Dining in Night Procedure in the Armed Forces
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Dining in Night Procedure in the Armed Forces

Dining in night is a ceremonial dinner in the officers mess and is a part of service customs.

One aspect of armed forces life is the spit and polish that goes with it. Ingrained are certain rituals that add a touch of tradition and color to life in the forces. One such procedure is known as the Dining in Night procedure. This is formal ritual dinner in the officers mess, at the end of which a toast is drunk to the Head of state , Commander in Chief or King as the case may be.

The Start of the Procedure

As a start a notice is published in the station routine orders that on a certain day, a dining in night will be conducted. The dining in night is normally attended by all the officers staying in the officer’s mess. In addition certain other officers are invited by rotation. The commanding officer or another senior officer will also attend. A dining in night will be attended by about 25-30 officers generally, though large dining in nights can also be held. For the dining in night the officers will wear ceremonial mess dress, which in the Indian Air Force consists of a white closed collar coat with golden rank braids and miniature replica medals on the breast. The Peak cap or service dress cap will be worn with black oxford shoes.

The officers assemble in the ante-room and before entering will deposit their peak caps on the hat stand outside. In the anteroom all the officers will usually assemble by 1930 hours. It could also be delayed to 2000 h, but never beyond this time. The officers will make light conversation and due deference will be given to the commanding officer or senior officer detailed to attend who will hold the title of President of the dining in night.

Serving Dinner

In the ante chamber the mess waiters, in proper ceremonial liveries will serve drinks and snacks to the participants. Not more than 30-40 minutes will be spent in the anteroom. At one end a seating plan will be displayed by the mess secretary and officers are expected to familiarize themselves with the plan and at the appointed time go and occupy the allotted seat. Dinner is served as a sit down dinner, on one table (3/4 tables could be joined together). Once dinner is ready the Mess secretary will announce’ ‘Gentlemen, dinner is served’

All officers will move in pairs to the dining hall, starting from the junior most officers. The CO and the senior officer will proceed last. The table will be so laid down that they are in an elongated shape. All officers will occupy their respective seat, except the CO or the Officer designated as President who along with Mess President will occupy the seat at the head of the table.

Dinner is then served to the officers on the table by the waiters. It could be 3 or 4 course dinner, starting with soup and ending with dessert. However one important point that must be remembered in a dining in night is that all officers out of the corner of their eyes will watch the President. As and when the President closes his plate all officers will follow suite.

Drinking the Toast

The plates are then cleared and the curtains drawn for the next part. Wine is served in decanters along with wine glasses. The decanters will be passed around till all the wine glasses are filled. Normally only small amount of wine is filled for drinking the toast.

After this all officers will rise in their chairs and hold the glass in the right hand. The mess president will start by say ‘gentlemen, to the President’ and all officers will gulp the wine in one swig and say. in unison ‘ to the president’. In India it means the President of India, while in England the toast is to the queen. After this all officers retire to the ante room and will stay there for about 10-15 minutes when coffee will be served. All officers will leave in pairs after shaking hands with the senior officers leaving first.

Epilogue

The dining in night was originally a Royal Navy heritage but now is followed by all armed forces of the world. Dining nights can also be held for visiting dignitaries and I have attended dining in nights with the United States air force. The procedure is roughly the same.

Such ritual s and ceremonies make the Armed forces a glorious vocation. The popularity of the armed forces abroad is also dependent on such ceremonies, which are a cherished part of service life. Dining nights in the Navy are conducted on warships and all officers except on essential duty will attend. The captain of the ship will head the dining in night table. In the warships naval ratings will serve the officers.

The dining in night is a procedure that dates back to hundreds of years and is a cherished part of service life.

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