The Sri Lanka Nav, inaugurated 57 years ago as the Royal Ceylon Navy, has been rendering a great service, as the first line of defence, in protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
Of the customary rites it performs, Gunfire salutes on the Independence Day marks the zenith of importance.
On the National Day, or on such important days or on days ordered by the Head of the State, the Gunfire Salutes are: a) On the Independence Day, the highest Gunfire Salute is accorded by firing 25 pieces of ammunition at 12 noon sharp to honour the nation. In the same manner a 21-Gun Salute is accorded to the Head of the State.
The entitlement of Gunfire Salutes is:
1. Admiral of the fleet or an officer of the equivalent rank - 19
2. Admiral or an officer of the equivalent rank - 17
3. Vice Admiral or an officer of the equivalent rank - 15
4. Rear Admiral or an Officer of the equivalent rank - 13
5. Commodore or an officer of the equivalent rank - 11
Likewise at the discretion of the Head of the State, Gunfire Salutes are accorded to foreign leaders and ambassadors.
Three guns of 52-mm. Calibre have been placed at a particular place and two guns are fired while the other is kept on standby.
The time interval between two firing is five seconds.
In earlier times, no watches had been used keep track of the time and therefore the utterance "If I wasn’t a Gunner, I would not have been here, No one to fire" is uttered to mark the time taken.
History has it that these guns had been brought to Sri Lanka from the United Kingdom in order to accord gunfire salutes to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip who were to visit after a tour of South Africa. But, she had not been able to complete the tour as her father, King George VI, had passed away and she had to return.
However, on the funeral day a 56 gunfire salute had been accorded, as the King’s age was 56 years.
At present, on February 04 , the Independence Day, exactly at 1200 hrs a 25 gunfire salute is accorded to the nation.
In 1948, the Navy had fired a 15-gun salute at the Galle Face Green on the first day of the Independence.
In 1949 too these guns had been fired as salutes from board the HMCyS ‘Vijaya’ maintaining one-minute intervals. After the HMCyS ‘Vijaya’ was decommissioned, the guns had been fixed at a place called Galle Buck Bay in the Colombo Harbour.
But due to the fact that Colombo harbour faced rapid development and expansion, the guns had been brought to the present precincts of the Light House in Colombo Fort.
However. from then onwards as a Naval custom and a rite the Sri Lanka Navy fires 25 guns as a salutation to the Nation.