Naval Gun Salutes

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    Lawrie Phillips

      Why are naval gun salutes always grouped in odd numbers?

      Frank Scott

        The earliest reference that I could locate for this was in W.G. Perrin (ed.) ‘Boteler’s Dialogues’ NRS vol 65 (London, 1929) pages 266-267 where the Admiral is discussing ceremonial with his Captain. The Captain states that when the distingushed visitor departs in his barge he is ‘to have his farewell given him with as many guns as the ships is able to give; provided that they always be of an odd number.’
        Admiral. ‘And why Odd?’
        Captain. ‘The odd number in ways of salute and ceremony is so observable at sea, that whensoever guns be given otherwise it is taken for an expression that either the Captain, or the Master, or Master Gunner is dead on the voyage’.
        There is more, but that is the most relevant part.
        On this subject it seesm that there was an interesting Admiralty edict about not making gun salutes above Gravesend. Apparently the origin of this order was an incident with Queen Elizabeth at her Greenwich Palace & a shotted salute. Ref: Rear-Admiral Gerard Wells, ‘Naval Customs & Traditions’ (London, 1930) p. 134.

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