Freemason Bruce Graham Clarke’s military career saw him serving on a midget submarine in 1945, wading through thick mud in a bid to cut vital telegraph cables running under Hong Kong harbour
In 1944, a small fleet of six XE class midget submarines was built. Typically, each would have a crew of just four men: a lieutenant in command with a sub-lieutenant as deputy, an engine room mechanic and a seaman. They carried 20-pound limpet mines that were attached to the target by the qualified diver in the crew.
Bruce Graham Clarke was on one of these submarines, XE5, which included a fifth crew member (a second diver), when it was deployed in 1945 as part of Operation Foil. The mission: to cut the Hong Kong to Singapore telephone cable west of Lamma Island that ran under Hong Kong harbour. The result would be to force the Japanese to use radio and leave themselves open to message interception.
A public servant, dedicated Freemason and talented artist, Clarke was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his role in the operation. He was born in Edinburgh on 9 September 1922 into a military family; his father was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy serving on HMS Pembroke. Educated at Tower House preparatory and University College Schools in London, Clarke volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1941.
Clarke initially served on destroyers, escorting convoys in the North Sea and in the Mediterranean. He later saw service during Operation Torch, the invasion of Northwest Africa. In 1943, he volunteered for service aboard the Royal Navy’s midget submarines and, after training in Scotland, was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
A DIFFICULT MISSION
In July and August 1945, Clarke took part in Operation Foil, with XE5 towed into position by the submarine HMS Selene. Lurking beneath the waves off Lamma Island, XE5’s divers, Clarke and Sub Lieutenant Dennis Victor Mark Jarvis, were forced to work in thick mud and under the constant threat of oxygen poisoning. Meanwhile, Operation Sabre was targeting the Hong Kong to Saigon cable, which had been tasked to XE4. This sub was towed to within 40 miles of the Mekong Delta by HMS Spearhead.
After a number of repeated attempts, the divers were still not completely certain that the cable had been cut. It was not until after the Japanese surrendered on 2 September 1945 – following the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – that it was confirmed the telephone cables had indeed been severed.
In the book Above Us the Waves, Charles Warren and James Benson recall the mission: ‘Hong Kong was supposed to be blessed with clear water. It was most galling, therefore, for the crew of XE5 to arrive in the defended waters of Hong Kong after a very rough trip… and for the best part of four days... the two divers, Clarke and Jarvis, were working up to their waists in mud…’
In a report of the operation, the commanding officer, Lieutenant H.P. Westmacott, added, ‘Whilst trying to clear the grapnel, S/Lt Clarke had caught his finger in the cutter, cut it very deeply and fractured the bone. It is impossible to praise too highly the courage and fortitude which enabled him to make his entry into the craft in this condition. Had he not done so, apart from becoming a prisoner, it is probable that the operation would have had to be abandoned for fear of being compromised.’
NATURAL DIGNITY AND POISE
A month later, the war ended, and Clarke was posted to Minden in West Germany and put in command as physical and recreational training officer of the Allied troops. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in Operation Foil and subsequently demobilised.
After brief spells working in India and Africa, Clarke joined the Overseas Civil Service and, through a series of promotions and secondments, forged a successful career in Kenya. In 1955, Clarke married Joan in Nakuru, Kenya. The family moved to Aden in 1957; this posting for Clarke included a period as labour commissioner.
In 1962, Clarke retired from Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service. After a three-year contract as personnel manager for the East African Power & Light Company in Tanganyika, Tanzania, Clarke returned to the UK, settling in Boscombe in Dorset in 1967. A long-time Freemason, Clarke was a member of Winston Churchill’s lodge in London, United Studholme Alliance Lodge, No. 1591, and in 1986 joined the Lodge of Meridian, No. 6582, in Dorset, becoming its Chaplain for many years.
One of the last surviving crew members of the XE midget submarines, Clarke passed away aged 95 in Dorset on 7 December 2017. During his last years, Clarke maintained the natural dignity and poise that he had demonstrated throughout his entire life.
‘I was hoping for three golds on the first day,’ deadpans Sean Gaffney, when asked if he was happy with the two golds, one silver and a bronze that he won in the 2016 Invictus Games, the international Paralympic-style event
During a practice run for a tournament while he was serving in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in 1999, there was ‘a bit of an accident’ when a 1,500lb field gun ended up on top of Sean’s foot, crushing it. Since suffering that life-changing injury, in which he lost the lower part of his left leg, Sean Gaffney has pushed his body to the limits of physical endurance.
He spent three months in hospital undergoing about 26 surgeries before contracting life-threatening septicaemia and having his leg amputated below the knee. Back at the gym within a month of being released from hospital, Sean started entering triathlons and began raising money for charities such as Help for Heroes, which led to him being asked to take part in the Invictus Games.
It’s his charity work that made Sean interested in Freemasonry. ‘Since 2006 I’ve done one or two physically challenging charity events a year,’ he says. ‘So when that side of Freemasonry was explained to me, I thought that was the best thing about it.’
Sean was initiated into the Royal Naval Lodge, No. 2761, in Yeovil in 2013, and feels that Freemasonry fits well into his life. ‘I can go off to a lodge meeting or a charity meal, or say that I’ll help out a fellow brother at the weekend lifting and shifting,’ he says. ‘It’s opened up a network of friends. Being a mason is not just about being a good man today, but having the desire to be a better man tomorrow.’
What does the Tercentenary mean to you?
‘How proud I am to be part of an organisation that for 300 years has sought to bring out the best in people. To be a member of a fraternity that does so much good in the world and asks for so little in return.’
Dorset Freemason Bruce Graham Clarke DSC, one of the last surviving crew members of the Second World War XE midget submarines, has passed to the Grand Lodge above aged 95 years
A public servant and talented artist, Bruce was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his role in the mission to cut the undersea telephone cables connecting Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The success of this operation forced the Japanese to use radio which left their messages open to interception.
Born in Edinburgh on 9 September 1922 into a military family, his father was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Educated at the Tower House School and University College School in London, Bruce volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1941. He initially served aboard destroyers, escorting convoys in the North Sea and the Mediterranean and witnessed the sinking of the French fleet. He later took part in Operation Torch – the invasion of Northwest Africa.
In 1943, Bruce volunteered for service aboard the Royal Navy’s midget submarines and after training in Scotland was commissioned. In July and August of 1945 Bruce was one of the crew of midget submarine XE5 which took part in Operation Foil to cut the Hong Kong to Singapore telegraph cable west of Lamma Island, running under Hong Kong harbour. In the book “Above us the waves” by Charles Warren and James Benson the mission is recalled ‘... Hong Kong was supposed to be blessed with clear water. It was most galling, therefore, for the crew of XE5 to arrive in the defended waters of Hong Kong after a very rough trip… and for the best part of four days ... the two divers, Clarke and Jarvis, were working up to their waists in mud…’
In his report of the operation, the commanding officer Lieutenant H.P. Westmacott wrote: ‘Whilst trying to clear the grapnel, S/Lt Clarke had caught his finger in the cutter, cut it very deeply and fractured the bone. It is impossible to praise too highly the courage and fortitude which enabled him to make his entry into the craft in this condition. Had he not done so, apart from becoming a prisoner, it is probable that the operation would have had to be abandoned for fear of being compromised.’ A month later the war ended and Bruce was posted to Minden in East Germany and put in command as Physical and Recreational Training Officer of Allied troops. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in Operation Foil on 17 November 1945 and subsequently demobilised in 1946.
After brief spells working in India and Africa, Bruce joined the Overseas Civil Service and through a series of promotions and secondments formed a successful career in Kenya. In 1955, Bruce married Joan in Nakuru, Kenya. The family moved to Aden in 1957; this posting for Bruce included a period as Labour Commissioner.
In 1962, Bruce retired from Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service and after a three year contract as Personnel Manager for the East African Power & Light Company in Tanganyika, Bruce returned to the UK, settling in Boscombe in Dorset in 1967. For a brief period, he and his wife Joan bought and let property but latterly restored antique china, porcelain and furniture, until Joan’s death in 1982 at the age of 60. In retirement, he returned to his hobby of oil painting; he was a very talented painter and produced some fine copies of the old masters.
He was initiated into United Studholme Alliance Lodge No. 1591 in 1979 and in 1986 joined Lodge of Meridian No. 6582 in Dorset, where he was Chaplain of for many years. Bruce was a holder of London Grand Rank and a Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden in Dorset. He was exalted into St Aldhelm's Chapter No. 2559 in Dorset in 1996.
Richard Merritt, Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, said: 'Brother Clarke was typical of so many unsung heroes within the Masonic Order. His military career, extreme bravery in the face of the enemy, personal charm and life-long modesty exemplify the principles observed and practised by Freemasons throughout their lives.'
A number of Freemasons have been honoured in HM The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List 2018
Sir Andrew Charles Parmley
Andrew Parmley was appointed a Knight Bachelor for his services to Music, Education and Civic Engagement.
Andrew served as Lord Mayor of the City of London in 2016/17 and is currently the principal of The Harrodian School in West London. He has been an elected Member of Common Council since 1992, and was elected Alderman of Vintry Ward in 2001.
To celebrate the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations 130 Grand Masters from all parts of the world attended a reception at Mansion House on 30th October 2017, where they were welcomed by Andrew in his role as the Lord Mayor of London at the time.
John Allan Hunter
John Hunter, lately chair of the Argentine-British Community Council, was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the Anglo-Argentine community in Argentina in the Diplomatic Service and Overseas Honours list.
The Diplomatic Service and Overseas Honours List is in recognition of truly exceptional and outstanding service to Britain internationally and overseas.
John was Chairman of the Argentine-British Community Council from 2013 to 2016. The Argentine-British Community Council was founded in 1939 and its mission statement reads: ‘The object of the Argentine British Community Council is to promote the welfare of the Argentine British Community in Argentina.
‘With that end in mind it will assure the closest coordination and cooperation amongst its members, and the social, cultural and welfare entities of the Community. It will endeavour to assist and conduct all activities within the spirit of the Constitution and the Laws of the Argentine Republic, strengthening in this way the links between the Community and the country.’
John is currently Worshipful Master of The Pampa Lodge No. 2329 which meets in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is also the Assistant District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of South America – Southern Division.
John Mervyn Cornish
John Cornish was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the community in Stewkley, Buckinghamshire.
After moving to Stewkley in 1963 to a rented farm, John joined the Stewkley Village Hall committee in 1967 and 20 years later took on the role of Chairman. John has always considered the Hall to be his main hobby and during this time as Chairman, worked tirelessly raising money to ensure it stayed a viable community asset including two major refurbishments.
John is a member of Leighton Cross Lodge No. 6176 and in 2013, was named Past Provincial Grand Pursuivant for Bedfordshire.
PAUL ANTHONY WATSON
Paul Watson was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for voluntary services to veterans. He is the Vice Chairman of the Lee-on-Solent Branch of the Royal Naval Association.
Paul was initiated into Pendenis Lodge No. 7520 in Cornwall in 1985 whilst serving in the Royal Navy. Paul would later move to Bristol where he became a joining member of Jerusalem Lodge No. 686 in 1989, before going on to become a founding member of the Lodge of Seafarers No. 9589 in South Gloucester in 1995.
Paul eventually moved to Hampshire and joined Fareham Lodge No. 8582 in 2011, where he is currently the Lodge Caterer and Lodge Almoner. Paul was named Past Provincial Assistant Grand Standard Bearer for Hampshire and Isle of Wight in February 2018.
Professor Christopher Liu OBE
Professor Christopher Liu was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to Ophthalmology.
Christopher is a Senior Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton and has worked there for more than 20 years.
He was the first surgeon in the UK to learn a pioneering technique that involved restoring sight through the reconstruction of a new eye using a small plastic lens and one of the patient’s own teeth. Christopher also founded the Sussex Eye Foundation, a registered charity with an aim to create a state-of-the-art eye facility for the South East of England.
Christopher is a Past Master of Royal Clarence Lodge No. 271 and last year, was named Provincial Senior Grand Deacon for Sussex.
17 September 2012 - UPDATE: It has just been announced that 'The Queen has been graciously pleased, on the ocassion of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee' to award Brian Todhunter with the Royal Victorian Medal (Silver) for 'Restoration of Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia's Royal Barge and Escort Boats'.
Brian Todhunter, a member of Tuscan Oak and Lamberthead Lodge No.6387, will be on board the Royal Yacht Britannia's tender, the Britannia Royal Barge, transporting Her Majesty The Queen to the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant this weekend.
Brian is a former Royal Navy engineer and a member of the Association of Royal Yachtsmen, having served on the Royal Yacht Britannia between 1975 and 1978. Last November, at the Association's Annual General Meeting, he was asked to inspect the Britannia Royal Barge and an escort launch in order to get them both running. He quickly put together a team of ex-Royal Yachtsmen from the engineering branch, and, based in Leith, Scotland (Britannia's current home), they have worked tirelessly for the past seven months in order to recommission their engines and get the boats shipshape. This has included extensive sea trials on the Firth of Forth in Force 4 winds - although he is not expecting anything quite so rough on the Thames!
The royal barge was used to transport The Queen and other members of the Royal Family to and from Britannia, until she was decommissioned in 1997. Brian, who also served on HMS Hermes, said: “Its remarkable how well she ran after 15 years of idleness. We are all looking forward to carrying out Royal duty again - although probably for the last time”.
The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, who is Patron of the Pageant, and the Duchess of Cornwall, will board the Britannia Royal Barge, at Chelsea Pier. They will then be transported some eight hundred yards downstream to Cadogan Pier, where they will disembark and board the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will join them onboard.
The Britannia Royal Barge will then proudly escort the Royal Barge at the head of this spectacular pageant until the Royal party disembarks close to Blackfriars Bridge and boards HMS President, where they will watch the pageant go by.
The Association of Royal Yachtsmen was founded in 1989 by Albert ‘Dixie’ Deane and is dedicated to bringing together many of the estimated 1,767 ‘Yotties’ who served on-board HMY Britannia between 14 January 1954 and 11 December 1997. HM The Queen is Patron of the Association and the Duke of Edinburgh is its President. Its headquarters are on the Royal Yacht Britannia, where many Yotties return annually for their working party week. Throughout this sociable week the Yotties work alongside Britannia’s maintenance crew to undertake a wide range of jobs throughout their old home. They also mix with visitors, who are enthralled by their stories of the 'good old days'.
With a proud tradition stretching back almost 200 years, HMS Trincomalee is on the crest of a new learning wave, as Euan Houstoun, a descendant of a past captain, explains
It would be an enormous task to make up the story that has made HMS Trincomalee the icon of the celebrated ‘wooden walls’ of the Nelson era. The ship’s survival has been remarkable, coming back from the brink of extinction on numerous occasions. The second oldest ship afloat in the world, what has kept her hull above water for so long has been the fact that young people from across the UK continue to have the chance to learn about her proud and exciting history.
As national educational priorities change, it is essential that HMS Trincomalee changes with them. Thanks to the support of local development authorities, Freemasons and the hard work of the HMS Trincomalee Trust, the ship has been able to offer schools opportunities for learning outside the classroom in a unique and stimulating environment.
Built for the Admiralty in the East India Company dockyard at Bombay in 1817, HMS Trincomalee was constructed of Malabar teak and named after the superb natural harbour in eastern Ceylon that provided British control of the Indian Ocean from 1795. By 1862, social and technological changes gradually transformed the Royal Navy and for the next fifteen years HMS Trincomalee was to assume a drill ship role at Hartlepool, where the training of reservists afloat was seen as the key to retaining and refreshing skills. However, by 1897 the end was in sight with the ship being offered for breaking.
Out of the woodwork came Geoffrey Wheatley Cobb, a sea training enthusiast who took loan of HMS Trincomalee from the Royal Navy, and renamed her after his earlier vessel, Lord Nelson’s Foudroyant. Cobb took the ship to Falmouth and Milford Haven where young people, often from poor families, were given experience of life on board. In 1932, the ship transferred to Portsmouth and during the Second World War it was commissioned to train new entry recruits known as the ‘Bounty Boys’.
With a trust formed to promote the training and experience for young people all over the country, the ship became a beacon in the busy harbour for years, sharing water with modern-day warships. By the 1980s, however, curriculum and career changes resulted in fewer young people visiting the ship. A shortage of funds also meant that there was a severe lack of maintenance. Consequently, the structure of the ship continued to deteriorate and in 1986 the trust had to face the prospect that the ship may have made its final voyage.
Captain David Smith, chairman of the trust, came up with an alternative plan to restore the ship. After exhaustive negotiations, it was agreed that she should abandon her home in Portsmouth and move back to her former location at Hartlepool, where the regeneration and renaissance of the town could be centred on the ship. Crucially, this was also an area where there was a skilled workforce who could undertake a restoration of this magnitude. Transported by submersible barge to Hartlepool in 1987, the restoration process began in 1990 thanks largely to grants from Teesside Development Corporation and other generous supporters.
With the ship regaining its original name in Hartlepool, the restoration of HMS Trincomalee took eleven years from 1990 to 2001. The facts are staggering – the trust raised £10.5 million for the work; the process subsumed more than three quarters of a million man-hours of skilled employment; and about £8 million was fed into the local economy through wages and purchases. Not a bad achievement for a small charitable trust. Most important of all perhaps, was the outcome that more than 60 per cent of the original fabric of the ship survives today, making it one of the most important ships in the UK.
Like any survivor, HMS Trincomalee must move with the times and maintain relevance. The trust is therefore determined to upgrade the educational resources and materials for teachers and pupils across all key stages of the National Curriculum. With the support of the Freemasons, it has been able to make an exciting start to this work, and already all-new materials to stimulate writing skills at key stage 2, which covers the seven to eleven-year-old age group, have been developed.
Built for war and for a twenty-five-year life expectancy, HMS Trincomalee has already achieved a lifespan of over one hundred and ninety four years thanks to those who have nurtured her over the decades. As well as developing new educational resources, a team of educators and trustees is coordinating a broad and balanced approach to the historical relevance of HMS Trincomalee to the maritime and social history of Britain. The priority remains to create financial sustainability in order to continue the essential maintenance and conservation of HMS Trincomalee, ensuring that she is open year-round for the public’s education and enjoyment.
To find out more, go to www.hms-trincomalee.co.uk
Letter to the Editor - FreemasonryToday No.17 - Spring 2012