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Leviticus 234/48: Dining In Reflections ... and Future Occasions ...

First experience was in the Royal Air Force. My Station Commander was Grp. Capt. Lousada [left] at Cardington to which I was posted in Spring 1957 and remained there until I transferred to the RAF Reserves for 5 years in September 1958. It was at his command that we entered the Officers' Mess, for Dining In Nights.

The Officers shown at Dinner are not alas from Cardington since no amount of searching on the internet could trace any record but the room is similar and the occasion is precisely as recalled. What research did show is the origins of these occasions … Dining In is thought to have formally begun in sixteenth-century England in monasteries and universities although some records indicate that militaries have held formal dinners as far back as the Roman Legions. During the eighteenth century the British Army incorporated the practice of formal dining into their Regimental Mess system. Customs and rules of the Mess were soon institutionalized and included even in "King's/ Queen's Regulations". The Dining In became a tradition in all British regiments whilst the Americans taking many of their traditions from the British military did likewise in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries although the tradition waned after the Civil War. During World War II the custom was revived in the US Army's 8th Air Force based in Britain. Their Officers were invited to participate in British Mess Nights and then obligated to reciprocate! Dining In Nights are formal dinners for members of the Mess at which it is usual to 'Dine-Out' any Officer leaving the unit. The tradition was inherited by the Royal Air Force due to its main predecessor being the Royal Flying Corps, hitherto part of the Army. One of the most significant features of all such occasions was The Loyal Toast. At such Dinners the port and madeira decanters are placed at pre-determined places and in front of the President and Vice President. They remove their stoppers simultaneously and pass the decanters in a clockwise direction/to the left. Wine stewards follow the decanters round the table with a jug of water filling the glass of any diner who declines port or madeira. Then the President and Vice President will fill theirs' last after which they re-stop the decanters. All stewards will then be required to leave the dining room before the President calls upon the Vice President to propose the Loyal Toast. It should be remembered that whilst the Army and Royal Air Force stand for the Loyal Toast the Royal Navy remain seated. While passing the decanters Royal Navy stewards traditionally ensure the decanter does not leave the table, typically by tipping the decanter to fill a glass held below the table edge before sliding it to the next guest. In the Royal Air Force it is passed from hand to hand without touching the table.
My next encounter was at St Patrick's Hall University of Reading … .. to which I was translated in October 1958 and where I continued as an Air Training Corps Officer. And as chance will have it there was an archive picture of the very Dining Hall we used for Formals, as Dining In Nights were known. Essentially it implied that undergraduate or better gowns not hoods must be worn. Because of the agricultural inclinations of many undergraduates at Reading it was always held in my time at 7.15 so that all who were so inclined could listen to The Archers on BBC radio. We dined thus every night not occasionally or as some Oxbridge Colleges do as a Second Sitting only.

Not sure why the caption on that picture reads as it does but it's presumably in jest!
And so to the new tradition at The Lodge. Firstly no latin grace which we had at Reed's School but still haven't tracked down; just a three course Dining In Night with cocktails before. Cocktails were Martini or Campari with Russchian and a slice of lemon. No ice. Stirred. Inaugural Dinner began with Cornish Crab Pâté followed by Moussaka with Fennel. For dessert, optional, a Baked Apple with Custard. Volvic Mineral Water and Gavi White wine accompanied the meal. It was a great success much so that we overslept today and then read the Sunday newspapers meaning Brunch was the order of the morning - Poached Egg and Avocado on an English Muffin. We debated whether Saturday would always be the best night for Dining In at The Lodge but decided it should be since a Saturday, even though it comes after Fish Friday and before Sunday Roast, was an appropriate day - psychologically.

Published Date: January 10th 2021

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