The memorial paving stones outside Freemasons’ Hall commemorate Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War, and Royal Marine Portsmouth Lodge No. 6423 in Hampshire is fortunate to have one of those members amongst their founders
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the action that saw Sergeant Norman Augustus Finch, Royal Marine Artillery, awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the lodge dedicated their Installation Ceremony in April 2018 to his memory.
United Grand Lodge of England had commissioned wooden cut-out figures to display the details of each holder at their memorial unveiling, which were subsequently sent to those Provinces in which the individuals had been members. Norman’s one had been presented to his mother lodge, Lodge of Hope No. 2153, who kindly allowed its use at the meeting so that Norman’s presence could be felt by all.
Additionally, so that present and future members would have a lasting memorial to Norman before them during meetings and festivities, a statuette of a Royal Marine was dedicated to his memory. This statuette had previously been presented to the lodge by Jane Suter, the wife of one of their regular visitors, for use as the lodge saw fit, and it was mounted on a plinth on which Norman’s citation had been engraved by Mark Bizley of Hermes Lodge No. 5532.
Prior to the Installation of their new Worshipful Master Graham Jickells, the statuette was presented to the outgoing Master Gary Spencer-Humphrey, with an explanation of the significance delivered by David Barron. The lodge then fell silent as Ian ‘Taff’ Davies MBE gave an eloquent and moving rendition of the ‘Zeebrugge Citation’. On completion of the ceremony the new Master took ‘Norman’ to their Festive Board where he symbolically represented ‘All Absent Brethren’.
To put these events into context, it was no coincidence that Royal Marine Portsmouth Lodge was consecrated on 23rd April 1947 as this was the date in 1918 that the Zeebrugge Raid took place – a date that ranks with special significance amongst all Royal Marines. A raid that displayed the commitment, bravery, ‘daring-do’ and valour of those members of the Corps (in its then form, Royal Marine Light Infantry) that all those following in their footsteps could aspire to.
Norman was awarded the Victoria Cross under Clause 13 of the Royal Warrant, which provides for the recipient to be elected by his peers, who were present at the action.
Norman was initiated into Lodge of Hope in September 1918 and was subsequently a founding member of Royal Marine Portsmouth Lodge, when it was consecrated in 1947. He was their first Senior Warden, and the following year was installed as their second Worshipful Master – 30 years after being awarded his Victoria Cross.