Celebrating 300 years

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is pleased to welcome Dr Vicky Carroll as its new Director

Carroll, who started at the end of November, replaces Diane Clements when she retires in December. Carroll has most recently been working for the City of London Corporation as the Principal Curator of Keats House in Hampstead and as the Head of the Guildhall Art Gallery.

She has also managed London’s William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, leading the delivery of its Heritage Lottery Fund-assisted redevelopment in 2011-13.

‘I am looking forward to this new challenge, building on the recent successful re-display of these wonderful Designated collections so that we can engage with an ever-wider audience,’ Carroll said.

Published in UGLE

Grand Masters from around the world come bearing gifts

When Grand Masters from around the world came to Freemasons’ Hall as part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations last week, many of them also came bearing gifts

Around 90 gifts were presented to the UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who spent time inspecting this wonderful selection which ranged from a ceremonial sword and bronze stag, through to a collection of Russian dolls depicting the Grand Master himself.

The gifts have now been put on display in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry for anyone who visits Freemasons’ Hall to see.

As you can see from the gallery at the top, the array of thoughtful gifts was vast.

Published in UGLE

On the  home  front

The sacrifices made by Freemasons during World War I came on every scale, from those fighting overseas and those who remained in England, as Diane Clements explains

By the early 1900s, many lodges met in purpose-built properties and others converted for use as masonic halls. But with the 1914 Defence of the Realm Act allowing the government to commandeer economic resources such as property for the war effort, several of these were requisitioned for military use.

Built in 1911, Wivenhoe Masonic Hall in Essex was requisitioned for an Army School of Instruction and subsequently for a ‘wet canteen’ – a catering facility that served alcohol. The newly built hall at Frinton-on-Sea was requisitioned in 1914 and never returned to masonic ownership. After the war, it became Frinton War Memorial Club and was dedicated to returning ex-servicemen.

On the outbreak of war, Lodge of Faith and Unanimity, No. 417, in Dorchester immediately gave its hall to Dorset County Hospital for use by wounded soldiers and met elsewhere. In May 1915, the lodge protested at its premises being used for ‘contagious and infectious diseases, or for enemy aliens’ and held the hospital accountable for ‘disinfecting, re-decorating, and rendering the Lodge’. It was, however, able to return to its hall in January 1918, with £100 spent on making it habitable.

In Brighton, several lodges met at the Royal Pavilion. From late 1914, however, this was used firstly as a military hospital for Indian soldiers, then as the Pavilion General Hospital for limbless men. During this time, the lodges had to find alternative meeting places.

In Chelmsford, Springfield Lodge, No. 3183, met in the church hall, and when this was requisitioned in 1917, it had dispensation to meet in the local prison. Other lodges continued to meet in local public buildings or in hotels and inns.

At the beginning of the war, three London lodges were meeting at the prestigious De Keyser’s Royal Hotel on the Victoria Embankment near Blackfriars Bridge. In September 1915, City Livery Lodge, No. 3752, was consecrated and held its first few meetings there. The hotel was run by Sir Polydore de Keyser, originally from Belgium but long established in London, where he had been Lord Mayor in 1887.

As it was popular with overseas businessmen, the Royal Hotel’s fortunes collapsed during the war. In May 1916, it became one of many sites in London requisitioned for use by the War Office, in this case by the Directorate of Military Aeronautics. Meanwhile, the three London lodges all had to find alternative meeting places, with several of them using Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street for at least the remainder of the war. The dispute between the government and the hotel’s owners about compensation later became a noted case in constitutional law.

RAIDS TO THE EAST

On 16 December 1914, the German Navy attacked three seaside towns: Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby. The attack resulted in 137 fatalities and 592 casualties, many of whom were civilians. Old Globe Lodge, No. 200, was meeting as usual that evening in Scarborough but its minutes made no mention of the raid. The masonic hall in Hartlepool was slightly damaged during the raid but remained in use.

Towns on the east coast continued to be subject to bombardment and from 1915 were attacked by rigid airships or Zeppelins. Springfield Lodge, No. 3183, in Chelmsford took the precaution of paying three shillings to insure the lodge furniture against damage caused by hostile aircraft.

The heavy air raids could be heard at the Royal Masonic School for Girls at Clapham. During air raids, the girls were summoned down to the basement by the fire bell, taking their blankets and pillows with them. The girls particularly complained about Zeppelin raids on Sunday mornings. The combatants ‘evidently know that on that day we have an extra half-hour in bed, and seem very anxious to deprive us of it,’ wrote one pupil. The school laundry’s windows were guarded with blinds to prevent glass damage but the building was hit by anti-aircraft fire in 1917, with a subsequent claim for damage amounting to £4 18s.

‘By the self-sacrifice… of our people at home quite as much by the great sacrifices… by our gallant soldiers in the trenches’ Viscount Rhondda, Freemason in South Wales and Minister of Food Control, June 1917-July 1918

FOOD RATIONING

At the outbreak of war, Grand Lodge had urged restraint in lodge meetings and in dining arrangements at Festive Boards after lodge meetings. The Grand Master set an example by not wearing evening dress at masonic functions and many lodges began to dine much more simply.

In January 1917, the German government announced its intention to use unrestricted submarine warfare. Britain began to face problems with its food supply and David Alfred Thomas, Viscount Rhondda, an industrialist and Freemason in South Wales, became Minister of Food Control in June 1917. Food rationing was introduced in January 1918, beginning with sugar and then meat. A subsequent Grand Lodge circular to all lodges advocated strict economy in the consumption of food.

As Lord Rhondda explained at the time, the war was going to be won ‘by the self-sacrifice… of our people at home quite as much by the great sacrifices… by our gallant soldiers in the trenches’.

Craft on canvas

In its Tercentenary year, the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, gives a fresh perspective on Freemasonry

On 24 June, the general public were invited into Freemasons’ Hall to view a new exhibition, Rough to Smooth: Art inspired by Freemasonry – past, present and future. It featured work by the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, who had been given unprecedented access to objects and spaces throughout the five-floor Grade II* listed building.

All of Viljoen’s subjects were painted from life, using traditional techniques and no photography. His work presents a new look at the world of contemporary Freemasonry, showing intimate moments that might usually go unnoticed. ‘This has been an incredible opportunity to explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history,’ he said.

Alongside Viljoen, nine guest artists were also given unique access to Freemasons’ Hall, working in different mediums that ranged from oils to mixed media and photography. Renowned Norwegian oil painter Henrik Uldalen’s contemporary yet classic figurative work sat by work by Lithuanian artist Elika Bo, who creates images by endlessly layering objects, while Nicholas Chaundy offered a technical homage to the painting techniques used in the many masterpieces that fill the Hall.

President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson commented: ‘What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and a variety of responses to, Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.’

Rough to Smooth was just one of the attractions at the Freemasons’ Hall Open Day, with members of the public also able to visit the building’s ornate Grand Temple and the shrine to those Freemasons who lost their lives in World War I. Musical performances from Grand Organist Carl Jackson, the Occasional Strings quartet and the Art Deco Orchestra accompanied visitors throughout the event.

The Open Day was organised by the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Reflecting on the event, Library and Museum Director Diane Clements said: ‘It was a very successful day, with more than 2,800 visitors enjoying the music, the architecture and the opportunity to see the Artist in Residence exhibition.’

Published in UGLE

More than 1,200 Freemasons, their partners and friends visited Grand Lodge under the banner of Three Counties Lodge, No. 9278, from the Province of Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire

With the Second Degree performed, it is believed to be the Province’s largest-ever attendance at a ceremony.

The event also included a talk by Library and Museum of Freemasonry Director Diane Clements.

'Rough to Smooth' exhibition will open on Saturday 24th June

Fans of developing artists will be in for a rare treat at Freemasons’ Hall from Saturday 24th June, when a new collection of art will be unveiled to mark the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations

As part of the 300th anniversary of English Freemasonry, The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is organising a unique Open Day on Saturday 24th June, of exhibitions, music and architecture. Jacques Viljoen has been appointed Artist in Residence and has created an exhibition of new artworks to celebrate Freemasonry and its continued role and relevance in society today.

‘Rough to Smooth’, which will also feature nine guest artists, presents works inspired by Freemasonry from the past, present and future, and focuses on the symbolism of Freemasons’ Hall, the themes of ceremony and rites of passage and the experiences of Freemasons in World War 1.

Visitors can tour the impressive and ornate Grand Temple, the Library and Museum and the Three Centuries of English Freemasonry exhibition. Informal music performances will also take place throughout the day: the Occasional Strings quartet in the morning, organ recitals around midday and the Art Deco Orchestra in the afternoon.

The exhibition will be open every day from Saturday 24th June until Saturday 1st July, with the exception of Sunday 25th June. Admission is free and Freemasons’ Hall will be open from 10am to 5pm, with last entrance at 4:30pm. The artwork will be displayed in the Vestibules, Processional Corridor and Corridor to the Library and Museum.

The exhibition and residency has been directed by the Director of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Diane Clements, who commented: ‘It has been a remarkable experience working with these talented artists and they have produced a defining set of works, which we hope the general public will come and view.’

Make sure you also follow the United Grand Lodge of England’s FacebookInstagram and Twitter accounts in the build-up to the exhibition, as we unveil the guest artists and take a detailed look at their artwork.

Published in UGLE

The Library and Museum Council are now seeking an exceptional candidate for the role of Director to succeed Diane Clements following her successful tenure

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is an Accredited Museum with designated collections of international significance covering Freemasonry and other fraternal orders. Situated in the beautiful grade II listed art deco United Grand Lodge of England in central London, the museum receives over 30,000 visitors each year from more than 100 countries. Freemasonry is the largest secular fraternal organisation in Britain, with several hundreds of thousands of members. The museum’s collection began to be acquired in the 1830s and this year the Museum celebrates the Order’s tercentenary in a special exhibition.

This person will bring a vision for the LMF and will work collaboratively with Trustees and staff to ensure the outstanding collections are being used to their fullest extent to communicate the history of Freemasonry to the widest possible audience. The Director will build on the strengths of the collection while driving new activity and acquisition. The Director is the accounting officer or the Library and Museum.

Candidates will most likely bring a strong track record of working in the museum, library or archives sector in a leadership role. The successful candidate will bring an energetic, creative, resilient, financially aware and entrepreneurial approach and will have experience in developing partnerships, managing an effective team and developing and delivering strategy.

Saxton Bampfylde Ltd is acting as an employment agency advisor to The Library and Museum of Freemasonry on this appointment. Candidates should apply for this role here using code WAOMA.

Closing date for applications is noon on 26th June 2017

Published in More News

Quarterly Communication

8 March 2017 
An address by VW Bro John Hamill, PGSwdB, Deputy Grand Chancellor and Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Diane Clements: Ninety-nine years ago today, Charles Graham Robertson, a railway clerk from Dorking in Surrey, was fighting with the Royal Fusiliers on the Western Front. He realised that his position was being cut off so he sent two men to get reinforcements while he stayed at his post with one other man and a Lewis gun. He managed to kill 'large numbers of the enemy' but no reinforcements arrived and realising that he was now completely cut off he and his fellow soldier withdrew about ten yards. He stayed there for some considerable further time firing his Lewis gun but was again forced to withdraw. In this new position he climbed on top of a parapet with his comrade, mounted his gun in a shell hole and continued firing at the enemy who were pouring across the top of, and down, an adjacent trench. His comrade was killed and Robertson severely wounded but he managed to crawl back to the British line, bringing his gun with him. He could no longer fire it as he had exhausted all the ammunition. For his initiative and resource and magnificent fighting spirit which prevented the enemy making a more rapid advance, Robertson was awarded the Victoria Cross in April 1918. A few months later, after the end of the First World War, in February 1919, he was initiated in Deanery Lodge No. 3071 in London. He is one of over one hundred and seventy holders of the Victoria Cross who have been identified as freemasons, representing more than 13% of the total recipients.

John Hamill: The Victoria Cross was a product of the Crimea War. In many ways this was one of the first ‘modern wars’, reported from the battle field by newspaper journalists. The media, then as now, liked stories of heroes and villains, and it soon became apparent that there were many heroes but no award available to acknowledge the heroic actions of the ordinary British serviceman. Other European countries already had awards for their armed forces that did not discriminate according to class or rank. In 1856 with increasing public support, Queen Victoria ordered the War Office to strike a new medal which was made open to all ranks. The Victoria Cross is awarded for valour 'in the face of the enemy' to members of the British armed forces and to members of the armed forces of some Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories.

Many have been inspired by the stories of those such as Charles Graham Robertson but holders of the Victoria Cross were often modest men who didn’t make a fuss and many masonic researchers have worked hard to track down their masonic links, including the 2006 Prestonian lecturer, Granville Angell. Diane and I would like to acknowledge the efforts of all those researchers today.

The Victoria Cross was awarded 628 times for action in the First World War. Over 100 recipients have so far been identified as Freemasons of whom sixty-three were members of English Constitution lodges.

As many of you will know this building, now known as Freemasons’ Hall, was formally opened in 1933 as the Masonic Peace Memorial and it was, and is, a memorial to all those Freemasons who died in the First World War. Acknowledging this and as part of the Tercentenary celebrations, the United Grand Lodge is going to have a memorial pavement laid outside the Tower doors with details of all the English Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. The date we have chosen for the ceremony is 25th April.

DC: On 25th April 1915 a battalion of over 1,000 men from the Lancashire Fusiliers landed on a beach at Gallipoli. During the landing, the men were met by very heavy and effective fire from the Ottoman Empire troops defending the beach and lost over half their number. The survivors, however, rushed up and cut the wire entanglements and managed to gain the cliffs above the beach. Amongst them were Major Cuthbert Bromley, Lance Corporal John Grimshaw, Private William Kenealy, Sergeant Alfred Richards, Sergeant Frank Stubbs and Captain Richard Willis. The courage of these six men was recognised by the award of the Victoria Cross to each of them and the event was hailed in the Press as '6 VCs before breakfast'. Three of these men were Freemasons.

Richard Willis had joined St John and St Paul Lodge No. 349 in Malta in 1901. He retired from the army in 1920 and took on an education role within the RAF before working as a teacher. Cuthbert Bromley, who had been a member of Invicta Lodge No. 2440 since 1909, was wounded during the landing and sustained further wounds over the next two months. He was evacuated to Egypt to recover and in August 1915, whilst returning to the Gallipoli peninsula aboard a troopship, he was killed when the ship was torpedoed. After the war John Grimshaw became a recruiting officer for the army. He joined Llangattock Lodge No. 2547 in 1928. Frank Stubbs died during the landing. William Kenealy was seriously wounded in a later battle on the Gallipoli peninsula and died in June 1915. As a result of a wound sustained in the action Alfred Richards had to have his leg amputated and was discharged from the army as unfit for further service. Despite this he served in the Home Guard during the Second World War.

JMH: Also as part of this year’s Tercentenary celebrations a Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire will be unveiled next month on 18th April. Since planting began in 1997, the National Memorial Arboretum has become a special place honouring those who have served, and continue to serve, our nation in many different ways. It’s not a cemetery but covers 150 acres of trees and planting, a peaceful place of remembrance. There are more than 300 dedicated memorials on the site acknowledging the personal sacrifices made by the Armed Forces, the Police, and the Fire and Rescue and Ambulance services. The idea of a Masonic Memorial Garden was the millennium project of a group of Provinces led by Staffordshire. Realising the project was not without its difficulties but, assisted by additional finance from Grand Lodge, has now been fully realised. The garden is entered between two pillars, topped with globes, leading to a squared pavement on which are two large ashlars. The Province of Staffordshire held a service in the garden on Armistice Day last year.

DC: I am sure that many of those here today are familiar with the name of Toye, Kenning and Spencer, one of the country’s oldest companies still in operation and, of course, the manufacturer of masonic regalia and the Tercentenary Jewel. The company also has a long tradition of making military decorations although not the Victoria Cross. It may not be so widely known that the grandfather of W Bro Bryan Toye, Alfred Toye, was awarded the Victoria Cross, at the age of twenty for his actions on the Western Front in March 1918 when he established a post that had been captured by the enemy, fought his way through the enemy with one other officer and six men, led a counterattack and was able to re-establish the line. Continuing his military career after the war, Brigadier Toye, as he became, joined Freemasonry in Grecia Lodge No. 1105 in Egypt in 1930.

Following the Armistice on 11th November 1918 which ended most of the actual fighting, a series of peace treaties were negotiated between the two sides. The Treaty of Versailles with Germany was signed on 28th June 1919 and it was registered by the Secretariat of the newly formed League of Nations in October that year. The First World War had led to the fall of several empires in central and eastern Europe, the first of which was the Russian Empire overthrown in an internal revolution by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917 and which led to civil war. Britain and her allies got caught up in this and were forced to send a Relief Force to North Russia in June 1919. Three men were awarded the Victoria Cross during this action. One of them was Royal Navy Commander Claude Dobson who led a motor boat flotilla to the entrance of Kronstadt harbour. In his 55 foot boat he passed through heavy machine gun fire to torpedo a Russian battleship. In 1925 Dobson joined Navy Lodge No. 2612. As the action in which he was involved falls within the period of the First World War and its treaties, he will be included on the memorial.

JMH: Armistice Day in November 1920 was a day of mellow sunshine. It was the second time that the Armistice had been marked but was to be especially significant as it was on that day that the King, George V, unveiled the cenotaph in Whitehall and also the day that the Unknown Warrior was interred in Westminster Abbey. The coffin carrying the Unknown Warrior was carried into the Abbey between two lines of men, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross during the war or otherwise distinguished themselves by special valour. They were known as the 'Bodyguard of Heroes'. Sixteen of this honour guard have been identified as Freemasons.

One of them was Captain Robert Gee who had been a member of Roll Call Lodge No. 2523 in London since 1907. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 30 November 1917 in France when an attack by the enemy captured his brigade headquarters and ammunition dump. Gee, finding himself a prisoner, managed to escape and organised a party of the brigade staff with which he attacked the enemy, closely followed by two companies of infantry. He cleared the locality and established a defensive flank, then finding an enemy machine-gun still in action, with a revolver in each hand he went forward and captured the gun, killing eight of the crew. He was wounded, but would not have his wound dressed until the defence was organised.

One of the names to be marked on a paving stone outside is Eric Archibald McNair, who was initiated in Apollo University Lodge No. 357 in 1913. He was awarded the Victoria Cross at the age of just 21 in 1916. On 14 February 1916 on the Western Front in Belgium, Lieutenant McNair and a number of men were flung into the air when the enemy exploded a mine, several of them were buried. Although much shaken, the Lieutenant at once organised a party with a machine gun to man the near edge of the crater and opened rapid fire on the enemy who were advancing. They were driven back. Lieutenant McNair then ran back for reinforcements, but as the communication trench was blocked he went across open ground under heavy fire. His action undoubtedly saved a critical situation. Sadly Lieutenant McNair did not survive the war but died in August 1918. His name is amongst those included on the Roll of Honour that is been displayed at the Shrine in the vestibule outside the Grand Temple.

It seems fitting that, in this Tercentenary year, the building is adding a further memorial to those that fought in the First World War. It would also be fitting, I believe, to stand for a moment in remembrance of those sixty-three men of valour whose names will be a part of this building for so long as it shall stand.

Published in Speeches

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
8 March 2017 
Report of the Board of General Purposes

Minutes

The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 14 December 2016 were approved.

Election of the Grand Master

HRH The Duke of Kent KG was re-elected as Grand Master.

Grand Lodge Register 2007-2016

The tables below show the number of lodges on the Register and of Certificates issued during the past ten years.

Lodges on Register Mar 2017

Charges for Warrants

The Board recommended that for the year commencing 1 April 2017 the charges (exclusive of VAT) shall be as follows:

Charges for Warrants Mar 2017

The recommendation was approved.

Amalgamations

The Board had received reports that the following lodges have resolved to surrender their Warrants: Totteridge Lodge, No. 6130, in order to amalgamate with Old Elizabethans Lodge, No. 7987 (Hertfordshire); and Sherborne Conduit Lodge, No. 9484, in order to amalgamate with Lodge of Benevolence, No. 1168 (Dorset).

A Resolution to this effect was approved.

Erasure of lodges

Twenty-three lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. They are:

Hammersmith Lodge, No. 2090 (London); Royal Hampton Court Lodge, No. 2183 (Middlesex); Malden Lodge, No. 2875 (Surrey); Morpeth Lodge, No. 4176 (Northumberland); Plymouth Hoe Lodge, No. 4235 (Devon); Ceredigion Lodge, No. 4550 (London); Ashton Upon Mersey Lodge, No. 4654 (Cheshire); Concordia Lodge, No. 4793 (Sussex); Worcester Park Lodge, No. 5402 (Surrey); Simplicitas Lodge, No. 5704 (Surrey); Oaks Lodge, No. 5921 (Surrey); Lodge of Integrity, No. 6328 (Cheshire); Albany Park Lodge, No. 7432 (West Kent); Bywell Castle Lodge, No. 7739 (Northumberland); Lowther Lodge, No. 7809 (Cumberland and Westmorland); Warlingham Lodge, No. 7977 (Surrey); Owain Glyndwr Lodge, No. 8015 (South Wales); Huntercombe Lodge, No. 8264 (Buckinghamshire); Langdon Hills Lodge, No. 8477 (Essex); Bramble Lodge, No. 8541 (South Africa, Eastern Division); Prestbury Lodge, No. 8880 (Cheshire); Abridge Lodge, No. 9637 (Essex) and Lodge of Scribes, No. 9671 (Durham).

A Resolution to recommend that they be erased was approved.

Expulsions

Twelve brethren were expelled from the Craft.

For valour: Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War

A talk was given on this subject by Deputy Grand Chancellor John Hamill and Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry.

List of new lodges

Warrants have been granted to the lodges below with the dates from which their Warrants became effective, date of Warrant and Location/Area and No. and name of the lodge:

14 December 2016
9942 Dorset Sportsmen’s Lodge (Poole, Dorset)
9943 Collegiate Lodge (Coventry, Warwickshire)

Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge

A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 14 June 2017. Subsequent Communications will be held on 13 September 2017, 13 December 2017, 14 March 2018 and 13 June 2018.

The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 26 April 2017), and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend.

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter

Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 27 April 2017, 8 November 2017 and 26 April 2018.

Published in UGLE

International brotherhood

With soldiers from across the world meeting and sharing values during World War I, Diane Clements looks at how this period shaped New Zealand’s relationship with Grand Lodge

The armed forces of many different countries fought in World War I between 1914 and 1918, with their experiences often being pivotal in the formation of national identities. But what of the effect these nations had on each other as they fought side by side? The experiences of masons as they travelled to new countries provide an intriguing window into how the war helped to develop the links between Grand Lodges across the world.

In 1914 there were 1,700 lodges across England and Wales, with a further 1,300 spread throughout the British Empire. As British colonies had become independent from the mid-1800s, they had established their own masonic jurisdiction or Grand Lodge. The relationship between the English Grand Lodge and the overseas Grand Lodges strengthened during World War I and was marked at celebrations of the Grand Lodge’s bicentenary in 1917 and of the peace in 1919.

For the soldiers, the experience of travelling to foreign countries, the comradeship and the trauma of war were significant in their personal development. For many, informal links with Freemasons were widened and reinforced, and the bond formed between New Zealand masons and their English brethren is a prime example of how the Craft came together during wartime. 

The first masonic lodge in New Zealand was formed in 1842 and each of the English, Irish and Scottish Grand Lodges all formed lodges there. In 1890, 65 lodges established the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, with Henry Thomson as the first Grand Master. A medal was produced in 1900 to mark its first 10 years. The three ‘home’ Grand Lodges also maintained District and Provincial Grand Lodges in New Zealand. 

William Massey, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, sent a telegram on the outbreak of war in 1914, saying: ‘All we are and all we have is at the disposal of the British government.’ He travelled to Britain several times, both during and after the war, and attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, signing the Treaty of Versailles on behalf of his country. Massey was installed as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand in November 1924.

In 1914, the population of New Zealand was about 1.1 million and 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), which went first to the Middle East and fought at Gallipoli and then to the Western Front. Around 18,000 New Zealanders died in or because of the war, with more than 41,000 wounded.

Wartime fraternity

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry collection includes a gavel with a head made from the stock of a German rifle found on the Somme battlefield in 1916 during an advance on Flers by the NZEF. It was then taken to New Zealand where it was mounted and polished.

The NZEF Masonic Association was formed in France by Colonel George Barclay in 1917. According to an article in The Freemason in April 1918, the association developed from an informal meeting of serving New Zealand troops near Armentières in June 1916.

The association’s original objective was to hold meetings to promote fraternity among its members, with branches formed in various camps, depots and hospitals. One branch was formed in Egypt and Palestine in May 1917 by Brigadier-General William Meldrum (1865-1964), the officer commanding the mounted division. This group held a meeting in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in April 1918. The association’s meetings included lectures and discussions and its members were encouraged to visit other local lodges.

English training

NZEF soldiers came to England for rest, recuperation and training, with Wiltshire’s Sling Camp functioning as their chief training ground, while in London, the NZEF Masonic Association organised visits to Freemasons’ Hall. The association was active along the south coast of England and correspondence between Grand Lodge and Jordan Lodge, No. 1402, in Torquay from December 1917 provides a fascinating glimpse into the interaction between the troops and local lodges.

The Lodge Secretary, Stanley Lane, wrote to London about a candidate, Eric George Rhodes, a corporal in the New Zealand Paymaster’s department: ‘There has been a large camp of discharged New Zealanders near Torquay, this being the convalescent base before embarking for home… several of the officers have visited Jordan Lodge many times.’ Rhodes’ candidacy was supported by a letter from George Barclay himself who was then based at Boscombe.

By the end of the war the NZEF Masonic Association had about 1,500 members. Its members’ jewel was in three grades: metal, silver gilt and gold. In 1919, one of these gold jewels was presented to the Grand Lodge in London to commemorate the association’s wartime work and it remains a treasure of the collection.

Published in Features
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