Court Martial Gun?

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1830 – Present Day Court Martial Gun?

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    Lawrie Phillips

      The Times of 20 February 1919 reports the court martial at Portsmouth the day before of the navigating officer of the armoured cruiser HMS Cochrane, which had run aground in the Mersey on 14 November 1918 and become a constructive total loss.
      The report adds the comment that: “The custom of firing a gun and hoisting the Union Jack to indicate that the Court was sitting was not observed at this trial which was held on shore. During the war this old custom has fallen into disuse and it is apparently not to be revived”.
      Was this “old custom” restored after the Great War? Was there a distinction in court martial procedures afloat and ashore? It would be interesting to know more.


        I found this at:

        ‘The Court-Martial gun (known unofficially as the “Rogue’s Salute” or a “One-gun salute”) is the signal gun fired at ‘Colours’ on the morning of the day on which a naval court-martial has been ordered to assemble. A Union flag is flown from the peak halliards (at the yard arm in a single-masted ship) while the Court is sitting.’

        This is listed by Wilfred Granville in his Sea Slang of the 20th Century (Winchester 1949), but not found in W. H. Smyth’s Sailor’s Word-Book (London 1867, facsimile London 2005), or Peter Kemp’s The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea (London 1976, new edition Oxford 2006).

        Alastair Wilson

          Certainly the custom was revived, at least in part, after the Great War. One was taught at Dartmouth in the 1950s that it was still in use. Of my own knowledge, I can only say that the Union Flag was hoisted at the yardarm of the flag mast in HMS Nelson, the Royal Naval Barracks in Portsmouth, when a Court-Martial was being held, until the 1990s, although a gun was not fired. I think that the custom is probably still observed.

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