The story of the 17th Battalion Hampshire Regiment and Martyn Lodge No. 1983 is testament to the bond of brotherhood shared by the armed forces and the Freemasons
At the installation meeting on 8 November 1918, at the third rising, Bro Capt Edwin Tims of the 17th Battalion Hampshire Regiment, and of the Duke of Connaught Lodge No. 1834, rose and presented to the newly installed Master, W Bro Andrew J Critten, a handsome clock in an oak case.
The inscription on the clock reads: Presented to the Martyn Lodge 1983, by the 17th Hampshire Regiment in appreciation of the Masonic Friendship extended to them during their stay in Southwold from February 1918 to November 1918.
Captain Tims thanked the brethren of Martyn Lodge for the kindness shown to them during their stay in Southwold. In turn, the Master thanked the brethren of the Hampshire Regiment for their handsome gift and assured Captain Tims that they would always look back on the happy times spent together in the lodge, sincerely hoping that they would see them again.
As the war came to an end and those brethren returned to their homes, they were assured that on the sixth day of the week, in the second week of the month, at 9.30pm, they would be held in remembrance. And to this day, the brethren of Martyn Lodge No. 1983 and their guests still honour the brethren of the Hampshire Regiment at its November meeting, at 9.30pm with a toast: ‘To the Hampshire Regiment.’
The clock still retains its place on the mantlepiece of the lodge’s anteroom, where it has been since 1922 when the present lodge was built.
On 9 November 2018, 100 years after its presentation, Martyn Lodge held a special meeting to commemorate the centenary of the event and the end of World War I. Service medals and masonic jewels were worn, the lodge was opened, and the non-masonic invited guests were admitted into the Temple. Cadets and staff from the 1379 (Leiston) Squadron of the RAFAC paraded their Standard into the Temple and took their seats. Some of the brethren from the lodge are attached to this unit as instructors.
Representing the Hampshire Regiment was W Bro Doug Chambers of Sir Francis Drake Lodge No. 7668 and a former Regimental Sergeant Major of the 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment, who gave a presentation on the history of the 17th (Home Service) Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment.
The regiment was formed on 13 February 1915 at Bishops Waltham, Hampshire. After a month of training, orders were received to proceed to Leith in Scotland where they were stationed with the Highland Brigade. Their duties were to guard the docks, Granton Harbour, Blackness Castle, the Forth Bridge and Queens Ferry. In May of 1915, the battalion moved to the northeast coast near Blyth. Here, they carried out similar duties as before. In March of 1916 they were transferred to Herne Bay in Kent, where they remained until October 1917.
They were then moved to Whitstable, before finally arriving in Southwold in February 1918. Much work had to be done to repair the defences there as they had been extensively damaged and in places washed away by the sea. The hutments and billets were in a dreadful state, and these were restored back to perfect condition by the battalion.
After the armistice, the battalion dispersed and was wound up in May 1919. The battalion remained a Home Service one and the unit did not see any fighting, although the commanding officer had artillery consisting of six 18 pounders, two 4.7-inch guns and 52 Lewis guns under his command.
The centenary celebrations then continued with W Bro Steve Bignal giving an explanation of the presentation of the clock and details about the brethren of the lodge from that era, along with their connections to the armed services.
Martyn Lodge Roll of Honour was read out, as were the names of the present brethren who had served in the armed forces. The congregation then stood for the reading of the Ode to Remembrance followed by the Last Post and a two-minute silence. The Standard was then paraded out, followed by the Worshipful Master and Grand Officers.
It is unfortunate that 80 per cent of the records of the Hampshire Regiment were destroyed during the blitz of World War II. This has meant that the list of those mentioned as belonging to the regiment may be incomplete. There were many members of the services who were stationed in Southwold during this period who were regular visitors to the lodge; engineers such as Major Grigson, who was from the Prince of Wales Lodge No. 1338 in Auckland.
The records for the year of 1918 only go to show what a wonderful organisation we have the privilege of belonging to and that we were able to practise all those qualities we profess to admire.
Thanks to: Lt Col Colin Bulleid, Secretary to the Hampshire Regiment Museum at Winchester. W Bro Doug Chambers of Sir Francis Drake Lodge No. 7668 and former member of the Hampshire Regiment. Jacqueline Dyball BA (Hons). MA. Dip IDM.