5.4.1. Life in a Wardroom
Chaplains who go on courses will experience accommodation which varies enormously depending on where the course is taking place. Certain training centres are reasonably rudimentary while others enjoy the full panoply of life in a naval wardroom. The ability to adapt to these circumstances is essential if we are to understand the life of adult personnel in the Sea Cadet Corps and serve the Cadets successfully.
Although in the Navy Chaplains are the same status of whoever they are addressing, for administration purposes they are treated as officers, and as such are accommodated in the Wardroom.
It is important to remember that this is “home” to the permanent staff who are called the “livers in”. The Head of the Family in the Wardroom is normally the Commander of the Establishment and he may vary local rules according to his whim and wishes.
22.214.171.124. “Warning In”
This is often done for you in the Sea Cadet Training establishment but if not you will be required to fill in a fairly simple form which will allow them to forward anything that you might leave and inform your next of kin if anything drastic happens! There is normally a deposit required in relation to keys, etc. and there are some daily messing charges which are remarkably cheap considering the luxury in which we are living.
The bedroomsitting room areas are all called cabins and are remarkably luxurious nowadays. Most modern cabins are “en suite” though some still require you to go off to communal showers and bathrooms. If you are in one of these and using a shower, it’s polite to shout “turning on” before using the shower since it normally does have an effect on water pressure, especially if you are on a “real ship” such as HMS BRISTOL.
It is normal for you to receive a cup of tea in the morning and if you require to be roused earlier they will provide you with a “shake”, i.e. somebody will come and wake you.
However, increasingly it is necessary for you to book this service and in the Ward Room of HMS EXCELLENT there is a pro forma on the Hall Porter’s desk which you should complete.
In most wardrooms your bed will be made for you and wash basins cleaned etc., but you are expected to keep your cabin reasonably tidy.
On the day of your departure there will be a specified time for you to “warn out” in which case you must return your key and collect any deposit.
126.96.36.199. Uniform in the Wardroom
Please do not leave your caps loafing around. They will tend to get impounded. There is always a row of hooks for caps normally near the “Heads” (toilets) and they should be hung there. Do not wear your cap after you have entered the door of the Wardroom and put it on the moment you leave.
From breakfast through to late afternoon, it is normal to wear whatever your working rig is for the purpose of the activity you are doing.
Because a Wardroom is deemed to be “home”, after 1830 people normally change into civilian rig. For Chaplains this will include collar and tie, a jacket and trousers and female equivalents – suit, blouse or skirt, etc.
Most Wardrooms now have a “scruff bar” where the dress code is not enforced, and in some places it is frowned upon for Chaplains to enter. However, at HMS EXCELLENT they are most welcome. It is not permitted to eat in the dining room in this “scruff” rig; and, in fact, the “scruff bar” tends to be the place where the “livers in” get away from those who are on courses. Please respect their privacy.
Before civilian dress code was enforced, it was the proper thing to go to the senior officer in the bar, stand to attention and say “excuse my rig, Sir”. This is less enforced now, but you might occasionally get a Commander who still likes this.
In hot weather you will sometimes see a notice posted saying “Planter’s Rig”. Only if this is done may you remove your jacket in the Wardroom and occasionally short sleeves are permitted, but a tie is normally “de rigueur”.
Wardrooms will vary how they do this, but you should always check in at the beginning of each meal so that somebody knows you are there, and the accountancy department can be kept happy.
Sometimes you will be given a mess number which you will need to quote, and sometimes your name will be taken.
If you are staying for any length of time, you may well be issued with napkins which go into a pigeon hole with your mess number, if not paper napkins are always available.
Meal times are specified in your cabin. Please always make sure that you have enough time to complete your meal before closing time. It is very unfair on Wardroom staff for somebody to turn up for a meal five minutes before the end of serving.
The waiters and stewards are there to help you, but please treat them with some patience and respect. In the modern Navy the Wardrooms are normally run by understaffed and under pressure civilian contractors.
Wardrooms vary on how much of breakfast and lunch is self service. Dinner is almost always formally served to you.
If for any reason you leave the table, and especially when you leave at the end, it is always polite to ask other people to “excuse you”.
Breakfast is normally a meal at which there is not a great deal of conversation.
Certainly nothing hearty is to be encouraged.
It is the only meal at which something may be read at table, but normally only a newspaper which is collected from the selection by the door.
If an officer is sitting apart reading a newspaper, leave her or im there. That’s the way they wishe to live!
188.8.131.52. The Bar
Most of the bars that Sea Cadet courses use are now on a cash basis, but if you are given a mess number you need to write a “bar chit” which explains what you want, e.g. one third gin and tonic. In other words a small gin and tonic equals one third G&T. The chit requires you to print your name, sign it and give your mess number.
Drinks in the Navy are considerably cheaper than ashore.
It is not normal to buy rounds as such, though it is reasonable to offer another officer a drink.
Most bars have an area in front which indicates where you may stand.
Certainly the Navy does not “prop up the bar” but moves away as soon as the officer has been served.
Unless extensions are in operation, bar times are similar to the civilian world.
Although there is a tradition of drinking in the Navy, it is not considered appropriate for an officer to be drunk and certainly not for a Chaplain.