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Base Hospital 21 Silver Mess Cup

Silver Mess Cup, front
Silver Mess Cup, front
Silver Mess Cup, back
Silver Mess Cup, back
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This English silver “mess cup” was presented to the Officers’ Mess of Base Hospital 21 of the Washington University School of Medicine by Colonel Fred T. Murphy, Professor of Surgery, 1910-1919.

Murphy was the first commanding officer of the unit when it was formed in 1916 under the sponsorship of the American Red Cross. Base Hospital 21 took over the B.E.F. General Hospital 12, located at Rouen, France in June 1917. The American unit automatically adopted the British mess customs as all equipment and supplies came from the British, and the American outfit was completely new to military life. Usually a formal mess dinner was held once a week to which officers from neighboring outfits were invited. At the end of the dinner, the cup with champagne was brought in and placed before the Commanding Officer, who was the “Honorary President” of the Mess. After a few appropriate remarks he took a sip and handed the cup to the guest on his right. The guest, after sipping, returned it to the C.O., who then started it to the left where it went clockwise around the Mess. Each officer in turn, stood, bowed, and sipped. The cup was handed, officer to officer, and never touched the table until it reached the C.O. when the round was completed.

Dinner was always a somewhat formal occasion, even on nights that were not formal “Mess Dinners.” All officers sat down at the same time and no one got up until the C.O. stood up and ended the dinner. An officer coming in late first went behind the C.O.’s chair and apologized for his tardiness before taking his seat. While the A.E.F. messes in World War I were dry, Base Hospital 21 was a “wet” mess in keeping with the British custom.

On the return of the unit to St. Louis, the cup was engraved with the names of the 51 American and 3 British RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) officers who served with the unit in the First World War. The front of the cup bears the unit’s motto: Service - Unity - Loyalty.

 

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