The Freemasons signed the Armed Forces Covenant during a ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall on 20 October, led by His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent
The partnership aims to support members of the armed forces community and ensure that they have the same access to government as well as commercial services and products as any other citizen.
By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) will be able to demonstrate its support to members of the armed forces in a number of areas, such as education, family wellbeing, getting a home, starting a new career, access to healthcare, financial assistance and discounted services.
UGLE has a strong armed forces background through its military Lodges. This partnership therefore represents an important step in further supporting both active and retired military personnel. Notable armed forces figures such as Admiral Sir Peter Parker, 1st Marquess of Hastings Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, General Viscount Kitchener of Khartoum, Lieutenant Elias Henry Jones, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Cyril Louis Norton Newall, Commodore Wilfred Henderson and Thomas William Gould VC were all extremely well-known Freemasons.
UGLE’s MW Bro The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, has a longstanding relationship with the military. In 1955, he graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as a second lieutenant. It was the beginning of a military career that spanned more than 20 years.
He was promoted to captain in 1961 and after having served in Hong Kong, he was promoted to major in 1967. Three years later, he commanded a squadron of his regiment serving in the British Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus. In 1970, HRH The Duke of Kent served in Northern Ireland, before being promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1973.
Having retired from active service on 15 April 1976, he was subsequently promoted to major general in 1983 and to field marshal in 1993.
HRH The Duke of Kent, said, ‘It is my great pleasure to sign the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the United Grand Lodge of England. This document represents part of our ongoing commitment to support active and retired military personnel. We are proud of our long-standing relationship with the armed forces and we will continue to promote their welfare, support and respect among all our members.’
He added, ‘Our Lodges, through the centuries, have always had a close relationship with those who serve in the armed forces. Servicemen have found that our values of integrity, friendship, respect and charity are a natural fit with their own and many ex-servicemen comment that the camaraderie they find in a Lodge is second only to that they have experienced while serving. It is also true to say that the experiences and friendships that they form help a much wider cross-section of society better understand the military, its ethos and its purpose. I am delighted to have formally recognised, in this document, the relationship that has always existed between our great institutions.’
By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, the UGLE demonstrates its intention to support the armed forces community, which, in turn, allows the UGLE to be recognised by the UK government’s Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS). An ERS award shows that the recipient is delivering tangible support for the armed forces community.
Major General Simon Graham, Director Reserves Army, signing on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, said, ‘The Armed Forces Covenant is a commitment to support those who have served and their families. The support of employers and making a public pledge of support to the armed forces community that they are valued by society is vital. This year, we celebrate the Armed Forces Covenant’s 10th anniversary, and for centuries the United Grand Lodge of England has had a solid connection to the armed forces, and it makes perfect sense for us to have the Freemasons signing up to Armed Forces Covenant this year. I’d like to thank the UGLE for supporting the armed forces community.’
Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Grand Secretary and Chief Executive, said, ‘It is a great honour to be able to sign the Armed Forces Covenant. From its earliest foundations, Freemasonry has always had a strong relationship with the armed forces. Today, we want to thank those brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our country and the people who live here. They deserve all our thanks and our respect, and this is one of many steps we aim to take in helping both active and retired members of the armed forces and their families.’
‘Your Royal Highness, my lords, ladies, gentlemen, brethren.Welcome to Freemasons’ Hall. Each year, more than 40,000 members of the public visit this building to learn a little more about the values and purpose of Freemasonry, and to marvel at this Art Deco masterpiece, the only Grade II*-listed building in London still used for its original purpose. It was conceived and built out of great conflict, as a lasting memorial to peace, and to those thousands of Freemasons who lost their lives in the Great War.
‘Those Lodges that contributed to the building of this great memorial are carved for posterity into the stones of its very walls, and the scroll of honour, the centrepiece of our building, behind me, lists the names of our fallen.
‘Organised Freemasonry was conceived over three centuries ago out of a time of great conflict. Huguenots and Stuarts, Catholics, Protestants and Jews, vying for power and influence in unsettling times. From this crucible of social discord arose an organisation which promoted religious tolerance, something wholly radical in a world characterised by conflict.
Freemasonry spoke for meritocracy at a time when birth and wealth determined success; it elected officers subject to democratic accountability, it introduced new norms of civility and discourse and promoted education and self-improvement, principles that spread around enlightenment Europe from Grand Lodge to Grand Lodge.
‘Freemasonry offers a simple philosophical message to its members – to act with integrity, to show respect to our fellows, to be charitable, kind and tolerant, and have a huge amount of fun along the way. The purpose is not only to promote virtue, but also to promote a thoughtful approach to being virtuous. It is centred around an analogy of building, or creating, and thus by chipping away our rough edges and our inadequacies we reveal the better people we can be – more fit to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, those who have fared less well in life than us, and those communities from which we are drawn.
‘I am delighted therefore that the Masonic Charitable Foundation and the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution Care Company are today announcing their intention to sign the Armed Forces Covenant during their Members’ Meeting on 8 December this year.
Freemasonry’s charities have a long and proud history of supporting the armed forces and their decision to make this commitment through the covenant will enhance this support over the years ahead.
‘At the end of the Second World War, a great many sailors, soldiers and airmen, seeking to maintain contact with their former colleagues and recapture the camaraderie they had known in the forces, turned to Freemasonry. It was a golden time for us as hundreds of new Lodges, each with military connections, were consecrated, and today it is no wonder that so many servicemen, and women, find a parallel between the lives they have led in uniform and the support and friendship they find within Lodge.
‘It is for those men and women, and those still serving, and in recognition of the very high regard that the members of the United Grand Lodge of England have always had for our armed forces, that I am delighted to be able to host our signing of the Military Covenant – a tangible demonstration of our continued commitment to those here represented by Major General Graham. I now invite him on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, and the MW Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent on behalf of the United Grand Lodge of England, to sign the covenant.’