Celebrating 300 years

Menin Gate remembrance

Oxfordshire’s Bill Butcher and Peter Smith of Jersey Lodge, No. 2334, visited Ypres during a World War I commemorative tour and laid a wreath at the Menin Gate on behalf of the lodge. 

Both are former police officers and they travelled to Belgium with the Thames Valley Police Social Club.

While there, they looked for memorials and graves of former police officers who had joined up, placing poppy crosses on them. 

Fraught with fate

Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, considers the impact of the outbreak of World War I on the Craft in England

Britain entered World War I on 4 August 1914. When the Grand Lodge held its regular Quarterly Communications less than a month later on 2 September, French and British armies had delayed the German advance in the south of Belgium, but their success at the first Battle of the Marne was still uncertain. Alfred Robbins, the President of the Board of General Purposes, later described the atmosphere at that meeting as being fraught with fate. ‘Not only for the British Empire and her Allies, but for all that English masons held dear,’ he wrote. ‘Darkness was descending on many a soul.’ 

Disrupted meetings

Calls for lodges to stop meeting were dismissed by the Grand Lodge, but two of them with the closest German links, Pilgrim Lodge, No. 238, and Deutschland Lodge, No. 3315, both ceased to meet for the duration of the war. Members of both lodges had been faced with the provisions of wartime legislation that had given ‘enemy aliens’ a matter of days to leave the country and forced all those remaining to register with the police. The activities of other lodges were disrupted as members, including the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, went to fight or became involved in the conflict. 

By mid-September 1914, Lord Charles Beresford Lodge, No. 2404, based in Chatham in Kent, had all its two hundred and fifty members serving while forty-three of the forty-five members of Alma Lodge, No. 3534, in Hounslow, whose members were drawn from the Royal Fusiliers, rejoined for war service. The lodge meeting scheduled for September 1914 didn’t take place and the lodge members weren’t to meet again until 1918.

Other lodges were forced to move out of their meeting places as buildings across the country were requisitioned. Several London lodges were forced to move from De Keyser’s Royal Hotel on the Victoria Embankment when it was requisitioned for the Military Aeronautics Directorate. The Lodge of Faith and Unanimity, No. 417, in Dorchester gave its hall to the Dorset County Hospital for use by wounded soldiers and met elsewhere. In May 1915, the lodge protested at their 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’, but it was able to return to its hall in January 1918.

An estimated 200,000 refugees arrived in Britain from Belgium, displaced by the war. The Grand Lodge made an immediate initial donation of £1,000, the equivalent of more than £40,000 today, to the Belgian Relief Fund. The returning refugees were dispersed across the country. Some were sent to Nottingham where they were housed in Chaucer Street properties that had been purchased shortly before the war for the site of a new masonic hall. Funds were regularly raised for them at Provincial meetings until they were repatriated in 1919.

A £1,000 donation was made to the British Red Cross Society, where Sir Arthur Stanley, Provincial Grand Master of Lancashire, Western Division, was chairman of the executive committee. 

A ladies committee is born

With many businesses closing down or reducing their activity at the outbreak of war, there were fewer employment opportunities for single women as servants and secretaries. When the Queen’s Work for Women Fund was established, the Grand Lodge requested that the wife of the Pro Grand Master, Lady Ampthill, form a Ladies Committee to raise contributions for the Fund from the wives and daughters of Freemasons. An impressive £2,001 was raised. This was presented to Queen Mary in March 1915, with the funds divided between several bodies providing training and support for women.

Women soon began to replace men in clerical and manufacturing roles as the war continued, especially after the introduction of conscription in 1916, and the need for the Fund was much reduced.

Many organisations and communities established Rolls of Honour in the early months of the war. These were originally intended to record the names of those who had volunteered, but they also quickly became a record of casualties. The idea of a Masonic Roll of Honour was first considered by the Grand Lodge at its meeting in December 1914, its second meeting after the outbreak of war. 

Documents sent by the Grand Lodge to lodge secretaries asked for the name, military rank and masonic rank of brethren known to have died. The first list appeared in the 1916 Masonic Year Book – it was thirty pages long with five hundred names. 

The Library and Museum has a new, free temporary exhibition called English Freemasonry and the First World War, which opens on Monday, 15 September 2014 and runs until Friday, 15 May 2015. A richly illustrated book to coincide with the exhibition has been published and is available from Letchworth’s Shop at Freemasons’ Hall, priced £15.

Published in Features

Along with much of the country, the lights went out and Freemasons' Hall was plunged into darkness at 10pm last night to commemorate the moment that Great Britain declared war on Germany one hundred years ago

A single candle illuminated the Memorial Shrine, which commemorates the 3,225 brethren, who died on active service in the First World War and in whose memory the building was raised.

Behind the shrine is the stained glass memorial window whose theme is the attainment of Peace through Sacrifice, with the Angel of Peace carrying a model of the tower of the building.

The bronze memorial casket, which was designed by Walter Gilbert, contains the memorial roll, at the corners of which are gilt figures representing the fighting services.

Images courtesy of Colin Clay Photography

Letters to the editor - No. 26 Summer 2014

Men of honour

Sir,

My grandfather was initiated on 9 November 1908 into Royal Rose Lodge, No. 2565, a military lodge formed by officers from the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). 

He appears on the masonic roll of honour.

Charles Arthur Murray was a volunteer soldier who fought in the Boer War for the Royal Fusiliers and subsequently in the Great War, where he was killed in 1915. Apart from his campaign medals, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal just before he was killed by shrapnel. This was awarded as a result of his actions in preventing the slaughter of German troops who had surrendered when his battalion engulfed a German trench.

As a result of an email discussion with my cousin (sharing the same grandfather), we visited his grave last June. As part of the tour we had a personal trip to his marked grave in Windy Corner, Cuinchy, the Guards Cemetery in Northern France and we laid a wreath. We think we were the first family members to do so. It was very moving, as you can imagine.

This trip to France stimulated me to make further enquiries and I contacted the very helpful Secretary of Royal Rose Lodge, Colin Woodcock. His records also produced my grandfather’s brother, Henry Murray, who I discovered had been initiated and passed on the same dates as his brother, and who became Master in 1922. Colin Woodcock invited me to attend Royal Rose, which I did on 13 November in the company of eight members of my lodge, Sunbury Lodge, No. 1733. 

What a special occasion that was – to make the link going back over ninety years. 

A wonderful welcome was given to all of us by Royal Rose, which subsequently granted me the great privilege of honorary membership. My request to give the visitor’s speech was granted, as I wanted the opportunity to record how Freemasonry benefited me.

As a result of my grandfather being a Freemason, his three sons were enrolled in the masonic school and received a good education. This enabled them to become professionals in their employment and, in turn, give their own sons a good start in life. 

I would not be in a good position today if it were not for that.

We at Sunbury hope to welcome brethren of Royal Rose to our April meeting, where they will be gladly received.

John Murray, Sunbury Lodge, No. 1733, Staines, Middlesex

Charles Arthur Murray 1915

Charles Arthur Murray, 1915

Published in UGLE
Friday, 16 September 2011 15:33

Great women at war

Ann Pilcher Dayton profiles two strong-willed women who challenged the social mores of the day in order to help others during World War I and honour the principles of Freemasonry

At the outbreak of World War I, the upper-class women of Britain were experts in supervising households and managing their husbands’ estates – invaluable in the provision of welfare to the troops. Several of these women were also Freemasons.

The Honourable Evelina Haverfield, daughter of the Third Baron Abinger, came from a family dedicated to public and military service. An energetic person, she had tremendous physical stamina, and was a keen and capable horsewoman. She was a member of Lodge Golden Rule, No. 21, of the Co-Masons (Le Droit Humain), founded in 1905 by Annie Besant. And its name reflects its aspirations: ‘do unto others as you would be done by’.

Haverfield already possessed the liberated lifestyle to which many women aspired in their struggle for the vote – she kept by deed poll the surname of her late husband on her remarriage. She was also a prominent suffragette and took part in many demonstrations, was arrested and subsequently imprisoned. She even used her equine experience to make police horses break ranks to cause the maximum disruption during protests. When war broke out, Haverfield was 47.

Together with Decima Moore, formerly a singer and actress with the D’Oyly Carte Company, as well as members of the Actresses’ Franchise League, she formed the Women’s Emergency Corps – the first of the women’s uniformed organisations. Their response to the crisis was to organise a role for women. Many upper- and middle-class women joined the Corps. These members became involved in several ventures, including a uniformed group called the Lady Instructors Signals Company, who trained Aldershot army recruits in signalling. They were the first to feed the Belgian refugees in England, collecting London’s surplus food from Smithfield and Covent Garden. Interpreters were also provided with lists of hotels, lodgings and free rooms, met the continental trains in London, and taught elementary French and German to training soldiers.

NATIONAL HEROINE

Haverfield’s next venture was forming the Women’s Volunteer Reserve (WVR) in August 1914. She became Honorary Colonel of the WVR, with battalions, officers and non-commissioned officers and other ranks. Members wore khaki uniforms, aligning the group with men in defending British values and as a model for women’s services. The aim was to train a body of fit and disciplined women who could undertake a range of tasks, including signalling, first aid, crowd control, driving and delivering messages. One particular responsibility was to ensure the removal to safety of the elderly and unfit in the event of a sudden attack.

In 1915, Haverfield joined the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Unit as an administrator. Two fully equipped field hospitals staffed entirely by women and led by Edinburgh surgeon Dr Elsie Inglis were sent out to Serbia to support the soldiers. Haverfield spent two years in Serbia and Romania as commander of the Motor Transport Section, which consisted of eighteen American Ford ambulances, British-built lorries and kitchen cars, all serviced and driven by women. Vehicles had to be hand-cranked to start them and in these war-torn rural areas of Eastern Europe all spares had to be carried on route. Finding petrol and digging the vehicles out of the mud while under shellfire was nightmarish as they shuttled the wounded to field hospitals.

In 1917, Haverfield was back in England where she set up relief organisations – the Serbian Soldiers Comforts Fund and the Fund for Disabled Serbian Soldiers. Following the Armistice in 1918, she returned to Serbia to supervise the distribution of food, clothing and medical supplies for the Red Cross. While the rural economy of Serbia would in time recover, many of the children were orphaned by the war, and so in 1919, she and a group of former colleagues returned to set up an orphanage on the Bosnian/Serbian border. She died there from pneumonia in 1920 aged fifty-two and was hailed by the Serbs as a national heroine.

FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH

Haverfield’s passion for helping others was also evident in Major General Dame Florence Burleigh Leach. Initiated into the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Masonry in 1910, she was described by one of her wartime contemporaries as ‘beautiful, elegant and charming’. She was also renowned for her organisational ability and her independence of spirit.

Being an army wife, Leach saw it as her duty to assist in the war effort as the dangers of an inadequately fed army were recognised. In April 1915, Leach was one of the founders of the Women’s Legion, whose objectives were to release men for active service, improve cooking and prevent waste.

In February 1917, Leach was appointed Controller of Cooks, and later brought all 7,000 Women’s Legion cooks and waitresses into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). The role of women in the army expanded at home and on active service in France, replacing men in many traditionally male roles including clerks, tailors, librarians, storemen, photographers, drivers, grooms and policewomen.

In February 1918, Leach became Chief Controller of the WAAC, and five months later was promoted to Controller-in-Chief, becoming the senior officer of 57,000 women serving at home and overseas. Although members wore uniforms, the Corps was organised on civilian lines – no one was given military titles or held commissions. Honoured by Queen Mary, the name changed to Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and Leach became President.

Leach was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1919, and put forward her best officers for initiation into the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons so it ‘might offer a valuable link to cement comradeship’. Blanche Ireland, MBE, was Grand Treasurer, Dorothy Taylor was Deputy Grand Master for twenty years, and Florence Leveridge served as Grand Secretary for fifteen years.

Haverfield and Leach were exceptional women but it can be no coincidence that, at various times in their lives, they espoused the tenets of Freemasonry. Love, relief and truth had no greater expression than through the work of these ‘strong-willed women’.

Published in Features
Page 3 of 3

ugle logo          SGC logo