Something old. Becomes something new!

When the most recent RCMP Quarterly, Vol.84, No.1, arrived in the mail I received many e-mails asking about a particular photograph on page 66.  The question was “is that a RCMP uniform, there appears to be RCMP collar badges on it and the badge of rank of a Staff Sergeant Major?”.  The photograph in question is reproduced below. The picture was taken at a Regimental Dinner and the individual sitting at the end of the table watching Commissioner Lucki serve dinner to the junior member present is wearing what appears to be Mess Kit.  

I must admit I knew that a new Mess Kit was in the works for the Warrant Group, but I have never seen one.  Reviewing the Quarterly there were other pictures with the same Mess Kit being worn. Clearly, being long retired and out of the loop, the Mess Kit for Warrant Officers has been approved, Dress Regulations amended, and is being worn.  The new Mess Kit for the Warrant Officers is based on the early Officers’ Mess Kit in use from 1876 up to 1933, when Commissioner MacBrien approved a new Mess Kit for officers, much to the chagrin of many officers serving at the time, which has basically remained the same to this day.

Early Officers Mess Dress

Ass’t Commissioner Junget, Reg # 3430/O.149 in early Mess Kit – note: no collar badges picture probably taken when he was an Inspector.
Superintendent George Moffatt, Reg # 189/O.50, resplendent in his Mess Kit – note: badges of rank on the collar.

I reached out to my friend Doug Pack, a long-time member of “E” Division and currently serving as the Sergeant Major, “B” Division, who provided the following background with regard to the creation of the Warrant Officers new Mess Kit:

”As you know Other Ranks have worn Walking Out as our “social” uniform for ages.  Commissioned Officers have worn Mess Dress for about the same time.  Prior to 1934, Officers wore the Calvary cut jacket, with waistcoat/vest.  After that time, they adopted the universal pattern for Mess Dress in keeping with the changes that the Army adopted.  The Army and eventually the entire Canadian Forces permitted their senior NCOs to wear Mess Dress and have created a pattern for them, that are subtly different from the Officer’s pattern.

Fast forward to around 2015.  Commissioner Paulson and Corps Sergeant Major Darren Campbell (now Inspector) were attending a military Mess function, where Mess Dress was the order.  The Commissioner was in Mess Dress, and the CSM was in Full Dress/Walking Out.  The Commissioner saw the CAF Warrant Officers in their Mess Dress, and asked the CSM why he wasn’t in Mess Dress. He explained that RCMP Sergeant Majors do not have Mess Dress.  The Commissioner said they should and they will.  Long and short of that. 

So, as the Warrant Group, the CSM charged us with acquiring Mess Dress.  We, as keepers of the traditions, felt that we did not want to wear the same as the Officers, so we researched the prior 1934 pattern and came up with a design that pays homage to that style.  It is not an exact duplicate, but one that draws inspiration from it.  The cost of the jacket and waistcoat was absorbed by discontinuing the issue of an item that is not commonly worn by the Sergeant Majors, that being the Officer Lightweight Overcoat.  The overalls and boots w/ box spurs remain the same.

Rank insignia is 3/4 size in keeping with traditions in the RCMP, CAF and British Army (from where we draw our heritage) that Mess Dress ranks are smaller than for regular orders of dress.  Also, because it is a social uniform, service stars, specialist and marksmanship badges are not worn on it, but the rank is worn on both sleeves.  Medals are miniature, and other decorations such as Commissioner’s or Commanding Officers’ Commendations are regular size because the Force does not issue miniature versions of those.

Reception of the Warrants Mess Dress has been positive.  Of course, there are always a few who question everything.  Can’t fix that, and I don’t even try.  It’s better to light a candle than curse the dark. Suffice it to say that it is a conversation starter, and now some of our officers say they prefer our pattern over theirs.

Cheers from the Tropical Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

D.S. (Doug) Pack 
Sergeant Major
RCMP Newfoundland and Labrador

CSM Al McCambridge, Reg # 37283 and Veteran Garth Hampson, Reg # 19201

CSM McCambridge wearing the new Warrants’ Mess Kit and Sgt. Major Francois Desfosses, (Ret’d), Reg # 31975, former Sgt. Major of “Depot” Division, wearing what is now the old order of dress for formal dinner functions for Warrant Officers.

S/S/M Kathy Rochlitz, Reg. # 45379, the S/S/M for the Island District “E” Division, displays some of the finer detail of the new Mess Kit.

From the desk of CSM McCambridge: “New smaller badges of rank were required for the Warrant’s Mess Kit.  These have been approved.  The badges of rank for the Corps Sergeant Major and Staff Sergeant Major were modified to include thirteen maple leaves representing all provinces and territories.  The badge of rank for the Sergeants Major remains unchanged.” 

A special thank you to CSM Al McCambridge, Sgt. Major Doug Pack and S/S/M Kathy Rochlitz for their help in clarifying the question “what uniform is that?”

Ric Hall 24394/O.1330

Photograph of retired RCMP Superintendent Ric Hall (Source of the photo – Ric Hall’s Photo Collection).