The incident took place during the Boer War period, when the Medic was on the Australia run. Lightoller arranged to raise the Boer flag and fire the gun on top of the Martello Tower on Fort Denison - a tiny little fort in the middle of Sydney Harbour. You can read about the incident in some detail in the Stenson biography and Lightoller's own autobiography.
Pat Winship did an excellent write-up on the 'One Gun Salute' incident, and published an article in the White Star Journal about it a few years ago. I did a bit of background on it and found references to it in Hansard (State Parliament) and contemporary newspapers.
A member of this board, Fiona, has told me that the incident was mentioned by the guide when she did a tour of the Fort a couple of years ago.
I'm very fond of Fort Denison and its history, and think of Lightoller every time I pass the Fort on a ferry or in a sailboat (and have told the story to my companions more than once!). Once, attending a reception at Government House, I tried to imagine his daring escape through the grounds after their escapade nearly came to a disastrous end.
Well, perhaps a sort of leg-pull when he brought Sundowner into Ramsgate after the Dunkirk run with 135 men on board. He sent the fifty-odd men of his deckload off, and waited until the petty officer who had counted them started away from the boat. THEN he sent the rest of the men who had spent ten hours stowed like cargo below decks up, and watched the fellow's jaw drop. He supposedly had to go down and roust out one last boy who had dropped off to sleep sitting on the loo.
Pat, how accurate is the 1934 New York Daily News interview with Lightoller? I ask because some of the other interviews in the piece seem to have been punched up a bit. Of course, I don’t know anything of Lightoller’s life, so maybe he wasn’t just telling fish tales when he claimed to have been shipwrecked three times before the Titanic disaster and twice afterwards.
He was shipwrecked once before Titanic and twice after. The first was the sailing ship Holt Hill when he was an apprentice. The other two were the Oceanic and the destroyer Falcon. So, either he or the reporter was "cooking the books" a wee bit!
For the Lightoller/Fort Denison fans...the Australian National Maritime Museum is running an exhibition marking the 150th Anniversary of the Fort, bringing together a series of paintings and photographs. It's free entry, and the exhibition runs until November 11.