Remembrance Day | 9. Gun salutes


The gun salute has been used for centuries to honour royalty or persons of distinguished title or rank or to mark a special occasion. This custom has its origins in naval tradition. In the days of sail, ships guns were constantly “charged” or kept fully loaded in preparation for battle. As a ship approached port, it would “clear” or fire its guns. The length of time that it took to swab, re-load and run out the guns again left a ship vulnerable to shore battery fire. This gesture was thus considered an expression of a ship’s friendly intent. Other gun salutes are meant as a salute to dignitaries. It is interesting to note these guns salutes are fired as an odd number ie. 21 gun salute. The old superstition was that an odd number was considered divine or “lucky” and used to mark joyous occasions whereas even numbers were often used to mark solemn occasions such as funerals. Prior to 1731, the number of guns used to mark salutes was unregulated. The British Admiralty, in 1731, took steps to regulate this by decreeing that a “royal salute was to be such a number of guns as the Chief Officer shall think proper, not exceeding 21 guns each ship.”

Today, the Canadian Forces fire salutes from ships and by the Royal Canadian Artillery from designated saluting stations nationwide. A list of designated firing stations can be found in CFP A-DH-200-000/AG-000 The Heritage Structure of the CAF Chapter 13, Section 2, Paragraph 9.



A-AD-200-000/AG-000 The Heritage Structure of the Canadian Armed Forces, Chapter 13, Section 2, Paragraph 17

  1. A 21-gun memorial salute shall be fired following the two minute period of silence commencing at the beginning of the Rouse at 1102 hours local time at all saluting stations, on 11 November, Remembrance Day. (see Chapter 13, Section 2, paragraph 9) The interval between rounds shall be 60 seconds. Flags will be flown at half-mast in accordance with Chapter 9, Paragraph 8.


A separate “Marker” round may be fired to signal the start of the two minutes of silence; this round is not part of the 21-gun salute. This protocol has been agreed to by the Royal Canadian Legion. The 2 minutes of silence is sacrosanct.

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