The two-finger salute is a salute given using only the middle and index fingers, while bending the other fingers at the second knuckle, and with the palm facing the signer. This salute is used by Cub Scouts, the Polish military, and uniformed services.
Two-finger salute in Poland
The salute is only used while wearing a headdress with the emblem of the Polish eagle (such as military hat rogatywka), or without this emblem (such as Boonie hat or helmet). The salute is performed with the middle and index fingers extended and touching each other, while the ring and little fingers are bent and touched by the thumb . The tips of the middle and index fingers touch the peak of the cap, two fingers meaning honour and fatherland (Honor i Ojczyzna).
It is not clear when the two-fingers salute appeared in Polish military forces. Some see its origin in Tadeusz Kościuszko's 1794 oath. Others state that it came from Polish soldiers in the Congress Kingdom army around 1815 (partitioned Poland). At that time, apparently the Tsar's Viceroy in Poland Grand Duke Constantine said that Poles salute him with two fingers, while using the other two to hold a stone to throw at him. Another legend attributes the salute to the remembrance of Battle of Olszynka Grochowska in 1831, when a soldier who lost two fingers in the battle saluted his superior with a wounded hand.
The two-fingers salute caused problems for Polish units serving with the Allies on the western front during World War II. Allied officers, seeing what they perceived as a Cub Scout's salute, thought that Polish soldiers were deliberately being disrespectful. As a result, many soldiers were arrested, until the misunderstanding could be explained. This led to the temporary use of the full hand salute when saluting foreign officers.
The salute has undergone the same evolution as the full-hand salute. It used to be rendered with the palm of the hand perpendicular to the ground, but is now rendered with the palm of the hand parallel to the ground, since before the World War II.
Many Cub Scout sections also use a two-finger salute. The salute was devised by Robert Baden-Powell and originally represented the two ears of a wolf cub, since the original programme was based on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. However, Cubs in several national associations now use the three-finger Scout salute used by the rest of the Scout Movement.
- Baden-Powell, Robert The Wolf Cub's Handbook, Arthur Pearson (p.15)