Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

TL;DR – Everything you need to know about our impressive 21-gun salute.

So you might have heard about the gun shells from the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s 21-gun salute at his State funeral being presented to 21 different organisations/ individuals. If you’re like us wondering what’s the deal with these artillery shell casings, well, we’ve combed the Internet and even spoke to MINDEF and got your questions covered.

The 21 shell casings from the 21-gun salute will be given to individuals and organisations closely associated with the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
The 21 shell casings from the 21-gun salute will be given to individuals and organisations closely associated with the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

What exactly is the 21-gun salute? During what occasions will the 21-gun salute be conducted in Singapore?

This is a tradition for honouring command handed down to us from the British Royal Navy. As a mark of respect, it is usually fired in joy or sorrow.

In Singapore, a 21-gun salute is carried out for our National Day Parades by the Singapore Artillery during the presidential inspection of parade contingents.

Check out this video for more deets:


Are there other types of salutes besides the 21-gun salute? i.e. with other number of shots?

So while the 21-gun salute is the most commonly recognised one, the number of rounds fired in any given salute actually varies, depending on the conditions. Factors that can influence these variations include the occasion, and in the case of military and State funerals, factors can include the office and standing of the person to whom honours are being rendered.

The higher the number of rounds fired, the higher the rank.

21 rounds are reserved only for the Head of State.

Tidbit! There are 8 special 25-pounder guns that were used to protect Singapore during World War 2 and they still remain today.

When and where did the first 21-gun salute take place in Singapore?


On 9 August 1966 – Singapore’s first National Day celebrations. The parade at the Padang began at 9 am with the arrival of then President Yusof bin Ishak, who was greeted by then Defence Minister and Colonel of the Artillery Goh Keng Swee on the steps of City Hall.

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The playing of the national anthem was followed by the presidential salute and a 21-gun salute that thundered out from the grounds of Raffles Institution and the president’s review of the parade.

How loud exactly is the firing? How far away do I have to stand? What does it smell like?


You can watch this YouTube video taken by a fellow Singaporean at the 2010 NDP Preview to get a feel (and hear).

(Editor’s note: Ya we also know the video doesn’t tell us how it smells like lol)

Can women fire the shots? Or only men?

Yes, women officers can be part of the 21-gun salute battery.

How did Mr Lee’s salute look like?

Screenshot 2016-03-15 07.29.23

Here’s another photo of the SAF personnel preparing for the 21-gun salute at the Padang.

Ministry of Communications & Information
Ministry of Communications & Information

Any other details about the 21-gun salute for Mr Lee?


The gun salute was fired by four ceremonial 25-pounder guns as the procession journeyed past the Padang and Old Parliament House. Gunners from the 21st Battalion Singapore Artillery executed the 21-gun salute in honour of the late Mr Lee.

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So last time what did we do with the empty shells from the previous 21-gun ceremonies?

Empty shells were returned back to the ammunition depot. All expended ammunition parts were collected back by the SAF.


What about the empty shells from Mr Lee’s 21-gun salute?

They will be given to selective organisations and individuals.


Like who? I know SAF gets to keep one of the 21, but who else will get the other 20 shells from Mr Lee’s 21-gun salute?

Shells will be given to eulogy speakers, key agencies involved in the State funeral and agencies close to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The recipients include the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force, the People’s Association, the Parliament, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), the Housing and Development Board, the National Parks Board, and PUB, Singapore’s national water agency.

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Hmm…. if it’s up to me to pick, I’ll also include:

  • Chiam See Tong (he just turned 81, happy birthday!)
  • Goh Chok Tong
  • Henry Kissinger (cause he and Mr Lee machiam like #BFFs)
  • Madam Ouyang Huan Yan (Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s maid for 40 years)
  • NTUC (since Mr Lee was the original unionist yo! and trade unionist G. Muthukumarasamy had delivered a eulogy plus the Labour Movement and PAP have always had a symbiotic relationship)
  • Worker’s Party cause they opposition. Be fair mah.

By Zahra