Side boys are an even-numbered group of sailors, male or female, posted in two parallel rows at the quarterdeck when a visiting dignitary boards or leaves the ship. The Quarterdeck is a ceremonial location on a weather deck of the ship, usually at the location of the accommodation (boarding) ladder or brow. Historically, side boys were there to help (or even hoist) him aboard. Nowadays, they are a ceremonial honor guard and a part of the tradition known as Tending the Side. Commands are given to the side boys by the piping of a Boatswain's Mate.
Since 1843, United States Navy regulations have stipulated the number of side boys to be used in according to the protocol importance of the guests. They have also stipulated who is entitled to other honors, such as the tune played, number of ruffles and flourishes. and the number of shots fired as a salute.
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