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 Post subject: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 04:08 
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There's a few cases in the CS series where we have former military officers who continue to be referred to by their titles, even after leaving the military - Captain Humphries and Commander Christy as examples.

How common/expected was it for people to use military titles socially after retiring from active duty? Was there a minimum rank you had to achieve to do this? And was it limited to career military, because otherwise there would be a lot of post-WWII people who were Captains or Commanders during the war?

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 08:53 
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I've an idea it wasn't limited to career soldiers. My grandad, who left school at 14 and had an ordinary civilian job, joined up in 1940 and was selected froim the ranks for officer training and became a captain. After he was demobbed, he never used the title and just went as plain Mr, but he used to insist that he could call himself Captain if he wanted. Then again, he may have got it completely wrong :lol:. There must have been loads of people of his generation who were officers during the war, as you say, but I don't remember ever knowing any of them who carried on using their titles. I think there probably is a minimum length of service required.

Captain Mark Phillips, Princess Anne's first husband, still goes as Captain even though he left the army in (thank you, Wikipedia!) 1978. And this is probably not a good example :lol:, but '70s and '80s sitcoms often featured elderly men who were known as Major.

I don't think it's particularly usual, but I get the feeling that EBD thought titles sounded good! It's certainly not unknown, though.

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 09:03 
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My aunt's father-in-law was always known as Major K. I believe he had been in the Indian Army and seemed to be the typical "old buffer" type mentioned by Alison in old sitcoms.


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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 11:34 
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If I've understood it correctly, the continued honorary usage of a UK military title as a civilian is only for the rank of Major and above in the Army, and equivalents in the Navy and RAF, and is limited to those who retire from the Service rather than leave - so career military in that respect. In practice most people seem to prefer not to, at least these days, apart from in very formal circumstances. However, I have the impression that Victorian and Edwardian custom was to apply former military titles in civilian life rather more generously than that - World War One and its aftermath probably put a stop to that more romantic approach.

Like Alison, I think that titles appealed to our author, and for the readers they can add a bit of colour/ give some clue about the character's back story/ help identify them in an increasingly large 'cast'.


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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 17:08 
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That's what I understood too Noreen so in reality Cpt Humphries does not have a high enough rank to qualify - unless he was a Naval captain which seems unlikely.


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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 17:32 
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Mel wrote:
That's what I understood too Noreen so in reality Cpt Humphries does not have a high enough rank to qualify - unless he was a Naval captain which seems unlikely.
I can't recall that it's ever specified, Mel - I always feel he's only lightly sketched in - but I suppose he could have been. I've only known two retired senior Naval officers, and both preferred not to use their rank, but they were of a younger generation - I think custom in EMBD's childhood may have been a bit different.

Edited for accuracy


Last edited by Noreen on 14 Feb 2017, 09:38, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 18:02 
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Ah, but as a sneaky spy (which he most definitely was) maybe he was still in the military and so could use the rank.


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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 22:30 
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Wasn't there something in Roald Dahl's book: Boy which discusses this and one of his teachers is referred to as Captain So and So. Even then the boys noted it wasn't something you did as he was only a Captain.

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 22:53 
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I think not long after the war it was not uncommon for people to still be called by their military titles. I know that in the 1950s my parents had a Squadron Leader, a Group Captain and a Captain (no idea if these latter two are different or not but one was air force and one army I think) amongst their friends. And they used the titles....

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 23:10 
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Fiona Mc wrote:
Wasn't there something in Roald Dahl's book: Boy which discusses this and one of his teachers is referred to as Captain So and So. Even then the boys noted it wasn't something you did as he was only a Captain.


I think it was mentioned in Danny the Champion of the World.

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 00:03 
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This was one of the areas that heavily ladened with class expectations - real snob territory!

As has already been said, using a military title after retirement was (informally) considered to be for Majors and above. Someone using Captain would have been considered to be not quite the thing (one of the clues we have about the Carricks is that he's referred to as "Captain"). It was also bad form for "temporary gentlemen" to go on using a military title after being demobbed.

However, it wasn't uncommon when meeting someone that you originally met in the Services to refer to them by their former rank (including NCOs) whether they were Regular or not.

I wondered whether the "Captain Humphreys" came about because that's what he was when the Bettanys first met him - and they just went on thinking about him in that way. (There's also the possibility that, having left the Army, he's been called up again on the Reserve to do the job in Russia - whatever that might have been)


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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 08:38 
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According to Wikipedia, Mark Phillips - whom I strongly suspect goes as "Captain" largely because, in the '70s, it wouldn't have been the thing for the Queen's daughter to be married to plain old Mr Phillips - used his title in civilian life because his army career had involved working with horses. That sounds a bit weird to me, but that's what it says :lol:. Maybe a throwback to the days when the cavalry was considered much posher than the infantry?

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 11:11 
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EJO and Dornford Yates, both writing in the 1920s, use the rank of [army] Captain for returning officers after the Great War. Joan's future husband is introduced as 'Captain Raymond' (EJO) and Berry's rank as 'Major' Pleydell is used to differentiate him from Boy - 'Captain Pleydell' (Yates) - the narrator.

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 12:20 
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Alison H wrote:
According to Wikipedia, Mark Phillips - whom I strongly suspect goes as "Captain" largely because, in the '70s, it wouldn't have been the thing for the Queen's daughter to be married to plain old Mr Phillips - used his title in civilian life because his army career had involved working with horses. That sounds a bit weird to me, but that's what it says :lol:. Maybe a throwback to the days when the cavalry was considered much posher than the infantry?



I believe it's more any cavalry regiment and is a throwback to when the Cavalry officer had to provide a horse as well as buy his commission. As such these ranks were generally only filled by the very wealthy ie aristocracy. Otherwise it was those ranks of major and above - Group Captain in the Air Force is equivalent of Colonel and Commander in the Navy is equivalent of Lieutenant-Colonel so both qualify.

(Lesley who left the Army with rank of Captain in QARANC and therefore would NOT qualify! :D )

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 22:36 
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I have a friend who retired from the TA with the rank of Major. He only uses it when he wants to add clout to whatever he is writing about in a letter! But even then he has to put Major Jones (TA)(ret.) after it.


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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 15 Feb 2017, 12:56 
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I once worked with someone (in local govt) who had the OBE and he was hauled over the coals for putting that on his letters in the office - didn't seem to matter that county councillors used it (and their military titles) when writing letters on official business!

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 17 Feb 2017, 19:12 
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When I wanted a reference i aked a friend to give me one As a Flight Leiutenant in the Air Training Corp his reference was acceptable his day job as a police constable was not same person diferent title


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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 28 Feb 2017, 14:23 
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Once again I'll take the opportunity of retelling the anecdote of my dad whose initials are WCR Surname. He was on the phone to (I think) his insurer, who called him 'Wing Commander' - in error, I might add. He really struggled with himself before correcting them.

Can't believe that Christie's Captain Hastings wasn't 'quite the thing', and he was ex-army, I think.


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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 28 Feb 2017, 14:32 
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I've got a relation who's P C Surname. My grandad did point out that he would go through life being mistaken for a policeman, but the parents wouldn't listen :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Military Titles
PostPosted: 28 Feb 2017, 21:36 
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Not quite the same thing, but my Dad's initials are WC Surname - quite amusing.

And to cause confusion at uni, we had one lecturer who started out as Dr DR Surname and got a promotion to Prof DR Surname. Very confusing.


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