View Full Version : The Importance of being Top Lady

1st Jan 2014, 09:01
Discussing over breakfast today some very recent events, my wife - who has had much to do with military and embassy wives over her working life - has told me tales of the unspeakable arrogance displayed by wives of Commanding Officers, top Embassy officials and the like: such wives having no offical status whatsoever but who administer the wives of lower-ranking persons in a reign of terror. For example one Ambassadors wife insisted that her girls (i.e. female staff employed by ***) wear white gloves and stockings at work. Yes, true, many years ago in the Far East. And where in one Regiment - obviously overseas - the Colonels Lady dealt with all problems of infidelity, jealousy, births etc arising in the wives of her husband's soldiers.
Any truth in this ? Any substantiating evidence ?

1st Jan 2014, 10:14
OFSO, I misread this title as 'The importance of the lady being on top',

I note you refer to wearing 'white ... stockings at work' - what's wrong with that may I ask?

1st Jan 2014, 10:31
No evidence at all. But my wife was not the type to play ball; and certainly not going to be terrorised by a 'wife of'. When my daughter was born in a mil hospital, she returned to her bed to se a sign above it saying, 'Wife of Sgt Golf'. She tore it up and threw it on the floor!


(Yes, I know a Sgt's wife didn't register on the scale anyway....)

1st Jan 2014, 10:34
Officers, and their ladies

SNCO's, and their wives

Other ranks, and their women

1st Jan 2014, 10:50
In my experience in the RAF, some wives did assume their husbands rank/status. Mind you, I had the feeling they were the type of 'lady' who lorded it over their unfortunate husband as well!

1st Jan 2014, 10:52
Officers, and their ladies...........Who glow

SNCO's, and their wives............Who perspire

Other ranks, and their women....Who sweat

Ever was and ever shall be.......so they say;)

1st Jan 2014, 11:09
Of the four crewman leaders I worked for, I only clapped eyes on one spouse ever - and she fitted the queen bee bill amongst the wives.

Contrast her with the (acting) CO's wife, a professional in her own right- lovely person, no airs and graces at all. Takes all sorts, evidently.


Worrals in the wilds
1st Jan 2014, 11:12
Sounds like being back at school :eek:.
Even in these blue-stockinged times there's a type of woman who measures her personal success by what her husband and (later) her children achieve :bored:.

Needless to say, I don't usually Get On with them :}. They never gain much traction with women who refuse to play the game, and IME they don't like direct criticism very much, whether in the form of abuse or ridicule. Nor do they like being ignored :E.

However, it's easy for me. I don't have a husband (Fault :}) or kids (Double Fault:}:}) so I can't disappoint either by failing to play the bitch game. I think that's how they intimidate a lot of otherwise sensible women who see the BS for what it is, but worry about making their husband or children look bad within their social circle.

This type of woman has a knack (usually learned at school) for sniffing out other women's insecurities and using them as a bullying tool. IME it usually stems from their own inner insecurities, and once those are identified it's easy enough to play the same game back using the use of force continuum as required. :E

B Fraser
1st Jan 2014, 11:21
There are a number of similar stories somewhere in the mil forum. Here's the gist of one that made me chuckle, any errors are my own.

I remember reading about a station commander's wife who expected to be saluted each time she drove through the main gate. On one occasion when she received a cursory nod, she stopped her car, wound down the window and shouted "Compliment !" at the offending guard. He paused for a moment, looked her in the eye and said "Nice tits".

1st Jan 2014, 11:30
Agree with Worrals-in their eyes it's all "reflective glory." Mr. LG was military and while overseas I was invited to join the Officer's Wives Club-I declined. They were very cliquey and self important. They treated the local staff like crap and I was embarrassed for them. They would have felt very at home during the days of the Raj. I also find the male habit of retaining military rank in civilian life the same type of arrogance (although I think this is dying out these days).

Solid Rust Twotter
1st Jan 2014, 11:37
As a grunt I never had much contact with officer's wives. Their daughters, however....:E

Worrals in the wilds
1st Jan 2014, 11:56
Great clip, Henry :ok:. Aside from the final line ;), as a former Stage Manager I firmly believe that Kermit was always the best SM in the history of showbiz. :D:}
Mr. LG was military and while overseas I was invited to join the Officer's Wives Club-I declined. They were very cliquey and self important.For most of my working life I've been in predominantly male environments; not for any great ideological reasons, it's just been the way it's worked out. However, I spent a brief time attached to a group with a lot of women and they used to have monthly Ladies' Lunches. I went along to a couple but they were exactly like what Limeygirl experienced :eek:. There was lots of point scoring re kids and husbands I'd never met. Nothing about what they were doing, and a few timid enquiries about this were quickly rebuffed.

Given that we were all loosely in the same line of work it seemed a bit strange :confused:, so after a couple of endurance marathons where everyone rated everyone else's lunch choices by calorie/fat content I got Very Busy and couldn't spare the time :suspect:. After speaking to a number of other women in that group they felt the same way, but none of us said anything :(.

IME the 'reflective glory' women (good term) are a minority, but they tend to be louder and more aggressive than other women in any particular group, even when the majority quietly think they're dumb. I'm pretty aggro but in this case even I didn't question them, I just stopped turning up. Unfortunately, all too often they win by default.

1st Jan 2014, 12:10
As an expat who wandered for more than 40 years this struck a chord with me.Working in the M.E. I found that some of my colleagues wives thought that they had suddenly become part of the aristocracy because their husbands were earning a decent salary for the first time in their lives.I was invited to parties but after a while could not stand the wives - a more arrogant and ignorant group would have been hard to find.Unfortunately it appeared to be the English wives who were the culprits - the American wives were a different group altogether.

1st Jan 2014, 12:41
In the RAF, this all changed in the 1980s. In 1981, one still introduced oneself to the Staish's wife, who pretty much ruled the roost.
In 1985, about one third of a One Star's 1369 was still about his wife - really.
By 1989, same Station, a Wingco's wife attempted to dictate to junior officers' wives, and was told in words of one syllable where to stick her attitude.
I think the change had a lot to do with junior officers marrying women who had, and kept, their own careers.
The system was its own worst enemy. The wife who told the Wingco's wife where to stick it had been 'radicalised' when she discovered she could not have a Station library card unless it was signed by her husband. Given she was responsible for 40 personnel in an emergency service, she was a tad irked by this.
The system took some time longer to catch up. I know one nominated Station Commander (late 80s) who had his tour cancelled when he opted to do it unaccompanied.

1st Jan 2014, 12:42
Apparently what started the debacle last night was the fact that while stationed in Singapore several thousand years ago, Mrs OFSO was MI whereas the elderly lady who took grievous offence had 'only' been RAF.

Trumped, by Golly ! these protocol-precedence clashes - will they never end ?!

1st Jan 2014, 13:34
I only experienced this once. I was invited to a small informal dinner party at his home by my then boss (a Commodore) along with several of my tri-service/civilian team (ranging from Lt Col through Major to a couple of RN Lts an army Warrant Officer and a Flight Sergeant, all with their wives). at the time I was a civvy (with Col/RN Capt/ Group Capt equivalent rank).

All the wives were completely free from rank-awareness throughout the evening, bar one. The Major (who I knew at the time was about to be promoted to Lt Col, but hadn't yet told him), had a wife who was a fairly senior professional in her own right, yet never missed the opportunity to assume her husbands rank when addressing the other wives (or anyone else for that matter). I had planned on telling the Major that evening that he was to be promoted to Lt Col effective the next day, but in view of his wife's behaviour decided I'd wait till the following day and do it formally in front of the rest of the team at work (his promotion was, in my view, very well deserved and slightly overdue, as I'd written in his previous OCR).

I heard afterwards that there were words exchanged outside after the dinner party between the Major's wife and the Warrant Officers wife, to the effect that the former was a stuck up cow who showed a lack of respect for her husbands well-earned ability and character. I rather think all concerned wholeheartedly shared her view.

The only other time I've seen the wife thing get in the way was when a good friend (a 2 1/2 at the time) had the misfortune to split up with his wife. As I was living with his wife's sister at the time I got caught in the middle of this. The thing that struck me then was that my friend was far more concerned about the impact a divorce was going to have on his naval career prospects than he was about the emotional trauma of having his wife run off with another bloke.

1st Jan 2014, 13:48
Certainly must have been the 80s or 90s when it all changed. I recall a mate of mine who got command of a sqn in late-ish 80s.

As it happened, he had - and lived in - a house of his own about 7 miles from the Station. So he asked the Staish if he could stay there rather than move into "Nob Hill" (Senior Officers' MQs).

Request refused, with words along the lines of:

"It's not that you couldn't do your job from there, but I'm not sure ***** (wife of) could do hers!" :eek::eek:

1st Jan 2014, 14:24
Of the four crewman leaders I worked for, I only clapped eyes on one spouse ever - and she fitted the queen bee bill amongst the wives.

Contrast her with the (acting) CO's wife, a professional in her own right- lovely person, no airs and graces at all. Takes all sorts, evidently.

Old neighbour tells the story of similar when Queen Bee attempting put down of his wife as someone new and addressing her as Sgt X's wife and pointed reply was its Dr, you know, as in the Medical one you go to when need to remove the broom that seems to be stuck up your ****.

He didn't know anything about it until he one night down the pub, a toast was raised to Dr X. Thinking they taking the P and upset until explained that the other wifes loved her for doing it and it made her instantly popular among wives which made most of Husbands lives good.

1st Jan 2014, 15:02
As a staff QHI it was my ACR time. Our new Sqn Cdr interviewed me and to my great surprise and indignation he included my wife's contribution to the station. I couldn't help saying that I didn't think that was appropriate unless she was there in person to hear it for herself! That didn't help my promotion prospects one bit, I'm sure. But seeing that I was also criticised about my ongoing refusal to take the C exam, it made no difference. :rolleyes:

Krystal n chips
1st Jan 2014, 16:00
I think the change began in the late 70's.

Whilst there were still plenty of the "do you know who my husband is" brigade, they were a dying breed. I knew one Wg Cmdr's wife who was a very down to earth lady and who was far from averse from telling the gliding club that she had to go to " another f$%$ing boring do in the Mess"....a P.M.Nurse who resigned her commission to marry a J/T....but, there's always one.

A former Flt.Lt boss, possibly the most woefully incompetent man manager ever, told one of our Sgts to deliver a report to his M.Q...said Sgt was greeted by "madam" with the words "it's some Sgt for you"....sadly, the Air Force actually recognised her darling husbands incompetence and thus posted him to Harrogate, rather than Swanton Morley, and "madam" was, seemingly distraught as she already had a horse selected !...karma as they say.

It's the same however in the civilian world, at times.

One happy Saturday night / Sun morning, in the peak of summer with a charter airline, who should appear at about 02.00, as you do, but the Station Eng and his wife who opined " there were far too many engineers ( all 5 of us ! ) and not enough work being done"...which, as we had just dispatched some 14 aircraft from about 20.00hrs onwards was true....sadly, her husband also displayed his incompetence and duly "left to pursue other avenues"........ after the space of a "one way" interview that took all of 30mins one day.

The "former rank" brigade however seem to be consistent.

Several "Sqdn, Ldr *( retired) amongst recruitment consultants over the years and indeed, I know one " I used to be a Chief Tech, you know" who takes exception to being informed that he's now just another civilian....so shut it.

He still goes to the Sgts.Mess Winter and Summer Balls every year....he left the R.A.F some 20 years ago.

1st Jan 2014, 16:27
I have the interesting position of having held a notional service rank for all of my working life, for a fair while travelled with a passport bearing the red stamp in the front that said words to the effect that "the holder of this passport is to be treated as a member of her Britannic Majesty's forces serving overseas") and yet was (generally) exempt from service rules (except when being issued with a gun and told I was part of the force that was to defend the Akrotiri SBA back in 1974, when the Turks invaded).

During leisure time overseas one inevitably escaped the mess whenever possible and made for the local British Club, or its equivalent. These places still very much had the air of the old Raj, and were inevitably ruled by senior officers wives who very definitely ruled the roost over all lower ranks.

I recall being at one do with my then girlfriend, who was over on leave and staying with me in a local hotel. The CO's wife came over and asked us to leave on the basis that my hair was too long. I politely told her that she was only the CO's wife, that I wasn't in the bloody RAF anyway, and that we were there at her husbands express invitation, so would she please mind her own business. I don't think I've seen anyone turn such a bright red and storm off in such a way.

To balance thing up, though, I recall the two of us (me, with then girlfriend) being on Sheiks beach one Friday whilst I was working in Bahrain, and being invited to take tea with the sheik in residence at the beach pavilion. It turned out that the sheik there was the then minister of defence, who was a charming chap, with whom we had a fascinating conversation. We even got an invite to a party at the Amir's palace a couple of weeks later, where although we were segregated we both had a great time (and were given some rather lavish gifts by the then Amir, Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa). There were quite a few other military folk and their wives there and I didn;t see a trace of the wives playing on their husbands rank.

1st Jan 2014, 18:22
I know of one notable exception to all this - whereby the wife of the senior officer was charming, down to earth and all in all a good laugh -whilst "he" was a total bellend.

Princess Anne.

1st Jan 2014, 20:05
Mid-90s, had a new 2 star commander of 3rd Air Force show up at RAF Mildenhall. Or, should I say, his wife showed up, he just tagged along. She was given full permission by the general to wear his rank and was given full command over all matters related to base housing, billeting, building decoration, and other "homey" kinds of issues. She not only wore the 2 star's rank, I think she presumed a 3rd star all on her own. It all wouldn't have been so bad if she had been a decent human being but she was a nasty piece of self-absorbed, arrogant, opinionated, rude, mouthy work with absolutely no self awareness at all.

She was given direct access to our base civil engineer who was offered no top cover whatsoever. I literally watched the poor man go grey in 12 months between the relentless pressure of the wife and the unreasonable demands of the general. Things got so bad with the wife that the civil engineer took a senior NCO out of his regular job and appointed him to be her personal works manager - and that, no lie, became his full time job. And she abused him senseless, too.

1st Jan 2014, 22:28
When I left the UK for a period unknown - later proved to be terminal - I "let" my house to a recently divorced lady of my acquaintance for a peppercorn rent to look after the place, in order to give her somewhere to live, and also keep my interest in the home should I need to return earlier than anticipated.

Subsequently she re-married, to a local Army Base Commander, and he wrote to me advising that his new wife refused to live "on camp", nor in the private house that he also owned nearby, preferred mine, so would I move my furniture in to storage and enter in to a now formal Rental Agreement ?

I decided to sell the place, and instructed a local agent. I was then informed by the Colonel that I hadn't entered into a formal Agreement when I moved out, and as his wife preferred my house to the alternatives they would stay as they were and I would have to go to Court to move them, and I wasn't trying to evict them to re-occupy myself, but to make a profit, so fat chance in his opinion. - Nice.

A solicitor started to prepare what was obviously going to be a lengthy and expensive case, but I wrote to the General Officer Commanding Land Forces UK, and advised that one of his Hofficers, owning a private house from which he was making some rental income, and being in possession of a Taxpayer funded Married Quarter that he left empty, was treating me this way, and did said General consider that any further advancement of this officers career was appropriate?

I copied my letter to the Colonel, and they moved out the day after receipt - Madam was ensconced on the Married Patch. I often wondered how she coped. Tough.

My solicitor was not amused, after all he had lost a hefty fee for Court proceedings, and accused me of being unethical !

The end justified the means,tough,but for once I was lucky to have some leverage.

1st Jan 2014, 22:56
but I wrote to the General Officer Commanding Land Forces UK, and advised that one of his Hofficers, owning a private house from which he was making some rental income, and being in possession of a Taxpayer funded Married Quarter that he left empty, was treating me this way, and did said General consider that any further advancement of this officers career was appropriate?

I copied my letter to the Colonel, and they moved out the day after receipt - Madam was ensconced on the Married Patch. I often wondered how she coped. Tough.


Bet that was a sit down chat with tea and biscuits with no chair, tea or biscuits available :)

Love to have been a fly on the wall when he returned home and told the new wife.

2nd Jan 2014, 00:11
Being accused by a solicitor of being unethical?
You were lucky you didn't die laughing!

2nd Jan 2014, 00:38
I thought solicitors' professional ethics only extended as far as not eating shark.

Rwy in Sight
16th Jan 2014, 07:16
Well the wife of a school mate should get a mention here. He is with the national diplomatic service and she really likes to point out to any one who cares to listen how great life she has and how important she is and all the place she has visited and the receptions she atteneded.

The point here is that my old school mate does not seem to be bothered by his wife's behaviour and makes sure he gives her more opportunities to show off.

Maybe I am lucky I do not see the pair or my mate any longer.

Rwy in Sight

Alloa Akbar
16th Jan 2014, 08:10
When I worked with US Defense (Spelling respectfully incorrect for our US friends!) I used to love going to things like A/TA and the SOC events, as quite simply Senior Officers "Ladies" were a brilliant spectator sport.. One often struggled to determine whether the ladies were in fact spouses inappropriately dressed or one of the many hookers and wannabe's loitering in the foyer looking for an introduction :O

16th Jan 2014, 12:47
No such problems among the expats in Borneo. The military folks had their own school on camp and we civilians had our own International School, the military had their various messes and we had our Yacht Club. The school and the Yacht Club were the centre of expat social life. Parents at the International School ranged from HM The Sultan's wife - who was indisputably the "Top Lady" - and his Sister, down through the Diplomatic Corps and Brunei Government Officers to airline engineer peasants like oneself. A jolly time was had by all. There was one wife in the airline who declined to mix with the other wives after her husband was promoted to Superintendent, but she had a bit of a lonely time after that.

16th Jan 2014, 21:37
As a junior officer, I crossed swords a number of times with 'wives of...' senior officers, which probably did my promotion prospects no good at all. The worse offender who comes immediately to mind was the wife of the PMC in one of the O's Messes I lived in. She seemed to think that the Mess was hers, demanding the Boggies vacate if she brought guests into the bar and demanding that HER selection of music be played etc.

Different Mess, different Base: we had an ex-Royal Navy FAA pilot transfer to the RAAF and at the first social occasion after his arrival, his wife turned up wearing a silver broach on her left collar showing his Royal Navy rank and his wings, which apparently was de rigeur for the 'wives of...' in the RN/FAA. Needless to say, the unfortunate woman did not ever turn up to a Mess or Squadron social function sporting that item of jewellery ever again.