21-gun salute
Gun salutes are the firing of cannon
A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees,...

s or firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

s as a military or naval honor.

The custom stems from naval tradition, where a warship would fire its cannons harmlessly out to sea, until all ammunition was spent, to show that it was disarmed, signifying the lack of hostile intent. As naval customs evolved, 21 volleys came to be fired for heads of state, with the number decreasing with the rank of the recipient of the honor. While the 21-gun salute is the most commonly recognized, the number of rounds fired in any given salute
A salute is a gesture or other action used to display respect. Salutes are primarily associated with armed forces, but other organizations and civil people also use salutes.-Military salutes:...

 will vary depending on the conditions. Circumstances affecting these variations include the particular occasion and, in the case of military and state funeral
State funeral
A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...

s, the branch of service, and rank (or office) of the person to whom honors are being rendered.


The tradition of saluting can be traced to the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 practice of placing oneself in an unarmed position and, therefore, in the power of those being honored. This may be noted in the dropping of the point of the sword, presenting arms, firing cannon and small arms, lowering sails, manning the yards, removing the headdress or laying on oars.
The gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

A salute is a gesture or other action used to display respect. Salutes are primarily associated with armed forces, but other organizations and civil people also use salutes.-Military salutes:...

 might have originated in the 17th century with the maritime practice of demanding that a defeated enemy expend its ammunition and render itself helpless until reloaded — a time-consuming operation in that era. Also, the gun salute was established as a naval tradition by the late sixteenth century. A man-of-war which visited a foreign port would discharge all its guns to show that its guns were empty. Since the ship would not have enough time to reload before it was within range of the shore batteries, it was clearly demonstrating its friendly intentions by going in with empty guns.

Salute by gunfire is an ancient ceremony. For years, the British compelled weaker nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

s to render the first salute; but in time, international practice compelled "gun for gun" on the principle of equality of nations. In the earliest days, seven guns was the recognized British national salute because seven was the standard number of weapons on a vessel. In that day, gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 made from sodium nitrate
Sodium nitrate
Sodium nitrate is the chemical compound with the formula NaNO3. This salt, also known as Chile saltpeter or Peru saltpeter to distinguish it from ordinary saltpeter, potassium nitrate, is a white solid which is very soluble in water...

 was easier to keep on dry land than at sea. Thus those early regulations stated that although a ship would fire only seven guns, the forts ashore would fire three shots to each one shot afloat, hence the number 21.

The system of odd numbered rounds is said to have been originated by Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man...

, Secretary to the Navy in the Restoration
English Restoration
The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

, as a way of economizing on the use of powder, the rule until that time having been that all guns had to be fired. Odd numbers were chosen, as even numbers indicated a death.

With the increase in quality of naval gunpowder, by the use of potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate
Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3−.It occurs as a mineral niter and is a natural solid source of nitrogen. Its common names include saltpetre , from medieval Latin sal petræ: "stone salt" or possibly "Salt...

, honors rendered at sea were increased to the shore salute. 21 guns became the highest national honor, although for a period of time, monarchies
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

 received more guns than republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

s. Eventually republics gained equality in Britain's eyes.

There was much confusion because of the varying customs of maritime states, but finally the British government proposed to the United States a regulation that provided for "salutes to be returned gun for gun". The British at that time officially considered the international salute to sovereign states to be 21 guns, and the United States adopted the 21 guns and "gun for gun" return on 18 August 1875.


In Bangladesh the salute consists of 21 cannon fires where it is assumed that the number '21' mostly hails the legacy of the 21 February Martyr's Day
Language Movement Day
Language Movement Day or Language Revolution Day , which is also referred to as Language Martyrs' Day or Martyrs' Day , is a national day of Bangladesh to commemorate protests and sacrifices to protect Bangla as a national language during Bengali Language Movement of 1952.-Background:In 1952,...

 (presently known as International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. It was first announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999...

). In fact the number '21' gets a special honor in the culture and heritage
Culture of Bengal
The culture of Bengal encompasses cultures in the Bengal region, which today consists of the independent nation of Bangladesh , and the Indian federal republic's constitutive state of West Bengal. The two geographical entities share many cultural traits which root from their historical...

 of Bengali speaking population as their language got honor to be the state language of Pakistan through a popular campus procession
A procession is an organized body of people advancing in a formal or ceremonial manner.-Procession elements:...

 on 21 February 1952. The procession saw an armed police barricading where demonstrators including five students where martyred at indiscriminate police firing to crowd. Since then along with the trend of 21-gun salute, many cultural customs in Bangladesh and West Bengal consist of contents largely related to the mentioned event as well as the number '21'.

21-gun salute in Bangladesh is generally used in cases,
  • Martyrs (member of the armed forces
    Military of Bangladesh
    The Bangladesh Armed Forces consists of the three uniformed military services of Bangladesh: the Bangladesh Army, the Bangladesh Navy and the Bangladesh Air Force. The para-military Border Guard Bangladesh and Bangladesh Coast Guard are under the jurisdiction of the during peacetime, but during...

     or other services or a civilian who gets killed in any action or however is honored as a martyr)
  • As opening of the Victory Day
    Victory Day (Bangladesh)
    Victory Day is a national holiday in Bangladesh celebrated on December 16.On this day in 1971, the Pakistani Army surrendered to the Indo-Bangladeshi High Command in Dhaka, ending the 9 month-long Bangladesh Liberation War and 1971 Bangladesh atrocities. General AAK Niazi, the Commanding officer...

     parade show on 16 December and Independence Day
    Independence Day Of Bangladesh
    The Independence Day of Bangladesh , also referred as 26 March is a national holiday. It commemorates the country's declaration of independence from Pakistan on late hours of 25 March 1971...

     celebration on 26 March.
  • Occasions those happen to be largely associated with any national achievements or celebrations.


As a member of the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, the gun salutes are used at special holidays, state funerals and visits by the Royal Family in Canada.

21 guns salutes are used for these people and holidays:
  • The Sovereign
    Monarchy in Canada
    The monarchy of Canada is the core of both Canada's federalism and its Westminster-style parliamentary democracy, being the foundation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Canadian government and each provincial government...

  • The Governor General of Canada
    Governor General of Canada
    The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

     (installation, special events, departure )
  • Foreign heads of state
  • Members of foreign reigning royal families
  • Canada Day
    Canada Day
    Canada Day , formerly Dominion Day , is the national day of Canada, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act , which united three British colonies into a single country, called Canada, within the British Empire...

     (1 July)
  • Remembrance Day
    Remembrance Day
    Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. This day, or alternative dates, are also recognized as special days for war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth...

     (11 November, in many locations in Canada)
  • Victoria Day
    Victoria Day
    Victoria Day is a federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday. The date is also, simultaneously, that on which the current reigning Canadian sovereign's official birthday is recognized...

     (24 May, in each provincial capital as well as the national capital.)

The Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

, heads of foreign missions, foreign heads of government, and the Vice President of the United States
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 are entitled to a 19 gun salute.

A 17-gun salute is given to the Canadian Minister of National Defence when visiting a saluting station (limited to once a year), as well as foreign ministers of defence.

A 15-gun salute is given on certain occasions for the Lieutenant Governors of the provinces, such as the Lieutenant Governor's Speech from the Throne in a Provincial Legislature, or for special occasions such as state funerals of important persons.

Republic of China

The 21-gun salute is used in the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 in honor of the President
President of the Republic of China
The President of the Republic of China is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Republic of China . The Republic of China was founded on January 1, 1912, to govern all of China...

 during National Day celebrations
Double Ten Day
Double Ten Day is the national day of the Republic of China and celebrates the start of the Wuchang Uprising of October 10, 1911, which led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in China and establishment of the Republic of China on January 1, 1912...

. After three trumpets blow, the audience is asked to stand up as the President enters. After he stands in the podium, the gun salute starts while the gun salute music is played. In some celebrations, it is done while the National Anthem
National Anthem of the Republic of China
"National Anthem of the Republic of China" is the current national anthem of the Republic of China .The Republic of China was recognized as the government of mainland China prior to 1949. Since then the Republic of China has controlled Taiwan and some other nearby islands...

 is played.


During the British Raj, India developed a formal hierarchical system of gun salutes. Apart from the 101 gun Imperial salute reserved for the British monarch, the more important of the hundreds of vassal rulers of princely state
Princely state
A Princely State was a nominally sovereign entitity of British rule in India that was not directly governed by the British, but rather by an Indian ruler under a form of indirect rule such as suzerainty or paramountcy.-British relationship with the Princely States:India under the British Raj ...

s involved in indirect rule
Indirect rule
Indirect rule was a system of government that was developed in certain British colonial dependencies...

 were classified by the number of guns used when paying honours to them, signifying their prestige in the eyes of the British. The highest of these so-called "salute state
Salute state
A Salute state was a princely state in India during the time of British rule which had been granted a gun salute by the British Crown ; i.e., the protocollary privilege for its ruler to be greeted - originally by Royal Navy ships, later also on land - with a number of gun shots, as recognition of...

s" (also in some other parts of the British Empire) enjoyed 21 guns (Hyderabad & Berar, Mysore, Jammu and Kashmir, Baroda, and Gwalior). For years, a few rulers not formally under the control of the British were granted 21 guns (Nepal, Muscat & Oman, Mosquito Coast and Zanzibar) or even 31 guns (Afghanistan and Siam).

Salute for President of India consists of 21 cannon fires.

During colonial British rule in India the following head of states had 21 gun salutes based on prosperity rather than military capability:
  1. Hyderabad
  2. Mysore
  3. Jammu & Kashmir
  4. Baroda
  5. Gwalior

And the following heads of states had 19 gun salutes, (21 locally)
  1. Bhopal
  2. Kolhapur
  3. Indore
    Indore is one of the major city in India, the largest city and commercial center of the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. Indore is located 190 km west of the state capital Bhopal. According to the 2011 Indian census, Indore city has a population of 1,960,631...

  4. Travancore
    Kingdom of Travancore was a former Hindu feudal kingdom and Indian Princely State with its capital at Padmanabhapuram or Trivandrum ruled by the Travancore Royal Family. The Kingdom of Travancore comprised most of modern day southern Kerala, Kanyakumari district, and the southernmost parts of...

  5. Udaipur
    Udaipur , also known as the City of Lakes, is a city, a Municipal Council and the administrative headquarters of the Udaipur district in the state of Rajasthan in western India. It is located southwest of the state capital, Jaipur, west of Kota, and northeast from Ahmedabad...


In Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 the practice of gun salute has been eliminated since Israel has suffered many terror attacks and thus the firing of arms has a negative connotation. The 3-volley salute is still used in military funerals.


In Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 the 21 gun salute is used in military funerals and funerals of fallen leaders and heroes.


In Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 a 21 gun salute is used on occasions such as on Pakistan Day (23 March), on which a 21 gun salute is given in provincial capitals and 31 in Islamabad
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan and the tenth largest city in the country. Located within the Islamabad Capital Territory , the population of the city has grown from 100,000 in 1951 to 1.7 million in 2011...

, the federal capital. It is also given on Independence Day
Independence Day (Pakistan)
Pakistan's independence day is observed on 14 August, the day before Pakistan was made an independent country based on border lines created by the British during the end of their rule of India. Pakistan became an independent country in 1947. The day is a national holiday in Pakistan...

 (14 August) and Defense Day (6 September). A 31 gun salute in Islamabad and a 21 gun salute in provincial capitals is also given on 12 Rabi-ul-Awal the birth date of Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

. It is also given when a foreign president
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 or prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 visits Pakistan.


A 21-gun salute is carried out for National Day Parade
National Day Parade
The Singapore National Day Parade is a national ceremony in Singapore that, as its name implies, includes a parade on Singapore's National Day on August 9, in commemoration of Singapore's independence that is usually held at the Padang , the National Stadium, various decentalized venues all over...

s in Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 by the Singapore Artillery
Singapore Artillery
The Singapore Artillery is a formation of the Singapore Army. It consists of four regular battalions and a number of National Service and Reservist battalions. The primary role of the Artillery is to deliver timely, accurate and effective fire in support of the manoeuvre force to accomplish its...

 during the presidential inspection of parade contingents.


The Swedish navy of old used a gun salute consisting of two rapid gun shots. This salute was fired when ever a Swedish ship would enter a harbour in order to identify the ship as Swedish. For festivity events a double salute was given. Four gun shots fired two and two. Here by the Swedish tradition of a fourfold cheer instead of a threefold.

United Kingdom

21-gun salutes mark special royal
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 occasions throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, referred to as a "Royal Salute" (in the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 it was reserved, mainly among colonial princely states, for the most prestigious category of native rulers of so-called salute state
Salute state
A Salute state was a princely state in India during the time of British rule which had been granted a gun salute by the British Crown ; i.e., the protocollary privilege for its ruler to be greeted - originally by Royal Navy ships, later also on land - with a number of gun shots, as recognition of...

s), unless rendered to the president or flag
A flag is a piece of fabric with a distinctive design that is usually rectangular and used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.The first flags were used to assist...

 of a republic; nonetheless salutes rendered to all heads of state regardless of title are casually referred to as "royal" salutes.

The number of rounds fired in a salute depends on the place and occasion. The basic salute is 21 rounds. In Hyde Park and Green Park an extra 20 rounds are added because they are Royal Parks. At the Tower of London 62 rounds are fired on royal anniversaries (the basic 21, plus a further 20 because the Tower is a Royal Palace and Fortress, plus another 21 'for the City of London') and 41 on other occasions. The Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 probably holds the record for the most rounds fired in a single salute — 124 are fired whenever the Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

's birthday (62 rounds) coincides with the Saturday designated as the Queen's official birthday (also 62 rounds).

Gun salutes occur on:
  • Accession Day
    Accession Day
    An Accession Day is the anniversary of the date on which a monarch succeeds to the throne upon the death of the previous monarch.-Monarchy:The custom of marking this day was inaugurated during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England....

     (6 February)
  • The Sovereign's (real, individual) birthday
    A birthday is a day or anniversary where a person celebrates his or her date of birth. Birthdays are celebrated in numerous cultures, often with a gift, party or rite of passage. Although the major religions celebrate the birth of their founders , Christmas – which is celebrated widely by...

     (21 April)
  • Coronation Day
    Coronation Day
    Coronation Day is the anniversary of the coronation of a monarch, the day a king or queen is formally crowned and invested with the regalia.-Coronation Day of Commonwealth realms monarchs:* Elizabeth II - 2 June 1953* George VI - 12 May 1937...

     (the anniversary of The Queen's Coronation, 2 June)
  • The birthday of the Duke of Edinburgh
    Duke of Edinburgh
    The Duke of Edinburgh is a British royal title, named after the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, which has been conferred upon members of the British royal family only four times times since its creation in 1726...

     (10 June)
  • The Queen's official birthday
    Queen's Official Birthday
    The Queen's Official Birthday is the selected day on which the birthday of the monarch of Commonwealth realms is officially celebrated in Commonwealth countries and in Fiji, which is now a republic. It is an invention of the early 20th century...

     which is designated annually as one of the first three Saturdays in June. More popularly known as Trooping the Colour
    Trooping the Colour
    Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed by regiments of the British and the Commonwealth armies. It has been a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, although the roots go back much earlier. On battlefields, a regiment's colours, or flags, were used as rallying points...

    , it is a colourful State occasion where the Queen receives and returns the salute of her Household Division
    Household Division
    Household Division is a term used principally in the Commonwealth of Nations to describe a country’s most elite or historically senior military units, or those military units that provide ceremonial or protective functions associated directly with the head of state.-Historical Development:In...

     troops. It is televised annually by the BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

  • The birthday of Prince Charles (14 November)

Gun salutes also occur when Parliament is prorogued by the Sovereign, on Royal births and when a visiting Head of State meets the Sovereign in London, Windsor or Edinburgh.

Military saluting stations are Hyde Park
Hyde Park, London
Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London, United Kingdom, and one of the Royal Parks of London, famous for its Speakers' Corner.The park is divided in two by the Serpentine...

, the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 and Woolwich
Royal Arsenal
The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, originally known as the Woolwich Warren, carried out armaments manufacture, ammunition proofing and explosives research for the British armed forces. It was sited on the south bank of the River Thames in Woolwich in south-east London, England.-Early history:The Warren...

 in London; also York
York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence...

, Colchester
Colchester is an historic town and the largest settlement within the borough of Colchester in Essex, England.At the time of the census in 2001, it had a population of 104,390. However, the population is rapidly increasing, and has been named as one of Britain's fastest growing towns. As the...

, Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

 and Dover Castle
Dover Castle
Dover Castle is a medieval castle in the town of the same name in the English county of Kent. It was founded in the 12th century and has been described as the "Key to England" due to its defensive significance throughout history...

 in England, Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is a fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC, although the nature of early settlement is unclear...

 and Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. The castle sits atop Castle Hill, an intrusive crag, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three sides by steep...

 in Scotland, Cardiff
Cardiff is the capital, largest city and most populous county of Wales and the 10th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is Wales' chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for...

 in Wales and Hillsborough Castle
Hillsborough Castle
Hillsborough Castle is an official government residence in Northern Ireland. It is the residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the official residence in Northern Ireland of HM Queen Elizabeth II The Secretary of State combines two roles...

 in Northern Ireland. Salutes are also fired in Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...


In London, salutes are fired from Hyde Park
Hyde Park, London
Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London, United Kingdom, and one of the Royal Parks of London, famous for its Speakers' Corner.The park is divided in two by the Serpentine...

 and The Tower of London; on State Visits, at the State Opening of Parliament and for Trooping the Colour
Trooping the Colour
Trooping the Colour is a ceremony performed by regiments of the British and the Commonwealth armies. It has been a tradition of British infantry regiments since the 17th century, although the roots go back much earlier. On battlefields, a regiment's colours, or flags, were used as rallying points...

, Green Park is used instead of Hyde Park. In Hyde Park, the salute is fired by The King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery
King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery
The King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery is a ceremonial unit of the British Army. It is a mounted unit and all of its soldiers are trained to drive a team of six horses that pull each of the six First World War-era 13-pounder state saluting guns...

. The first round is fired at noon (11am on The Queen's official birthday). At the Tower of London, the salute is fired by the Honourable Artillery Company
Honourable Artillery Company
The Honourable Artillery Company was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1537 by King Henry VIII. Today it is a Registered Charity whose purpose is to attend to the “better defence of the realm"...

 at 1pm.

Salutes in Northern Ireland are usually fired from Hillsborough Castle by 206 (Ulster) Battery, although recently they have also been fired from HMS Caroline
HMS Caroline (1914)
HMS Caroline was a C-class light cruiser of the British Royal Navy. Caroline was launched and commissioned in 1914. At the time of her decommissioning in 2011 she was the second-oldest ship in Royal Navy service, after HMS Victory...

 in Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...


19-gun salutes are used for Field Marshals, ambassadors, and heads of government (e.g., the Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...


United States

A myth common in the United States of America relative to the origin of this tradition is that the year 1776 inspired the 21-gun salute. Beginning in the colonial period, the United States fired one shot for each state in the Union as its national salute.

On November 16, 1776, the West Indian port of St. Eustatius returned a 9 gun salute for the 13 gun salute given by the American brigantine Andrew Doria. At the time, nine guns was the customary salute to an independent republic. This First Salute was specifically ordered by the Dutch governor of the island, and marks the first formal international recognition of the United States as independent republic. The flag flown by the Andrew Doria was the Grand Union Flag
Grand Union Flag
The Grand Union Flag is considered to be the first national flag of the United States. This flag consisted of 13 red and white stripes with the British Union Flag of the time The Grand Union Flag (also the Continental Colors, the Congress Flag, the Cambridge Flag, and the First Navy Ensign) is...

, 13 alternating red and white stripes with the British Flag in the union. The Stars and Stripes
Flag of the United States
The national flag of the United States of America consists of thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle in the canton bearing fifty small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars alternating with rows...

 received its first salute when John Paul Jones
John Paul Jones
John Paul Jones was a Scottish sailor and the United States' first well-known naval fighter in the American Revolutionary War. Although he made enemies among America's political elites, his actions in British waters during the Revolution earned him an international reputation which persists to...

 saluted France with 13 guns at Quiberon Bay
Quiberon Bay
The Baie de Quiberon is an area of sheltered water on the south coast of Brittany. The bay is in the Morbihan département.-Geography:The bay is roughly triangular in shape, open to the south with the Gulf of Morbihan to the north-east and the narrow peninsular of Presqu'île de Quiberon providing...

 in 1778 (The Stars and Stripes was not adopted as the national flag until June 14, 1777).

The practice of firing one gun for each state in the union was not officially authorized until 1810, when the United States Department of War
United States Department of War
The United States Department of War, also called the War Department , was the United States Cabinet department originally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the United States Army...

 declared the number of rounds fired in the 'National Salute' to be equivalent to the number of states—which, at the time was 17. The tradition continued until 1841 when it was reduced from 26 to 21.

In 1842, the United States declared the 21-gun salute as its 'Presidential Salute.' While the 'National Salute' had been formally established as the 21-gun salute, the current tradition holds the salute on Independence Day to be a 50 rounds—one round for each state in the union. This 'Salute to the Nation' is fired at noon on 4 July, on U.S. military installations, while the U.S. Navy full-dresses ships and fires 21 guns at noon on 4 July, as well as on Presidents' Day
Washington's Birthday
Washington's Birthday is a United States federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States. It is also commonly known as Presidents Day...


On Memorial Day
Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War...

, batteries on military installations fire a 21-gun salute to the nation's fallen. As well, batteries at Naval stations and on ships, fire a salute of 21-minute guns and display the ensign at half-mast from 8 a.m. until completion of the salute.

Today, a 21-gun salute is rendered on the arrival and departure of the President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

; it is fired in concordance with four ruffles and flourishes
Ruffles and flourishes
Ruffles and flourishes are preceding fanfare for honors music .Ruffles are played on drums, and flourishes are played on bugles...

, which are immediately followed by "Hail to the Chief
Hail to the Chief
"Hail to the Chief" is a march primarily associated with the President of the United States. Its playing accompanies the appearance of the President at many public appearances. For major official occasions, the United States Marine Band and other military ensembles generally are the performers, so...

" -- the actual gun salute begins with the first ruffle and flourish, and 'run long' (i.e. the salute concludes after "Hail to the Chief" has ended). A 21-gun salute is also rendered to former U.S. Presidents, foreign Heads of State (or members of a reigning royal family
Royal family
A royal family is the extended family of a king or queen regnant. The term imperial family appropriately describes the extended family of an emperor or empress, while the terms "ducal family", "grand ducal family" or "princely family" are more appropriate to describe the relatives of a reigning...

), as well as to Presidents-elect. In such a ceremony, the national anthem of the visiting dignitary's country is played, following the salute.

Each round in a gun salute is fired one at a time. The number of cannon used in a battery depends upon the intervals between each round fired. For example, a 3-gun battery has 2 of its guns firing, each at 5 second intervals between rounds, with 1 gun at the ready in case of a misfire; such a battery would be used at an Armed Forces Full Honors Funeral, or for State Arrival Ceremony
State Arrival Ceremony
A state arrival ceremony is a ceremony that takes place on the South Lawn of the White House, the official residence and principal workplace of the President of the United States in Washington D.C., in which a foreign head of state or head of government is formally welcomed to the United States...

 of a foreign dignitary at the Tomb of the Unknowns
Tomb of the Unknowns
The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. It is located in Arlington National Cemetery in the United States...

 in Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...

. A 4-gun battery has its first 3 guns firing rounds at 3 second intervals, with the 4th gun (again) at the ready in case of misfire.

The U.S. Army Honor Guard Standard Operating Procedure for Gun salutes provides a 2-man gun crew (one loader, one gunner) for each cannon, as well as a 5-man 'staff' of soldiers to give the fire commands. The staff includes an Officer in Charge, a watchman (who marks the intervals and signals each gun to fire), an assistant watchman (as a backup), a counter (who keeps track of the number of rounds fired and signals the last round to the Officer in Charge), and a Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (who marches the battery into place as well as signals the backup cannon to fire in case another gun misfires).

Naval vessels now have saluting guns installed which are used solely for such purpose. The traditional timing chant, "If I wasn't a sailor, I wouldn't be here. Fire #1," etc., has been replaced by stopwatch.

19-gun salutes are reserved for deputy heads of state, chiefs of staff, cabinet members, and 5-star generals. For each flag rank junior to a five-star officer, two guns are subtracted. (e.g., for a four-star admiral, a 17-gun salute is prescribed; a three-star general would rate a 15-gun salute; a two-star, 13-guns and a one-star, 11 guns.)

A gun salute is not to be confused with the 3-volley salute often rendered at military funerals.

The gun salutes fired in the United States are as follows:
Number of guns fired Recipients
21-guns President, former Presidents and Presidents-elect. Chiefs of state, heads of government and reigning monarchs.
19-guns Vice-President, Speaker of the House, President pro tempore of the Senate, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Cabinet officers. Governors of a U.S. state, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, a Prime minister or Premier, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, a Fleet Admiral, General of the Army or General of the Air Force and Ambassadors, High Commissioners, and others whose credentials are at least equivalent to those of an ambassador.
17-guns Governor General or Governor of a Territory, Commonwealth, or Possession of the U.S. or an area under U.S. administration, Committee of Congress, Assistant Secretaries of Defense, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, Under Secretaries of the Army, Navy, or Air Force. Admiral, General.
15-guns Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. Vice Admiral, Lieutenant General.
13-guns Minister Resident; Rear Admiral, Major General
11-guns Chargé d'Affaires, Consul general, Consul, or Vice Consul when in charge of a consulate-general. Brigadier general; Rear Admiral (lower half)
7-guns Consuls accredited to the U.S. Vice-consuls when in charge of consulate.
5-guns Vice-consuls and consular agents.

Deaths of presidents

A U.S. presidential death also involves 21-gun salutes and other military traditions. On the day after the death of the president, a former president or president-elect—unless this day falls on a Sunday or holiday, in which case the honor will be rendered the following day—the commanders of Army installations with the necessary personnel and material traditionally order that one gun be fired every half hour, beginning at reveille
"Reveille" is a bugle call, trumpet call or pipes call most often associated with the military or summer camp; it is chiefly used to wake military personnel at sunrise...

 and ending at retreat
Bugle call
A bugle call is a short tune, originating as a military signal announcing scheduled and certain non-scheduled events on a military installation, battlefield, or ship. Historically, bugles, drums, and other loud musical instruments were used for clear communication in the noise and confusion of a...


On the day of burial, a 21-minute gun salute traditionally is fired starting at noon at all military installations with the necessary personnel and material. Guns will be fired at one-minute intervals. Also on the day of burial, those installations will fire a 50-gun salute—one round for each state—at five-second intervals immediately following lowering of the flag.

Cultural references

The title of the Green Day
Green Day
Green Day is an American punk rock band formed in 1987. The band consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist and backing vocalist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool...

 song 21 Guns
21 Guns (song)
"21 Guns" is a song by American rock band Green Day. It was released as the second single from their eighth album, 21st Century Breakdown. The single was released through Reprise Records on May 25, 2009 as a digital download and July 14, 2009 as a CD single...

 is a reference to a 21-gun salute.

In the song For Those About to Rock by AC/DC
AC/DC are an Australian rock band, formed in 1973 by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young. Commonly classified as hard rock, they are considered pioneers of heavy metal, though they themselves have always classified their music as simply "rock and roll"...

 21-gun salutes are also mentioned.

The 21-gun salute are also mentioned in the song named Methods to your Madness by heavy metal
Heavy metal music
Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and the United States...

 band Metal Church
Metal Church
Metal Church was an American heavy metal band. They originally formed in Seattle, Washington as Shrapnel in 1980. Their first album was released in 1984, and the band's most recent work, This Present Wasteland, was released in 2008....

The 2000 U.S. Open Golf Championship
2000 U.S. Open Golf Championship
The 2000 United States Open Championship was the 100th U.S. Open Championship of golf, and was won by Tiger Woods in a historic rout. It was played from Thursday, June 15 through Sunday, June 18 at Pebble Beach Golf Links...

, held at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach Golf Links is a golf course located in Pebble Beach, California, on the west coast of the United States.Pebble Beach is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful courses in the world. It hugs the rugged coastline and has wide open views of Carmel Bay, opening to the Pacific Ocean,...

, saw a unique twist on the 21-gun salute. The tournament's
U.S. Open (golf)
The United States Open Championship, commonly known as the U.S. Open, is the annual open golf tournament of the United States. It is the second of the four major championships in golf, and is on the official schedule of both the PGA Tour and the European Tour...

 defending champion, Payne Stewart
Payne Stewart
William Payne Stewart was an American professional golfer who won three majors in his career, the last of which occurred only months before he died in an airplane accident at the age of 42....

, had died in a plane crash
1999 South Dakota Learjet crash
On October 25, 1999, a chartered Learjet 35 was scheduled to fly from Orlando, Florida to Dallas, Texas. Early in the flight the aircraft, which was cruising at altitude on autopilot, gradually lost cabin pressure. As a result, all on board were incapacitated due to hypoxia— a lack of oxygen...

 the previous October. Before the tournament began, a ceremony was held in Stewart's memory in which 21 golfers lined up on the 18th fairway and hit drives into the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...


External links

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