The Battery1 Warrant Officers and Sergeants2 were entertaining the Officers and their ladies to dinner in the Sergeants’ Mess.3 The new Battery Commander (‘the BC’) was the guest of honour, sitting next to the Battery Sergeant-Major4 who was presiding. The tables gleamed in the light of the candles, which also gently lit the Battery’s silver collection. As the mess waiters came and went with food and wine a warm glow seemed to come over the room and its occupants. Oddly, though, as the BC casually observed, the level of wine in the glass of one of the troop sergeantmajors, Sergeant-Major O’Donnell,5 never seemed to change. Were the waiters constantly refilling his glass or was he just not drinking? When the meal was over then came the toasts (‘The Queen’, and ‘The Battery’), after which hosts and guests dispersed to the anteroom to enjoy the rest of the evening drinking and talking with each other, or dancing in the disco in the mess bar. At this stage Sergeant-Major O’Donnell came to talk to the BC. ‘Sir’, he said, his voice slightly slurred, ‘There’s something I think you ought to know. . . . It’s the way we’re treating Sergeant Mallerby. I’ve known him for a long time and I don’t think he’s being given a fair chance.’ Over the next few minutes the sergeant-major told the BC many things that he thought he needed to know about Sergeant Mallerby, and he was probably right. But for all his slightly tipsy demeanour, his breath did not smell of alcohol at all. This incident is rich with cultural fuel for anthropological research. An anthropologist who was present could look at the distinctive groupings (Sergeants and Warrant Officers, and the Officers), they could look at the special nature of the place in which these events were taking place (the Sergeants’ and Warrant Officers’ territory, which no officer or junior soldier ever entered unless on duty or by invitation), they could look at the time of day (evening), or the material culture represented by the artefacts on the table and the way that they were lit, they could observe the way the toasts were made, they could analyse the conversation, they could observe the behaviour of the women (were they ‘in’ the Battery, were they marginal to the Battery?) they could listen to and record the various terms of address, and they could still come out with an incomplete analysis of the totality.