Chris, you wouldn't believe who I said that to - some very high ranking officers indeed. Actually, they were the funniest of all because you'd invariably hear a sharp intake of breath, a brief pause, then they'd continue as if nothing had happened.
One of the most memorable telephone stories I heard was about an airman who was passing by his Squadron Commander's office as the phone was ringing somewhat persistently. He answered it, saying something like, "You can let this phone ring as long as you like, the old 6ugger's out playing golf for the rest of the afternoon again". The voice at the other end of the line roared back, "Do you know who you're speaking to?"
"No", said the airman.
"This is the Air Officer Commanding!"
The airman replied, "And do you know who you're speaking to?"
"You can buzz off then", said the airman and slammed the phone down.
Sorry about the choice language, but that's the way I heard the story.
It was a formal dinner and the Padre was being 'dined out' as the Officers' Mess guest. So was I, as it happened; however, The Big Boss seemed to overlook that minor detail. Anyway, before we could tuck into the the lovely meal set before us, it was customary for 'Grace' to be said. Since the Padre was our guest, he couldn't say Grace. So The Big Boss (without warning me beforehand) called on me to say it instead.
Being the heathen that I am, I'd never paid much heed to the Grace before - it always seemed to me like the commentator at the Grand National when he says, "They're under starters orders....... They're off!" and just as the horses would bolt down the course, so everyone at the dinner would bolt down the food. All I could remember was, "For what we are about to receive may..." and then my mind went almost blank. I couldn't remember the rest of it. All I knew was that every muscle in my body was yearning to complete the phrase with "... the Lord have mercy on your souls."
I knew that wasn't right.
So I just said, "Rub a dub dub, thank God for the grub."
Nobody else spoke to me for the rest of the evening.
I have a neighbour who is an Army Chaplain. He has a great life, skiing, canoeing, mountaineering - doing all the things he loves without having to kill people first, and getting paid for it. He tells me that at formal dinners no-one is allowed to go to the loo. Exceptions are made for the retired generals etc, but anyone under 65 has to cross their legs.
I don't understand the mentality in the armed forces, I'm afraid.