Saluting and Paying Compliments

There are many origins of the military greeting known as ‘saluting’. Since the earliest days of warfare, men-at-arms have used various types of salutes to greet one another. Our own salute evolved from medieval times when military men often wore armour which included a helmet and visor. Upon encountering a stranger, a knight would lift his hand and raise his visor, thus uncovering his face for recognition. If recognised as a friend, each man left his visor up and the
greeting was completed.
In more recent times in the British Forces, the custom probably dates from a regimental order issued by the Coldstream Guards in 1745. To save hats being dirtied by blackened gun powdered hands (hats were originally removed in a sweeping movement when an officer passed), the soldiers were ordered to ‘clap up their hand to their hats and bow’ as the officer passed.
The Royal Scots in 1762 followed suit with the order that ‘men for the future are only to raise the back of their hand to their hat with a brisk motion when passing an officer’. From this beginning, although there was some initial resistance,
saluting as we now know developed.

Reason for the Salute

Regardless of its origin, the salute is today a symbol of greeting, of mutual respect, trust and confidence initiated by the junior rank but with no less dignity on either side. It is also a sign of loyalty and respect to the AAFC of which the member forms a part. As such, the AAFC draws heavily upon the traditions of its parent service; the RAAF. The RAAF, however, goes one step further in that a salute recognises the Queen’s commission and is indirectly a salute to the Sovereign through the individual RAAF (or RAN and ARA) officer holding certain authority from Her Majesty the Queen.


When to Salute

Saluting should be undertaken intelligently and not as a mindless reaction. Salutes, for example, should not be attempted in places where the presence of crowds or where the distance from the officer makes it impracticable to salute. All members are to salute with the right hand unless physically unable to do so.
Her Majesty the Queen, all members of the Royal Family, the Governor-General, State Governors and Ministers of the Crown (State and Federal) are to be saluted at all times by all ranks. Army, Navy and Air Force officers, AAFC Officers and CUOs are also entitled to a salute from AAFC cadets.
People not to salute include non-commissioned officers (NCOs), i.e. Warrant Officers and below to AC/ACW, equivalent Cadet NCOs and RAAF officer cadets.
There are some important overriding factors which govern whether a salute will or will not be given:

  • Only salute when you are in uniform and only when you are wearing headdress. If without headdress, you are to come to attention and acknowledge the officer’s presence;
  • The junior rank always initiates the salute; and
  • The salute is to be executed in a smart military manner.

Occasions individuals are to salute include, but are not limited to:

  • When approaching or passing an officer or CUO
  • Entering and leaving an officer’s office;
  • When uncased Colours, Banners, Standards pass or are passed;
  • When the National Flag or RAAF Ensign passes or is passed as part of a Colour Party, or is raised or lowered on a flag pole;
  • When the National Anthem (Advance Australia Fair) is played but not when sung as a hymn;
  • When the Last Post is played (e.g. at a Dawn Service on ANZAC Day) but not Reveille; and
  • When a funeral cortege passes or is passed.
  • A common group scenario that cadets may find themselves in where a salute is required is if they are in a classroom and an officer or CUO enters the room, the more appropriate order will be to Sit Fast. Only the cadet issuing the command is to stand, with headdress on, and salute the officer or CUO. Under no circumstances is such an order to be given during an examination. The officer or CUO will understand the extenuating circumstances which exist for examinations and therefore not expect any salute. Should an officer already be present in the room, no further salutes are to be given if a junior ranking officer subsequently enters the room. However, if a more senior officer enters the room, then the officer present is to initiate the compliment.


    How to Salute

    All salutes are performed in a smart, confident manner with precise movements. At the position of attention, raise the right arm in a circular motion at right angles to the body, bringing the right hand to the side of the head. The wrist is to be straight (not angled or bent), palm to the front, fingers and thumb fully extended and close together. The forefinger and second finger in line with and 25mm from the right eye (See below figure). The salute is completed by returning the right hand smartly down to the position of attention by the shortest possible way.
    A good method of remembering how to salute correctly is to think ‘long way up - short way down’. Sometimes you will need to salute and turn your head at the same time. The head is turned smartly 90° in the direction ordered or required. The chin is over the shoulder as the right hand is completing its first movement of the salute. To complete the salute, bring the hand smartly down to the position of attention and at the same time turn the head and eyes to the front. You will be taught how to salute correctly in one of your drill lessons at your Squadron.

    Chapter 2 of the Manual of Drill outlines the
    correct movements and count for saluting.