3-Pounder saluting guns

Published on SGT Dave Morley (author), WOIS Shane Cameron (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney, NSW

A ceremonial 21 gun salute from HMAS Sydney as she passes Bradley's Head is responded by the Garden Island Saluting Battery. (photo: WOIS Shane Cameron)
A ceremonial 21 gun salute from HMAS Sydney as she passes Bradley's Head is responded by the Garden Island Saluting Battery.

Origin of the Salute

The gun salute originates from a warship’s approach to a foreign port or allied ship when it took some time to reload a muzzle-loaded cannon.

Discharging its guns showed the ship posed no threat, and the port or other ship would reciprocate by discharging its guns in reply. Today, the Gun Salute is used for ceremonial purposes.

The firing of the salute is done at five-second intervals, with the officer-in-charge using a stopwatch to ensure the salute or response is at the correct intervals.

Navy uses a portable saluting gun based on the French Hotchkiss Three Pound Mark I naval gun, which was introduced in 1886.

Only blank cartridges are fired from the saluting gun, as its function is to produce a loud report and create smoke.

When a fleet of modern warships, boasting the very latest in missiles and equipment, entered Sydney Harbour on October 3, they were saluted by a battery of guns more than 100 years old.

Three three-pounder Hotchkiss guns are regularly used by the Navy for ceremonial duties and are crewed by volunteers.

LSBM Edward Smith, ABBM Troy Haydon and ABBM Kevin Grimes formed the number one gun crew for the fleet entry.

LS Smith said he was honoured to be given the opportunity to participate in the 21-gun salute for the visiting warships.

“This isn’t something I’ll ever get to do again,” he said.

“We had to do a course on the guns and it was a pretty cool course to get on.

“One of the guns had the date 1904 on it.”

AB Haydon said he felt proud to be chosen to fire the saluting guns.

“It’s a really special time for the Navy and to be involved in this is something I’ll always remember,” he said.

AB Grimes echoed his mates and said it was a great opportunity to be involved in International Fleet Review in some way.

Italians Capture Hobart’s 3-Pounder Gun Crew

Three volunteers from HMAS Hobart went ashore at Berbera in British Somaliland, on August 9, 1940, responding to an urgent request for artillery support for the hard-pressed British garrison.

PO Hugh Jones, AB William Hurren and AB Hugh Sweeny were landed with an 1891-vintage 3-pounder Hotchkiss saluting gun using a reinforced 44-gallon drum as an improvised mounting.

All available ammunition, totalling 64 rounds, was rushed up to the front line that night and the gun was mounted in position by 4am.

The type of ammunition available was 32 steel shell and 32 rounds of high explosive.

It was believed the steel shell would be a suitable counter for the Italian tanks, but the efficiency of the explosive was doubted.

The next morning, the three men dressed in military uniform and manned the gun on the main British defence line at Tug Argan Gap, 60km south of Berbera.

The fighting continued for five days but when the British evacuated during August 15-19, the three Australian sailors were reported missing believed killed in action.

They had actually been captured by Eritrean Italians and became the first members of an Australian unit taken prisoner of war during WWII.

They were recovered from Adi Ugri in Eritrea on April 29, 1941, after Italian East Africa fell to the British.