On 9 February 2013, the Warrant Officers' and
Sergeants' Mess of The Stormont, Dundas and
Glengarry Highlanders, a Primary Reserve
infantry regiment in Cornwall, Ontario, hosted
their 2nd Annual mess dinner in honour of
Claude Nunney, VC, DCM, MM. Claude Nunney was a
soldier in the
38th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
(today perpetuated by The Cameron Highlanders of
Ottawa) who received three decorations for
bravery during the First World War, including
the Victoria Cross, the highest award for combat
valour possible in the British Commonwealth.
Chief Warrant Officer Kent Griffiths, MMM, CD,
appointed Chief Warrant Officer of Reserves and
Cadets (the senior Reserve Non-Commissioned
position in the entire Canadian Forces) in 2009,
was invited to the dinner to present remarks. He
took the opportunity as a Calgary Highlander to cement bonds between the
two regiments, and share his deep interest in,
and knowledge of, Highland traditions.
His speech to those assembled is reproduced
CWO Griffiths, the
Chief Reserves and Cadets Chief Warrant Officer,
presents a regimental Quaich to Regimental
Sergeant Major Grant Pyle of The Stormont,
Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders.
Upon receipt of my invitation to the 2nd
Annual Claude Nunney, VC, DCM, MM Mess Dinner, I immediately was
confronted by a number of questions regarding the history of this
Victoria Cross Recipient. I look forward to learning more about this
I also asked myself, “What does a Calgary
Highlander have to provide to the group assembled tonight?”
The answer was clear - provide my perspective
as the last CF Reserves and Cadets CWO, a prior Army Reserve Sergeant
Major, and as a previous RSM of a fellow Highland Regiment with a focus
on the value of traditions, messes, and mess dinners.
With a history going back to at least 1812,
the regiment has a responsibility to not only perpetuate tradition, but
to educate and evolve as required. Change for the sake of change is
never a good plan; however evolution is a necessary. For example, at one
time only men were infantry soldiers and thus there were no female
highlanders. We have come a long way.
Within the regiment, certain practices (based on regimental history,
heritage and routines) are adhered to with the aim of perpetuating the
legacy and strengthening unit pride (esprit de corps). These include the
typical highland dress, music and decorations as well as some other
elements unique to the regiment:
The Highland Uniform and Mess Kit;
Regimental Trophies, Portraits, and
Pictures (Nunney’s Portrait and medals);
Portions of the Gaelic Language
(Regimental Motto and toasts)
The Pipes and Drums; Toasts, Songs, and
The Regimental History.
The RSM is charged with not only the
Development, Dress, Drill, Deportment, and Discipline of the
Non-Commissioned Members, but also as custodian of the regimental
history and traditions, counsellor in the development of young officers,
colleague to other RSMs, and most importantly intimate advisor to the
Through this relationship with the NCMs,
junior officers, and the CO, the RSM perpetuates and protects tradition,
but also recommends and supports necessary changes. He or she is the one
who ensures that heritage is not lost, lessons are learned, and that
only informed decisions are made regarding the future of the regiment.
The RSM does not do this alone. The network of subordinate Senior NCOs and
Warrant Officers as well as colleague Chief Warrant Officers provide the counsel and
feedback to allow the necessary “finger on the pulse” to predict second
and third order consequences of critical decisions.
The mess is an important part of military
life, and the Warrant Officers' & Sergeants' Mess is even more vital. It is the only mess
that you must earn your way into. It is an institution that provides a
location, opportunity, and environment that supports the backbone of the
regiment. The social aspect is often misunderstood. It is not a
“drinking club” but rather an assembly of those who are instrumental in
the development and delivery of the capabilities that are demanded of
the Canadian Forces. The fact that informal discussion regarding
training, development, connecting with the community, succession
planning, and other fundamental subjects, is accomplished in a social
setting is just an effective practise that is not unique to the
military, but has become entrenched in the military culture. Moreover,
it is a venue to impress and influence outsiders. What civilian would
not be amazed?
The key to the success of the mess, is
participation. It is an integral part of the regiment and must not be
considered optional. As with all things worthwhile, effort is required.
I realize that a Reservist must balance their family, civilian work,
school, and military lives. Often, there is not time for all, and a need
to prioritize. All those in the room tonight have been taught to
prioritize, to accomplish tasks concurrently, and utilize tools like the
operational planning process and time appreciations. Make time for the
mess, and the regiment will reap the benefits. Those faithful to the
regiment should also be faithful to their mess. For a Glen, being
faithful is the regimental motto.
Mess dinners are guided by Canadian Forces
guidelines and conducted according to Regimental Customs and Traditions,
for the purpose of gathering the Senior NCOs and Warrant Officers to
dine and discuss the business at hand, as well as to foster camaraderie
and cohesiveness within the ranks of the mess. They are often arranged
in accordance with a specific theme or employ a guest speaker to deliver
a topic suitable to cultivate discussion and critical thinking. They
also differ greatly from Unit to Unit, Arm to Arm, and even Mess to
“The Army has customs, the Navy has traditions and the Air
Force has habits.”
In the WOs' & Sgts' Mess, the dinner is not unlike a
parade. Decorum is adhered to and a format is followed. Discipline is
also maintained. There is no tolerance for drunken misconduct or any
other action that would bring embarrassment upon the mess. It is true
that members of the WOs' & Sgts' Mess are held to a higher standard, but
for good reason.
The mess dinner also provides a platform to
expand experience and acquire skills that are difficult to come by: how
to organize an event; deal with non-public funds; coordinate many
competing priorities; and learn etiquette and diplomacy. The toasts
remind us of our common essence: Service to Queen and country; service
before self; respect and remembrance for our fallen; and an appreciation
of others outside the regiment.
As stated before, there are many customs
specific to Highlanders. Toasts, for example, may be performed in a
typical CF fashion, employ a Scottish aspect, or be extremely different-
executed with Full Highland Honours; left foot on the table, right foot
on their chair, daunting to witness, and powerful to be part of.
Another element unique to Scottish heritage
and Highland Regiments is the Quaich (pronounced "quake”).
The quaich is an invention unique to
Scotland. Evolving over time from a scallop shell, this traditional
Scottish drinking vessel is used to offer a guest a cup of welcome
or a farewell drink. Traditionally made of wood, it is a
bowl shaped vessel for whisky, with a pair of small handles on
opposite sides of the rim. In the 15th century, it was common for
the Celtic people to toast each other with a special type of
Quaich in a form of the “Loving Cup” ceremony. The purpose being for
the bride and groom to share their first drink together as
husband and wife, to toast their love, devotion, and friendship, and to
show the coming together of two families. The cup would then be
passed down from generation to generation to ensure happiness and
good fortune to all who drank from it. This was also the origin of
the trophy cup that is still presented as an award today.
To perpetuate happiness, good fortune, and
friendship between the Calg Highs and the Glens, I would like to present
a Quaich to the WO and Sgts Mess. If I may ask the RSM to join me in a
dram of whisky to forge this bond.
In this ceremony, I will hoist the quaich to
chin level, and give the toast “Slàinte” [slanj] meaning "Good health".
I will drink from my side of the Quaich and offer it to the RSM. He will
reply: “Slàinte mhath” [slanj'-uh va'] meaning “to Your Good Health!”
and finish the whisky, turn the quaich over, and kiss the bottom of to
indicate that is has been entirely drained.
"DILEAS GU BAS" – “Up the Glens”
Griffiths, 9 February 2013, Cornwall Armoury
Claude Nunney was one of seven Canadians
awarded the Victoria Cross for actions on 2 September 1918, during the
fighting for the Drocourt-Quéant Line. Another of the seven was
Acting Sergeant Arthur Knight of the 10th Battalion (today perpetuated
by The Calgary Highlanders). Nunney was mortally wounded and died 16
days after the deeds which earned him the Victoria Cross. He was 25
years of age. His medals are displayed today at the Armouries in
Cornwall, Ontario, the home station of The Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry