Scout Salute

Cambridge District Scout Archive

The Scout Association currently uses the three-fingered salute for all sections, including Cub Scouts.

Scout Salute    The Scout Salute is made with the right hand. It is used during the opening ceremony and also at other special times – such as when you are presented with a badge. It is made only by Members of the Movement in uniform on formal Scout occasions, as a mark of respect at the hoisting of National flags, at the playing of National Anthems, to uncased Colours, Scout flags and to funerals.

Scout Sign / Half Salute          A “half-salute” is known as the Scout Sign.  The Scout Sign is used while making or reaffirming the Beaver Scout, Cub Scout or Scout Promise and on no other occasion. The hand is still held palm facing out, and the thumb holding the little finger, but the hand is held at the shoulder instead. 


A salute does not readily allow local variations.  No references are made in the Cambridge archives to any alternative form or use.  On the occasion of his 1931 visit BP did observe that he was not saluted by all the Scouts gathering for the occasion.  This was a University visit, the Scout celebrations a secondary matter, although the rarity of very formal occasions may more readily explain the lapse or lack of instruction.  Few local photographs show the salute.

The original salutes were:

Scouts              In the beginning Robert Baden-Powell chose the three-finger salute for Scouts. In his book, Scouting for Boys, he explained the three fingers represent the three aspects of the Scout Promise:

  • Honour God and the King
  • Help Others
  • Obey the Scout Law

Staffs were part of the uniform and a separate set of salutes were given with the left hand.  On some formal occasions staffs were not carried. 

Wolf Scouts     The two-finger salute was done to represent the two rules of the original Wolf Cub law.

In The Wolf Cub’s Handbook, Baden-Powell wrote “Why two fingers? Well, you know what a Wolf’s head looks like with two ears cocked up. It is used as the badge of the Wolf Cub. Your two fingers in the salute are the two ears of the Wolf.”  The salute is performed with the right hand.

12th Cambridge c. 1955

The two-fingered Cub salute was abandoned by the Scout Association following a recommendation by the Advance Party Report in 1966, that “there should be only one salute for the whole Movement”.


 Girl guiding UK only uses the Guide Sign (half salute). 


Brownies originally used a two finger salute.  It changed in 1968. The old Brownie Promise had 2 sections, hence the salute (fingers held to side of hat) and sign (hand at shoulder height) used two fingers to symbolise the two parts. In 1968 it was decided that the Brownie Promise wording should be made to match up with the new Guide Promise, which had 3 parts, hence a 3-finger sign.

JWR Archivist Feb 2021