A 16-year-old who secured his Rolls-Royce apprenticeship ahead of almost 6,000 others, through the positive approach to life he learned as a Royal Air Force (RAF) cadet, is an example of what’s being achieved thanks to work led by a Lincolnshire Freemason
He’s Bob Chalklin, currently Master of Daedalus Lodge No. 3843 in the market town of Sleaford in Lincolnshire, which used to be the RAF lodge, and is also the Wing Commander responsible for the RAF dimension of a government initiative to expand the number of cadet units in schools to 500 nationwide.
With the RAF part of the target already exceeded and the project supporting a rolling population of more than 11,000 cadets at any one time, significant benefits are already being realised.
It’s immensely rewarding for Bob and his colleagues in the other Services, who have doubled the number of schools involved over the last eight years; largely funded by ‘reinvesting’ money taken from fines levied on the banks after the LIBOR scandal. Bob said: ‘Doubling the number of schools with cadet units in eight years is quote something significant. The units are open to boys and girls from the Year 8 – but, as the government requested, we have targeted schools outside the traditional area for cadet forces, the independents and grammar schools.
‘The units we have set up are mainly in areas of social deprivation; where high numbers of pupils are on free school meals, for example. These are the schools of pupils whose parents might be earning minimum wage, if they’re employed at all, and so don’t have the wherewithal to pay for their sons and daughters to be involved as once might have been the case, and it’s working. Absenteeism is dropping, discipline is improved, and the cadets engage more effectively with their academic work,' says Bob, who is also a member of Hope Chapter 588.
Bob’s role in setting up new cadet units has been to visit schools and explain the problems that must be faced and the benefits that will be achieved, and interviewing staff to become volunteers. He said: ‘It is a burden for a school, so the Head has to convince me the school really wants to have a unit, which is going to mean extra work for staff, because they’ll be the volunteers who run it with help from RAF permanent staff. It’s like setting up a new department.’
Bob also works on the RAF Air Cadet Leadership Course, which runs for four weeks every summer. It involves 66 (16 and 17-year old) cadets on each of four weeks, building on what they’ve learned in the cadet units and equipping them with the skills to secure Level 3 Certificates in teamwork from the Institute of Leadership Management – a qualification you’d normally expect an adult to apply for, not a 16-year-old.
‘But we are building skills for life,” said Bob. “Through the cadet units these young people learn oral communication, a willingness to talk to someone they have not met, teamwork, problem solving, social awareness, and a spirit of adventure. These are the things people look for in potential employees, and once learned, are skills for life. To see the development of the youngsters in a week on our leadership course is just fantastic and humbling. You might say we’re making good young men and women better.’
Bob’s life in the RAF
Bob was an officer in the RAF Regiment for 33 years, before which he’d been a cadet in school squadron, a civilian instructor and officer volunteer before joining the RAF in 1973. Having retired from RAF Cranwell in 2006 he was asked to apply for a post firstly looking after events for the whole Air Cadet Organisation and then running the RAF part of the Combined Cadet Force. ‘I did that until October 2016 before retiring for a second time, and then in January 2017 was asked to look after the RAF Cadet Expansion Programme, which I’ve been doing part time ever since,’ he said.
Bob’s entry into Freemasonry began with a misunderstanding. He made a remark about the craft when talking about the film The Man Who Would Be King, leading a work colleague to think he was on the square. He said: 'When I told him that I wasn’t, he asked me if I was interested and made the necessary introductions to a friend in Daedalus Lodge.'
Suited but not booted
Although the RAF provides uniforms for its cadets, it doesn’t provide footwear. Bob is currently working on completing uniforms by appealing for masonic donations to cover the cost of appropriate boots, and hopes to talk to Provinces nationwide to explain the position and get their lodges, and neighbouring businesses, to help meet the need. ‘A pair of boot seems a small price to pay as a contribution to the lifetime of benefit that can be achieved,’ he said. In addition, small donations to support the cadets from financially challenged families to attend meaningful training activities and camps can be life changing for them.
The event took place in Spalding, where the Duke had a variety of other engagements during the day. It was hosted by Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master David Wheeler and had been arranged at the Masonic Hall at the request of the Lord Lieutenant of the county.
Also in attendance was the President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, Richard Hone, who was pleased to accept the donation of £100,000 for the MCF, which marked the start of Lincolnshire’s 2025 Festival.
That’s my boy
When Lincolnshire Freemason Gary Hurst was raised to the Third Degree, the ceremony was performed by his father Glyn, who travelled from North Wales
Gary always wanted to follow his father into Freemasonry and was initiated into Olive Union Lodge No. 1304 in Horncastle in November 2017, watched by his father.
But when his raising was being planned, Olive Union’s Master David Clarke had the idea that Glyn might like to perform the ceremony.
Gary said: ‘Whilst fathers initiating, passing and raising their sons is commonplace, the opportunity to do it not only in a different Lodge to your own, but also in a different Province was an exciting prospect for Dad, and after a few telephone conversations – including checking both lodges were using the same ritual and even language – the scene was set for him to take control.’
Glyn travelled from North Wales on the day of the ceremony, arriving in plenty of time to meet David face-to-face and run through the ceremony schedule with Olive Union’s Director of Ceremonies to ensure everything came together perfectly.
Gary added: ‘With the lodge opened in the Second Degree, David handed the gavel over to Dad, who put the questions to me and then carried out the raising, assisted by Olive Union members.
‘We’d been planning for Dad coming back to see my raising ever since I was initiated, but having him in the chair made it extra special. I know I speak for both of us in sending thanks to everyone who made it possible.’
Gary’s a serving member of the Royal Air Force and has settled in Lincolnshire. His father Glyn is a member of Pennant Lodge No. 7348 in North Wales, where he is Past Provincial Grand Charity Steward.
Only 17 Freemasons have been Provincial Grand Master of Lincolnshire since its formation in 1792 – and four of them are in this picture
Still regularly attending meetings are the men who have been in charge – with one break of two years – since 1981.
They are Gordon Walkerley Smith (1999-2008), David Wheeler (the current incumbent, installed in July 2018). Geoffrey Mawer Cooper (1981-1997) and Graham Ives (2008-2018)
The break in the chain was caused by the unexpected death, two years after taking the office in 1997, of Dr John Allin.
The longest time in office was 41 years, between 1895 and 1936, when the Provincial Grand Master was Lord Worsley, Fourth Earl of Yarborough – though as David Wheeler pointed out: ’In those days it was a largely ceremonial office with others representing the Provincial Grand Master on many occasions.’
Lincolnshire Freemasons have given £5,000 to help improve the quality of life for those most in need in one of the country’s most deprived wards
This is the East Marsh in Grimsby, which has the unenviable status of being in the bottom 1% on a national deprivation league table. The money, which has come through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, has been given to Harbour Place who are based in Hope Street, Grimsby, and support rough sleepers, the homeless and other socially excluded people.
In September last year, the charity moved to the Hope Street premises, which allowed it to launch a permanent night shelter in support of its Street Outreach Project, which has been running since April 2011, and has now been expanded.
Project Director Robin Barr said: 'A key part of the project’s activities include supporting and advocating on behalf of clients through signposting, referral and access to a wide range of statutory and voluntary sector agencies. Since opening the Hope Centre in September 2018, Harbour Place has registered over 175 clients for the new service.'
'Since the move to Hope Street more than 50 people have been helped to find permanent accommodation, more than 30 of whom have been through the night shelter.'
Robin said that success was an indication of the significance of the £5,000 donation: 'Our records indicate that if we can work consistently with someone over a short period, we can usually assist them to find accommodation.'
The donation was made by Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master, David Wheeler, and Pete Tong, the Provincial Charity Steward.
Pete said: 'The message we brought away from the staff and volunteers at Harbour Place was that for more people than we might have imagined, the prospect of living on the street was too close for comfort. For many, the financial cushion which keeps the roof over their head is very thin indeed.
'They told us of one man they were helping who had been a respected professional in the community, but after problems resulting from a marriage break-up he had been reduced to living on the street.
'The successes achieved by the team of staff and volunteers are hard won, and we trust our donation will help their efforts to be even more effective.'
Father and son coffee shop owners Mike and Jamie Bristow have become brothers, having been initiated side by side as members of Eccles Lodge No. 8632 in Lincolnshire
Their double initiation as father and son is rare, and resulted from a masonic journey started several years ago.
It began over not one cup of coffee, but hundreds, because it grew from conversations they had when they used to run a market stall in Louth near fellow stallholder Mark Brown, who is also the Lodge secretary. Having taken their first tentative steps, both are excited about what lies ahead.
Mike, 54, said: ‘We’re on a journey. It’s a new road of discovery for us, and we don’t know where it’s going. That’s what makes it so exciting.’
Jamie, 29, agreed, explaining that they had turned down the opportunity to visit the lodge room at an open day. ‘We wanted it to be as new as possible, so the less we knew, the better.
‘It was a fabulous experience, and brilliant when we later saw someone else going through their first degree, because we had been through it ourselves.’
Having watched someone else’s initiation later provided their first opportunity to share the festive board with other members in the body of the room. Jamie added: ‘It was our first meal sitting with everyone else. It was good to chat with people and get to know them.’
Brothers beyond borders
A chance discovery of a 100-year-old piece of paper has revealed a masonic meeting in Jerusalem and a fraternal bond that brought together men of all ranks and religions
Found in an old leather regalia case, a typed document has surfaced reporting on how New Zealand Freemasons held a masonic meeting in a mosque on the site where King Solomon’s Temple had once stood. It tells the story of how ‘a great sheikh’ not only allowed the masons to hold a meeting in the mosque, but also that the sheikh was a Freemason.
The scrap of paper belonged to Thomas Jackson, who had been raised in Star in the East Lodge, No. 650, and the Freemasons mentioned in his story were members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Masonic Association. Formed in France by Colonel George Barclay in 1917, the association’s objective was to hold meetings to promote fraternity among its members, with branches formed in various camps, depots and hospitals.
MEETING IN TROUBLED TIMES
One branch was formed in Egypt and Palestine in May 1917 by Brigadier-General William Meldrum (1865-1964), with the meeting referred to in Jackson’s account likely taking place in April 1918 in the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. Standing on Mount Moriah, this is where Abraham is said to have prepared to sacrifice Issac, and where Muhammad ascended to heaven, making it a holy place to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Believed to have been built around 1,000BC on the same site, King Solomon’s Temple has influenced masonic symbolism for centuries.
More than 100 years after the meeting, the piece of paper was passed to Peter Brooks, Lincolnshire Assistant Provincial Grand Master and husband of Jackson’s granddaughter, Jackie. ‘The Star in the East Lodge is still active, and we sent the paper back to them in Harwich, along with a centenary booklet from 1955 and a summons dated 1934 – all of which they were delighted to receive,’ says Peter.
On conducting further research into his lodge’s archives, Colin Ruffle from the Star in the East found that Jackson was initiated into the lodge on 9 April, 1915, passed on 11 May and was raised on 23 July. The raising was one of dozens of emergency meetings during the First World War, completed outside the usual May to September period to get candidates in before they were posted abroad. ‘We read out the minutes of meetings from 100 years ago at our corresponding meetings and found they did first, second and third degrees at a single meeting, sometimes with multiple candidates,’ says Ruffle. ‘It must have gone on all night!’
For Jackson, the meeting he witnessed in the mosque showed the ‘universality of the order’, bringing together soldiers of all ranks from around the world, and with a great sheikh acting as one of the guards.
Thomas Jackson's report on the masons in a mosque
‘Ancient rites observed on the site of Solomon’s temple
Freemasons in Palistine [sic] have held a masonic meeting on the historic site of King Solomon’s Temple where Freemasonry is supposed to have originated about 1,000BC. This meeting was organised by members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in Palistine. The Mosque of Omar being on the site of the Temple, the Newzealanders [sic] approached the Great Sheikh in charge of the Mosque for permission to hold a meeting. Then occurred an incident showing the universality of the order. The Sheikh listened to what the strangers had to say, and then to their amazement asked if there were any Freemasons among them. The rest was easy. He declared himself a mason and at the meeting acted as one of the guards of the lodge. The place within the mosque where the meeting was held is known as the cave of the Rock of the Dome and is believed to have been the Holy of Holies of the old Temple as it is today of the Mosque of Omar. Soldiers of all ranks were present, and after a lodge had been duly const tuter [sic] and opened, resolutions were passed conveying fraternal greetings and good wishes to the various Grand Lodges in New Zealand and the brethren in France.’
The star in the east
The Star in the East Lodge, No. 650, meets in Harwich, Essex and was consecrated in 1855. The centenary meeting took place two years after a flood had left the masonic hall under six feet of water. The most famous member was Captain Fryatt, who was arrested by the Germans in 1916 after trying to ram a German sub with his ship. He was executed and his body was one of only three to be repatriated after the war, in the same railway carriage that brought Edith Cavell and the Unknown Soldier back to the UK.
It costs an average of £2,500 every time the Air Ambulance scrambles for another life-saving mission from its base at RAF Waddington.
Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master David Wheeler said: ‘The Air Ambulance provides a vital service in our largely rural Province, and we are pleased to say that by helping to fund it with our donation we have played a small role in ensuring that there will be people alive tomorrow who might otherwise have passed away.
‘We see ourselves as part of a community, with a duty to help everyone in it. Support for the Air Ambulance is a positive way to do that at life-changing moments for patients and their families.’
The £4,000 grant came from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), and was part of the latest round of Air Ambulance funding, which totals over £4 million since 2007. This year, 20 services will share in £192,000 from the MCF, which administers funds raised through personal contributions from Freemasons.
The Lincs and Notts donation was handed over by Provincial Charity Steward Peter Tong, who said: ‘The Air Ambulance service in our region has been there to help more than 192,000 people since its inception in 1994.
'It already flies two or three times a day, but the organisation’s ambition is to make itself available to fly to where it’s needed on a 24/7 basis. That could lift the number of missions to five a day, which is a tremendous financial commitment. We wanted to play a small part in helping to make that happen.’
Sally Crawford, the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance head of Fundraising and Communications, said: ‘Thank you so much for supporting the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance; £4,000 is an incredible amount of money and we are most grateful. The critical care we provide gives people their very best chance of survival and recovery. We receive no direct Government funding, and are not part of the NHS, so your donation really is essential in helping us to save lives.’
Members of the Lincolnshire Masonic Motorcycle Club (LMMC) rode their bikes to Scunthorpe for a meeting to discuss their programme for the year ahead
Led by Chris Jones, who is currently Worshipful Master of the Round Table Lodge of Lincolnshire No. 8240, as well as LMMC secretary, the club brings together Freemasons in the Province who have a passion for motorcycling.
The Club was establised in 2017 with a view to creating touring opportunities. So far, they have recruited more than 40 members, from which groups of up to a dozen riders have visited lodges in Scotland, Switzerland and Germany.
Chris said: 'Next year we would like to extend that by including Norway and Luxembourg. The touring has been fantastic, but the visiting has been even more so, creating many contacts and friendships.'
Chris and his fellow club members have ambitions for the fledgling organisation and are actively considering the possibilities not only of forming a Blood Bikes organisation in the Province to support the emergency services, but also a motorcycling lodge.
It started with what seemed a good idea at the time, when Keith Edwards said to his friend Keith Appleton: 'I want to play my guitar on the top of England’s highest mountain, and I want you to be my guide and percussionist'
That’s how ‘The Two Keefs’ was formed to play a one-in-a-lifetime gig on the top of Cumbria’s Scafell Pike, and to raise money for Lincolnshire’s New Provincial Benevolent Fund in the process.
Keith A is an experienced walker, with numerous demanding treks to his credit, but Keith E is not. Pretty soon into the climb it became apparent that practice walks in the flatlands of Lincolnshire had not adequately prepared him for the 3,200 foot ascent. He said: 'I must admit I found it quite tough, although the many fellow climbers we came across provided me with lots of breaks whilst I explained why my rucksack was guitar-shaped.'
The Keiths – both members of Astral Lodge No. 3841 in Grimsby – made it to the top and played two rock songs, Wishing Well and Fisherman’s Blues. It wasn’t long before the cold was in danger of making their fingers blue too, making playing tricky and bringing the gig to an end. Keith A said: 'It was nice to see that the Great Architect laid on some atmospheric dry ice for the gig, although it did restrict the view of the beautiful Cumbrian scenery.'
Keith E added: 'When we finished we heard clapping which was very pleasing – until we discovered that it was someone’s cagoul flapping in the strong wind.'
The New Provincial Benevolent Fund is an initiative from the Province of Lincolnshire, and raises money to support Masonic and non-Masonic causes alike. In doing som, it is invaluable in enhancing the perception of Freemasonry in the community.