Formal Guest Evening Forms Part of Old Military Customs and Traditions, Paratus Club, South African Army College on 25 June 2010

Article by: Major Thérèse Bester, SA Army Corporate Communication
Photographs by: Sergeant Leonard Xaba, 1 Military Printing Regiment

Formal Guest evenings are traditionally hosted to enable officers to reciprocate hospitality to civilians. Guests are invited to dine in the mess on an annual basis.

“Formal Dinners were first established in the mid 18th century. While in the field, officers would dine in the mess. Silverware and crockery were normally acquired as spoils of war. By the 19th century, standing armies came into existence and permanent messes were established as the home of the bachelor junior officer. Married officers used the mess for rest and relaxation during the day. The custom of all officers dining together has been retained. Formal dinners and semi-formal dinners are held for this purpose. The conventions laid down have to be strictly observed as mess etiquette is based on what was said to be customs and traditions of the regiment or unit,” as described in the Service Guide for Officers.

Chief of the South African Army, Lieutenant General Solly Shoke hosted his annual Formal Guest Evening at the Paratus Club, South African Army College on 25 June 2010. Members of the Army Command Cadre and their spouses were invited to the event.

Guests upon arrival










As the guests arrived that evening, they interacted socially with one another in the bar area before moving through the anté-room.

Whilst in the anté-room the guests had the opportunity to view the seating plan and enjoyed a glass of sherry. Traditionally it is the last opportunity for a body break.

Sherry table with seating plan










Guests enjoying sherry before moving through to the main dining hall










Guests enjoying sherry before moving through to the main dining hall










Major General L.M. Dlulane, Major General K.M. Mokoape, Lieutenant General S.Z. Shoke, Colonel L.K. Mbatha










The Mess Caterer, Captain Halom, announced “Dinner is served”; the appointed Mess President, Major General L. Rudman, accompanied the guest of honour, Lieutenant General S.Z. Shoke to his seat in the main dining hall, followed by the senior members and the rest of the guests.

Lieutenant General S.Z. Shoke











Guests during the reading of the Code of Conduct










The guests remained standing at attention behind their seats during the reading of the Code of Conduct. The Chaplain, Colonel C.B. Bosiki said grace and thereafter the guests were seated. Dinner was served according to the menu. Guests may only start eating each course once the Mess President starts to eat.

Ms G.L. Nkabinde, Lieutenant General S.Z. Shoke, Major General L.M. Dlulane, Ms M. Dlulane











Guests during the meal










After the last course, all cutlery and crockery were removed from the tables, except the port glasses.

Senior Chief Warrant Officer M.V. Kgaladi filling the glass with port










Decanters filled with port were placed in front of the Mess President and guests, each guest filled their glass with port and passed it on to the next guest, until all the guests glasses were filled.

This was the opportunity for the Mess President to rise; he banged the gavel and said “Ladies and Gentlemen”, all guests rose and the Mess President proposed a toast to the President and they acknowledged by saying “The President”.

Major General L. Rudman, Mess President










Guests were seated while the Mess President thanked the waiters and Mess Personnel. The guest of Honour, Lieutenant General Shoke was introduced by the Mess President and the he addressed the guests.

Waiters and Mess Personnel










Lieutenant General S.Z. Shoke addressing the guests





















Lieutenant General S.Z. Shoke highlighted a few aspects:

“We must afford ourselves the opportunity to join the event namely the Soccer World Cup”.

“As Commissioned Officers we have to pledge our loyalty to the President, who is our Commander-in-Chief and our country”.

“Our spouses support the men and women in uniform. We appreciate their hand of support, which contributes towards the current soccer festivities in our country. Our soldiers contribute towards security of our country which gives the citizens peace of mind to enjoy their freedom in our country. We, the South African Army, are ready to defend our country”.

“We as soldiers appreciate your support and we need your support.”

“Thank you, Baie Dankie, Ke a leboga”.

Guests enjoying coffee, cheese and biscuits











Guests enjoying liquor










Before the guests departed for their homes, they were afforded the opportunity to view the last few minutes of Spain versus Chile soccer match, whilst enjoying their coffee and refreshments.