Victorian time period is something of a challenge. The Victorian era saw a large number of conflicts: the Boer Wars, the Mexican-American War, the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Schleswig Wars, the Zulu wars, the Maori Wars, the Sepoy Rebellion, the Fenian Raids, and the list goes on. British Intelligence Office Arthur Conolly is credited with describing the pan-European struggle for supremacy as The Great Game. From the time he first used it in 1829 to the vast destruction of the War To End All Wars uniforms, tactics and even countries has changed dramatically.

My notes in this piece are based on a time period around the mid 1870s and are heavily influenced by British military traditions. Since Caledon is the old name for Scotland that’s always been my starting point, but there is plenty of scope for diversity.

The basic structure for military units is as follows:

Corporal       Usually in charge of a Section or approximately 8 soldiers
Sergeant       Usually in 2nd in charge of a Platoon or approximately 10 soldiers
Colour Sergeant

Lieutenant       Usually in charge of a Platoon or approximately 10 soldiers
Major       Usually in charge of a Company or approximately 100-200 soldiers
Colonel       Usually in charge of a Regiment or approximately 2-3 thousand soldiers
Brigadier       Usually in charge of a Brigade or approximately 3-5 thousand soldiers
Lieutenant General
Field Marshall

Colour Sergeants were originally responsible for protecting Ensigns (which was a rank) who were in turn charged with carrying the Ensign (the Battle Flag, which gave its name to the rank). The flag was also known as the regiment’s Colours, hence the title of Colour Sergeant.

Originally rank insignia were worn on the collar. The newly created rank of Second Lieutenant, replacing the rank of Ensign that was abolished in 1871, originally had no rank marking. Lieutenants had a single star (or “pip”) and Captains had two.
In 1880 the British army changed its system and insignia were now worn on shoulder boards. In 1902 another raft of changes went through the services moving rank insignia from the shoulders to the cuffs and giving 2nd Lieutenants a single star. Both Lieutenants and Captains were given an additional star at this time increasing theirs to 2 and 3 respectively.

Purchasing a commission
The purchase of a commission varied depending on both the rank and the prestige of the regiment being sought. The more prestigious ranks commanding higher premiums. Being cashiered was considered a grave punishment, as the officer would lose the right to resell the commission he held. Officers’ ranks could be purchased up to the rank of Colonel. Promotion to ranks above Colonel needed a service history and favour from within. The purchasing of commissions was abolished in 1871.

Addressing a superior
As a matter of military courtesy, when speaking to a superior there are two differing forms of address, based on whether the superior is a non-commissioned or a commissioned officer. When addressing a non-commissioned officer, a positive response to a command from a Sergeant Major would be "Yes, Sergeant Major!" The proper positive response to the same command from a Lieutenant would be "Yes, sir!" or "Yes sir, Lieutenant!" The supposed difference between a non-commissioned officer and an officer is that of education, which is equated with social status as well as working class. When a non-commissioned officer receives the response "Yes, sir!" to a command, he is more apt than not to remind the soldier that he, the non-commissioned officer, is a "working man, not an officer.”

While there are numerous theories about the development of the salute, the modern one appears to have started in the 18th century as noted by this extract from the Royal Scots Standing Orders of 1762: ‘as nothing disfigures the hats or dirties the lace worn more than taking off the hats, the men for the future are only to raise the back of their hands to them (hats) with a brisk motion when they pass an officer’.

Saluting should be undertaken intelligently and only when headdress is worn. Salutes should not be attempted in places where the presence of crowds or where the distance from the officer makes it impracticable to salute. All soldiers should salute with the right hand unless physically unable to do so, in which case they are to salute with the left hand. The junior member is to salute first and the senior member is to return the compliment.

Saluting ladies
All too often, the courtesy that should be extended to ladies is neglected. Proper military etiquette would dictate that any soldier or officer encountering a lady should touch the brim of his hat in the manner of a salute, or remove his cover in her presence. It is not necessary to exchange greetings or comments with the lady, but acknowledgement of the presence of those of the fairer sex to whom respect and admiration are due, without regard to their station in life. There is some dispute as to whether it is appropriate to greet ladies unknown to one, as it is improper for ladies to greet those strange to the lady unless requiring aid of some sort from anyone at hand. Of course many of the more Adventuress types of ladies will often introduce themselves directly without waiting for a mutual acquaintance.

The listing of ranks with titles
Should you be in the position to require to show a full formal rank and title it should be done in the following manner:
Your rank, Name (inclusive of title if applicable), and any post-nominals.

For example:
Colonel, George Featherington, Marquess of Vulgaria, NFI, WTF
Major, Dame Cybil Cruft, OMG

Remember that post-nominals are different to academic abbreviations. Post-nominals are always capitalized and written without full stops between the letters and should never be used in conjunction with Academic titles and degrees.

A Post Script to the first post.
It’s been brought to my attention that there may be some confusion as to what a Governor might be. To an American a Governor is a head of an individual State. To those brought up within the Commonwealth countries a Governor is a representative of the Monarch, while the head of an individual State or Province is a Premier. A Governor General (Similar in position to a Viceroy or a Lord Lieutenant) is one where a number of States have joined together to form a larger body, such as modern day Canada or Australia, though individual States will still retain own Governors.


ZenMondo Wormser said...

Thank you for the most informative post! Finally now I know the proper address for myself in uniform. Let me see if I got this right, "Colour Sgt. Sir ZenMondo Wormser, ORR"

Of course just plain "Zen" is good enough for most occasions.

Virrginia Tombola said...

Hmmm...dare you address the subject of Naval Ranks? What I know about them comes from the excellent O'Brian books, but that is all at the beginning of the "Caledon Period" as it were.

On the other hand, I've heard muttering about the possibility of a replica Surprise in the upcoming Regency sim, so such might not be inappropriate.

Amber_Palowakski said...

Well written, Sir Edward. Thank you