Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why a Navy Officers’ Mess is called a Wardroom


Why a Navy Officers’ Mess is called a Wardroom 
Musings of a Navy Veteran


Sometime ago 
 a young Army Officer asked me: 

“Why is a Navy Officers’ Mess called a Wardroom...?

I had asked the same question to a senior Naval Officer long ago 
 in the 1970’s  when I joined the Navy.

Here is the answer:

The Genesis of the term WARDROOM 

(Wardroom is a Navy Officers’ Mess”) 

In the 18th Century – in the British Royal Navy  warships had a large compartment called “WARDROBE”.

This compartment  the “Wardrobe”  was used for storing “prizes of war” – booty and valuables  plundered from foreign ships at sea – and looted in conquests on shores of other countries.

The “Wardrobe” was generally located near the Officers’ Accommodation (cabins).

When the “Wardrobe” was empty  especially during the outward voyage  the Officers began using this “Wardrobe” compartment for dining and lounging  to have their meals – and to congregate and pass time together. 

As the days of plundering and looting ended  the “Wardrobe” was used exclusively by Officers as a lounge and for eating meals.

Gradually  the “Wardrobe” became the Officers’ Mess and Lounge” 

Having been elevated from a “closet” to a “room”  instead of “Ward Robe”  it was now called the “Ward Room”.

Whereas – Officers dined in the Wardroom  Sailors dined in “Messes” on board Warships.

The Genesis of the term MESS 

When it first appeared in English  “mess” meant a portion of food (from the Old French word “mes which means “a dish”).

Later  “mess” came to refer to a group of people  who sat together at a meal and were served from the same dishes. 

In warships  a group of sailors would sit together at one table and were served from the same dishes – in a “mess”  and those who habitually sat together were messmates.

There is one “wardroom” for officers on a warship. 

But – depending on the size of the ship  there may be many separate department-wise “mess-rooms” for junior sailors – and  one or two – senior sailors’ mess-rooms.

Soon – the term “mess-room” was itself later contracted to mess.

So now  in the Navy  a modern warship has a “Wardroom” for Officers  and  “Messes” for Sailors

In the Navy  even commissioned establishments ashore (Stone Frigates) are referred to as “ships” – and therefore – even Naval Shore Establishments have “Wardrooms”.

The Army and Air Force have Officers’ Messes.

To put it in a nutshell  let us say that: 

Wardroom is a Navy Officers’ Mess” 

Dear Reader: 

To know more about the military institution of The Officers’ Mess click the link below: 

A Wardroom or Officers Mess is a happy place where you can forget about rank differences and you can interact freely and informally with your fellow officers.

I have had the best of times and made the best of friends in Navy Wardrooms and Army Officers Messes. 

From time to time  I have been telling you about my glorious days in the Navy – and I am sure you have read a few of those “humor in uniform” nostalgic yarns I keep writing  right here in my blog.

Till next time  Cheers and Godspeed !!!

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