In the Canadian Armed Forces, there three separate messes exist:
- Officers Mess (commissioned officers)
- Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess
- Junior Ranks Mess.
On many bases, the messes are considered “home” for those who live in quarters. They are also the centre of social life and promote a sense of community on the base or ship. They would be the equivalent to a civilian country club or social club.
Mess activities do not receive funding from taxpayers dollars. Military members have a certain amount deducted from each month’s pay as mess dues. This usually shows up on the pay statement under the NPF (non-public funds) deduction.
Ordinary mess members are those who pay dues to the mess through their military pay. Other classes of membership exist depending on the mess, including Associate Members and Honorary Members. These types of members can be retired military personnel or other civilians who wish to join. Depending on the bylaws of the particular mess, other membership categories have different privileges than Ordinary Members.
Spouses are not mess members unless they too are in the Forces and paying mess dues. If spouses are of different rank, they pay dues to different messes. This does not entitle them to membership in their spouse’s mess, only their own.
Managed as not-for-profit associations, messes have a constitution, bylaws, policies. They have an Annual General Meeting where the Mess Committee discloses the financial statements and other business to the mess membership. The Mess Committee is lead by the PMC (President of the Mess Committee). There is also a VPMC (Vice-President), Secretary, Treasurer and various other committee members depending on the mess bylaws.
Messes are steeped in tradition many of which go back hundreds of years. It is important to respect and honour those traditions. Messes will have paintings of battles and portraits of significant commanding officers hanging on the walls. There will be display cases filled with artifacts from various battles in which the regiment fought. Again, these are revered artifacts and should be treated as such.
I have very much enjoyed any time I’ve spent in various messes. It is an amazing place to learn unique facts about Canadian history and see artifacts and hear stories and learn things beyond what you would see in a museum.
What do you enjoy about the mess?