When I joined the Civil Service at 19, as a newly acquired ‘computer programmer’, one of the other staff told me that my equivalent grade was a Sub-Lieutenant (navy), an army Lieutenant or a RAF Flying Officer, and that people must salute if you visit a base on official business.
I didn’t, so they didn’t. Although I visited an army base several times as a ‘wife’ – and was (incorrectly I learned later) entertained in the Warrant Officer’s club – I left that job without experiencing any salutes even though I was by then in the giddy heights of Lieutenant/Captain/Flight Lieutenant.
Many years later, I re-entered in the guise of equivalent to Lieutenant Commander/Major/Squadron Leader, before moving up rapidly up to a Captain, a Colonel or a Group Captain. But apart from visits to some of the larger Customs House offices*, I never visited a ship or army base.
Then a little later, while placed firmly midway before those levels and their next stage of Commodore/Brigadier/Air Commodore, I did visit the MoD offices, and even the US Embassy – but no one saluted.
I guessed I was just not the sort of man other’s saluted.
Although there were some subtle hints they’d realised the other truth. I might have suspected they’d realised I was just a girl under the black trousers after so many entrepreneurs asked to speak to my boss, ‘my dear’ – when the only male around from the team was the one who did my filing.
Or maybe from to the time when they escorted my staff through into a meeting and tried to do the introductions while I was still stuck with the all male guards at the metal detector outside – they had it set so high I’d have had to remove an undergarment to pass, and maybe my teeth too.
My team waited for me, and there were flustered apologies, but I was getting increasingly irritated by such things as my health made doing my job physically hard even on good days. Expected to stand in a long queue outside the building, with no disabled facilities, then debating my belongings and underwear with security staff until I was late, all when I was doing them a favour?
Never mind a salute – I’d want a red carpet and police escort to go back.
and a band playing my song
the one I wrote
* Oh, and the Mayor of London’s parlour in the strange vertigo inducing building.