Acting Pilot Officer RAFAC - Mess Dress Rank Braid

We have an APO on our squadron who will be attending several events prior to OIC where Mess Dress is appropriate, she is in the process of purchasing and has asked what rank braid should be worn.

My initial reaction is Pilot Officer braid as that is her substantive rank, however other staff suggest no rank braid or asking the tailor to emulate the white tabs, however this would probably destroy the cuff.

I can’t see any guidance in the dress regs, anyone had similar query? I imagine the same applies to occasions where Number 1s would be worn.

My advice, don’t buy a penguin suit you’ll rarely wear, get a nice dress for less that you don’t have to re rank and can use for any social event.

Officers are scaled for and issued No1s post OIC until this point they should wear 2a as an SNCO would.

The regs are really not set up for pre OIC staff members to go in mess dress. In my opinion the officer should wear civilian dress at events like this until they have completed OIC. Being a baby pilot officer, they have enough time post OIC to wear a penguin suit.

In the real world, speak to your WWO/Wing Commander and ask for advice. Pictures will get out on SM and someone will take the hump and kick up a fuss. Saying that someone on ACC said it was ok is no defence!


If they wish to purchase a mess dress, go for a good quality one, and it will last for years. I bought mine 14 years ago, and it’s still going strong… And fits.

A quick Google, hasn’t thrown up any suggestion of how OCdts at RAFC Cranwell are dressed in No5.

My personal opinion is to get it ranked as pilot officer, and not worry at this moment about the white tabs. You could always try and find the No1 style white tabs that go on the collar, and attach them.

Depends how many times they are going to wear it between now and their course at ATF.

They wear their ranked up No5s with white tabs on the lapels. They’re worn during a “practise” dining in night during term 3, and then on the night of the grad ball, when the newly commissioned officer cuts the white tabs off at midnight.

If the young officer in question wants 5s, just get them ranked as pilot officer. It doesn’t make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.

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I’m with “themajor” on this. APO is a bit like a probation period so would hold off purchasing anything until she is absolutely certain (and the organisation accepts her).

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It’s their money. Their rank substantively is Pilot Officer. Anyone who complains needs to reassess their priorities.


It is their money, but there is no rush to get No5s and anybody who thinks that there is also needs to reassess their priorities!

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Here we go, found a reasonable pic. I know these aren’t APOs and obviously these are 1s rather than 5s, but the size and placement of the white tab on the lapel is identical:

Except we aren’t Officer Cadets.

What would an Acting Sgt wear…

If your going to do it be a Pilot Officer, otherwise you’d need a white band too…

I’m aware.
My point in my original post was in relation to what happens at Cranwell, given that that was asked. Their 5s are ranked up appropriately (so, in the case of the situation for the OP, as a pilot officer), and also have these white tabs on the lapels. It would be a ‘fix’ for the situation mentioned and would/could prevent even the most anal uniform pedant from hyperventilating.

The same would be a neat solution for Acting Sgts, too, if someone wished to be particularly fastidious.

I’d rather just go to the pub in my jeans


Unfortunately the photos provided are not of Cranwell cadets, but of UAS Officer Cadets (note the airman cap badges and UAS identification badge on the upper arm).

If you could find a picture of a Commissioned UAS Acting Pilot Officer in Number 1s or 5s that may be a better match.

The idea of wearing a civvie ball gown was suggested and may well be the route that she has to go down if the answer can’t be conclusively answered (she has emailed our WWO and Wing OC)

I think civvy ball gown is personally the way forward.

But i am not one for official functions, i limit myself to one a year. A night spent in a dinner jacket is not my idea of a social evening.

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Yes, I know. And I commented as much.

The size and placement of the tabs is identical on 5s.

I wore interim mess dress with white tabs on the lapel (with RAFAC pins through the tabs) and pilot officer braid on the sleeve (ala No1s at IOT). CAC and CACWO were both there and neither said anything was wrong with it, I would certainly have expected the latter to comment.

Here you go.

However, the bigger point here is that I doubt many would really care. It’s not a parade, it’s a social occasion, just held in a slightly more formal manner.

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Had this in our wing recently after a SNCO got stroppy about it and tried to berate the officer in front of everyone.

The official reply from the wingco who had contacted HQAC personally was simple.

Wear it with Plt Off braiding.

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I suppose my question would be: has this person been gazetted as a Pilot Officer and holder of a commission? If they have, there’s the answer.

If not, civilian style attire would be the better bet.

Gazetting doesn’t take place until successful completion of 12 months (probationary period) scroll is the same time and no longer completion of OIC as it was previously