Simon Constable of Lodge Neuhaus No. 946, from the Grand Lodge of British Freemasons in Germany, David Purvis of Hervey and Kentish Companions Lodge No. 1692, in the Province of West Kent, and Mark Bryant of Dagenham Lodge No. 4699, in the Province of Essex, took part in the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice Parade in the Belgium town of Ypres on 11th November 2018

Simon and David, both Royal Air Force (RAF) veterans, now serving with RAF Air Cadets youth organisation, marched in the parade with the Cadet Contingent from London and the South East whilst Mark, also a forces veteran, marched in the Veterans Contingent.

The parade started in the Square outside St Martins Church and ended half a mile later at Menin Gate, the famous war memorial in Ypres where the names of the fallen British and Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave are recorded.

To honour Freemasons who fell during the Great War, three Masonic wreaths were laid at Menin Gate. David and Mark laid wreaths on behalf of the Provincial Lodges of West Kent and of Essex respectively, whilst Simon laid a wreath on behalf of the United Grand Lodge of England, on which the message read ‘In Lasting Memory of those Freemasons who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War 1914 – 1918’.

David said: ‘It was an honour to lay these wreaths on behalf of all Freemasons and to pay respect to the Brethren who fell during the Great War, and in all wars since.'

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War and the 75th Anniversary of the Dambusters Raid, Derbyshire Freemasons with special guest, Squadron Leader George 'Johnny' Johnson MBE DFM, made generous presentations to Derbyshire Air Cadets

‘Johnny’ was a 21-year-old Sergeant when he took part in Operation Chastise, where he was the bomb aimer in Lancaster AJ-T (T-Tommy) piloted by ‘Joe’ McCarthy RCAF, which conducted the first attack on the Sorpe Dam.

The Squadron was based in Lincolnshire but used the Derwent dams during training so he is no stranger to the county, albeit in those days he was seeing Derbyshire from the air. The connection to Derbyshire also includes Barnes Wallace, the engineer who designed the bouncing bomb and who was born in Ripley.

Looking for a fitting tribute to mark the various anniversaries, the Provincial Grand Master for Derbyshire Steven Varley decided to present all Air Training Corps Squadrons within Derbyshire a cheque for £1,000. In addition, the Squadrons each received a framed print of a Lancaster Bomber signed and presented by Squadron Leader Johnson, who at 96 years of age is the last surviving member of the aircrews that participated in the Dambusters Raid during the Second World War. These prints will no doubt be treasured by future generations of ATC cadets.

All of the donations were funded by the Provincial Grand Charity of the Province Of Derbyshire which regularly gives funding for many worthy causes throughout the County. All of the funds are collected from donations made by their members.

Flight Lieutenant Steve Broomhead RAFAC, Officer Commanding 1890 (Dronfield) Squadron ATC: ‘This is a fantastically generous gift that will certainly help as my Squadron is desperately trying to update our IT capability.

‘The IT is now such so important to the running of the Squadron both in our administration and in the gaining of cadet qualifications. The icing on the evening’s cake was receiving the signed print from, and meeting with, Johnny Johnson, such an inspiring gentleman.’

After the Presentations, Squadron Leader Michael Roe, RAF Rtd, gave an interesting talk about his long and distinguished flying career in the RAF. To cap it all, four lucky cadets will also receive a flight in an historic two-seater Chipmunk aircraft.

In a short but entertaining speech, Johnny Johnson paid tribute to those he flew with and told the cadets that they were the RAF’s future and that the future was looking to be in good hands. After the Presentations and speeches, Johnny Johnson was presented with a cheque for £1,000 for his own charity, Group 617.

The evening ended with a dinner for all present which included the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, Civic representatives of Derby and Derbyshire and representatives of the Royal Air Forces association along with the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association.

Wing Commander Andy Pass, Officer Commanding South & East Midlands Wing, commented: ‘This was an extraordinarily generous gift to the 15 Squadrons from across the county. The money will be of great benefit to the cadets at the Squadrons and it will be spent wisely on equipment that will greatly enhance the Squadron’s ability to deliver the World class cadet experience for which the RAF Air Cadets are renowned.’

Freemasonry  on the march

John Hamill, Deputy Grand Chancellor, on how the shared values and camaraderie found in Freemasonry have appealed to members of the British armed forces through history

Retirement has enabled me to spend more time at my home in the Fens. I have been surprised by how often the peace and tranquillity have been disturbed by aeroplanes from the Royal Air Force and American air bases that still exist in East Anglia flying over the area. Given the recent celebrations marking the centenary of the formation of the Royal Air Force and the commemorative events to honour the closing months of the First World War, I began to reflect on the enormous contribution that members of the services have made to the development and spread of Freemasonry over the last 300 years.

It was the Grand Lodge of Ireland that, in the early 1730s, introduced the practice of issuing travelling warrants to form lodges in regiments of the British Army, enabling the lodge to meet wherever the regiment might be stationed. The idea was quickly taken up by the Premier and Antients Grand Lodges in England and the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The travelling military lodges of the Home Grand Lodges took Freemasonry around the globe; its development mirrored that of the development of the British Empire. 

The travelling lodges did a great deal to help establish Freemasonry in the North American colonies, Canada, the West Indies and Caribbean, and India.

COSMOPOLITAN MEMBERSHIP

Constitutionally, the English Grand Lodges would only issue travelling military warrants in regiments in which the commanding officer agreed to there being a lodge. Equally, they were only supposed to take in members of the particular regiment and not initiate civilians. Inevitably, when a travelling lodge was stationed overseas in an area where there were no lodges, they would take in locals. When the regiment moved on, those civilians would usually apply to a Home Grand Lodge for a warrant to meet as a stationary lodge to enable them to carry on their Freemasonry.

Although there are anecdotes of lodge meetings held on board ships, there is no evidence that the Home Grand Lodges issued travelling warrants for lodges to be held on ships. There is, however, a great deal of evidence in the membership registers, from the earliest registers, of many members of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and merchant navy being involved in Freemasonry and helping to spread it overseas. 

Indeed, lodges in the ports around the English coast in the 18th and 19th centuries became cosmopolitan in their membership, holding meetings when foreign ships were in port and taking in officers and crew members, often putting them through all three degrees on the same day. Equally, lodges in the colonies would hold meetings or social events when ships came into port. Admiral Nelson himself recorded being entertained at a masonic ball in the West Indies.

COMMON IDEALS

One of the problems for seafaring brethren was that being at sea for long periods meant that their masonic progress could be rather slow, as it would be dependent on being on shore at a time when their lodge met. Many naval officers had to wait until they retired before they could fully participate, but others appear to have taken full advantage of every opportunity to do so. 

One such officer was Admiral Sir Albert Hastings Markham, KCB (1841–1918), who appears to have joined a lodge in every port he spent any time in or visited regularly. Being stationed in the Mediterranean, he rose to the rank of District Grand Master of Malta. In today’s slimmed-down navy, it is even more difficult for serving members to become fully involved in Freemasonry unless they receive a shore-based appointment.

The attraction of Freemasonry to members of the services appears to be a combination of shared values; the ideals of service and tradition; and the continuation of the camaraderie they have experienced within the armed forces. It was certainly the latter that led to the huge expansion of Freemasonry in the English-speaking world at the end of both World Wars. Long may the connection continue.

‘The travelling military lodges took Freemasonry around the globe’

Published in Features

A mile in my shoes

For Freemason Mark Ormrod, the battlefield injuries he sustained proved to be a springboard to reinvent his life. But not all veterans respond the same way. Peter Watts finds out how, thanks to masonic funding, Combat Stress provides psychiatric support for ex-personnel

Christmas Eve in 2007 began with an ordinary patrol for Mark Ormrod, a Royal Marine on tour in Afghanistan. It ended with Mark in a coma and undergoing a life-saving operation after an improvised explosive device was triggered, leaving him without both legs and an arm. 

As a triple amputee, Mark found that Freemasonry provided some of the support he needed to get on with his life, having been initiated into the Royal Marines Plymouth Lodge, No. 9528, in 2008 while in a wheelchair. Today, Mark has prosthetic limbs and is an author, mentor and motivational speaker. He credits Freemasonry with providing invaluable support at a difficult time. 

‘It’s a really important part of dealing with stuff in life, having people around you as friends and brothers,’ he says. ‘It was very reassuring to know I had people who were encouraging and empowering, and as I progressed through the lodge it helped in terms of confidence and leadership. It’s helped holistically, in all areas. I also like the fact that we work with charities. That’s very fulfilling – being able to help other people is very rewarding.’

One of those charities is Combat Stress, an organisation that supports veterans with mental health issues. With increased pressure on the NHS and more former servicemen and women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following gruelling experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) has awarded a £60,000 grant to Combat Stress to fund a community psychiatric nurse operating in the southwest of England, where Mark now lives.

For David Innes, the Chief Executive of the MCF and himself a retired British Army officer, there is a vital need for masonic support. ‘One of the core areas that the MCF supports on behalf of Freemasonry is helping as many people as we can who are suffering from social isolation and social exclusion – people who are not able to participate in society for a wide variety of reasons,’ says the former member of the Corps of Royal Engineers who reached the rank of Brigadier. 

‘If we can help those suffering from PTSD or mental health issues come to terms with the challenges they face, it gives them a chance to make something of the rest of their lives. Combat Stress does some fantastic work in this particular field.’

MENTAL HEALTH FOCUS

The MCF was particularly impressed with the focus Combat Stress gives to veterans with mental health issues, operating dedicated services from three regional hubs. ‘They are very focussed on helping those suffering from mental health issues – that is their core business. It’s what they are particularly good at, and they have a very good structure,’ says Innes. ‘The statistics they produce show that, in the vast majority of cases, they allow individuals to make significant improvements so they can get on with their lives.’

Combat Stress will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2019, having been founded after the First World War to support soldiers returning from the trenches. Today it offers clinical care so former servicemen and women have the tools and mechanisms they need to cope with their conditions. Care comes in a variety of forms, from occupational therapy and group counselling to a six-week residential course. 

The community psychiatric nurse funded by the MCF grant will provide support to around 500 ex-personnel. ‘The nurse will cover Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Bristol,’ explains Kirstie Tong, the trusts and foundations manager at Combat Stress. ‘In 2017, in the southwest, the community psychiatric nurse did 72 assessments for veterans with combat stress and 10 other assessments, and had 47 one-to-one appointments, 90 group contacts and 51 support-group contacts. The MCF grant will contribute towards a large part of the salary of this nurse until 2020. We are hugely grateful for the MCF and its continued support, which makes our work possible.’

Mark Ormrod didn’t require the support of Combat Stress as he recovered but recognises the importance of this type of work, particularly for former members of the armed forces, who may see mental health issues as a sign of weakness. ‘Although I’ve not worked with Combat Stress, I know it offers counselling, residential care and therapy,’ he says. ‘There’s a lot of stigma in the military with regard to mental health. People don’t always like going out and asking for support, but if it’s serious, you can point them towards the professionals at Combat Stress.’

OPENING UP

This stigma is slowly beginning to disappear. Tong says that while veterans of the Falklands War take an average of 15 years before contacting Combat Stress for support, a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan will do so in three years. That is unquestionably a positive thing, but it also means that Combat Stress faces increasing pressure on its services. ‘We have seen a 143 per cent increase in referrals in the last decade,’ says Tong. ‘We now support around 3,000 veterans across the armed forces each year and have 2,000 referrals. Around 80 per cent have PTSD and have experienced multiple traumas in their combat career.’

As Innes acknowledges from his own experience in the Corps of Royal Engineers, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were particularly traumatic: ‘Many of the men and women we are supporting now will have seen service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the intensity of those operations was ferocious.

‘People will have been exposed to events that, to be honest, are simply horrific,’ he says. ‘We are seeing an increase in PTSD as a result of those operations. Providing support to organisations like Combat Stress is vital. We are lucky today, because more is known about mental health than 40 years ago when I joined the army. It is discussed more widely, but soldiers still don’t tend to talk about things like that.’

Mark has found he can talk about his experiences with the Freemasons, who have provided him with an important support network after he left the friendship of the Royal Marines behind. ‘It filled that space, very much so,’ he says. ‘It’s the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the sense of belonging. Having that other family outside of your own, good people that you can rely on. I’m a little bit surprised at how important it’s become. What I love is that I have three children, I have three limbs missing, I have a full-time job, I travel a lot, and if I can’t make a meeting, I never get made to feel bad. They always say family first, then work, then lodge. That has allowed it to become a big part of my life. It’s never felt like hard work.’

A veteran’s story

David is a Royal Air Force veteran who started experiencing stress after leaving the armed services. After he had a stroke, he began to have anxiety attacks. 

Eventually, David contacted Combat Stress for advice and began to attend community group sessions. 

‘The groups are great,’ David says. ‘We are all different ages and from different walks of life, but in many ways we are all the same and experiencing the same things. ‘It’s made a huge difference to my happiness. The Combat Stress sessions help me better understand why I feel the way I do. 

‘In the military community we tend to think “just get on with it”, and unfortunately this might put people off seeking help. I’d say to others: listen to those close to you. You owe it to them to at least make that call to Combat Stress. You can be anonymous, but just talk to someone.’

Standing proud

Mark Ormrod is still feeling the effects of the landmine he stepped on 11 years ago. 

Quick action from his fellow Marines, and an innovative procedure carried out aboard a Chinook helicopter en route to the hospital, saved his life.

Mark woke up in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, with both legs amputated above the knee and his right arm amputated above the elbow. The first triple amputee in the UK to survive the Afghanistan conflict, Mark was told by doctors he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Mark, however, decided to use his setback as a springboard for growth and reinvention.

He is now a motivational speaker, a peak performance coach and the author of the autobiographical Man Down. He has not used a wheelchair since June 2009.

Published in Features

Blue-sky thinkers

Displaying gavels and a collecting box made from the propeller of a fighter plane, the Library and Museum commemorates the wartime contribution of Ad Astra Lodge’s members

In 1918, the importance of the war in the air led to the creation of the world’s first separate air force, the Royal Air Force. From the outset, Freemasons had been involved in this aspect of the war. Ad Astra Lodge, No. 3808, was formed to bring together members of the Air Inspection Directorate who had come from all over the country to design aeroplanes for the war effort. 

The lodge’s gavels and collecting box were made from the propeller of one of its designs, the FE2d two-seat fighter, and the jewel showed a rotary aircraft engine and biplane. All these items are currently on show in the museum. Those who gave their lives as members of the flying services are commemorated by one of the four figures on the Freemasons’ Hall shrine. 

When Ad Astra Lodge erased, its massive tracing boards, mounted on aeroplane engine camshafts, were transferred to Royal Air Force Lodge, No. 7335. This lodge, formed for RAF personnel staying in London, was granted the rare privilege of using the RAF Eagle and motto on its jewel.

Events programme launch

The Library and Museum is hosting a new programme of public events. Recent highlights included a talk on James Parkinson, the first person to describe the disease that now bears his name, and a Museums at Night event on the theme of symbols of Freemasonry. Visit the Library and Museum website for details of upcoming events.

Published in More News

At the grand age of 96, Lincolnshire Freemason Ken Green's friends arranged a surprise flight for him to see the Royal Air Force (RAF) bases he’d worked at during World War Two from the air

Ken had been the RAF’s ‘go to’ Merlin aircraft engine tuning expert in Bomber County, so he didn’t learn to fly until peacetime. It was Ken's experience and expertise that kept him on the ground during the war, but danger was never far away.

On one occasion he and a colleague had almost finished working on an engine and Ken was due for some leave. Arranging that his friend would finish the task, Ken climbed on to his bike and pedalled away, unaware that very shortly afterwards a bomb being loaded into the aircraft's bomb bay would fall off its dolly and explode. The aircraft was destroyed and Ken's friend was sadly killed.

Ken’s last flight was set up by fellow Freemasons Mike Craggs and Paul Anyan. It was prompted by a chance remark Ken made to Mike one clear afternoon when looking into a cloudless sky.

Ken saw the contrails of an aircraft and said: 'I should like to be up there just once more.' That was all it took for the wheels to be set in motion and Ken was taken to the former RAF base at Wickenby, to the north-east of Lincoln, to start a 90-mile circuit over former airfields at Newark, Skelingthorpe and Scotter, amongst others.

Ken Green passed to the Grand Lodge above just a few weeks later.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of W Bro Ken Wilkinson, a Battle of Britain pilot and member of both Worcestershire and Warwickshire Provinces

The service was held in St Alphege Church in his home town of Solihull on 8th September 2017, with dozens lining the streets outside to pay their respects. W Bro Wilkinson’s coffin was carried into the church draped in the British flag, whilst a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Spitfire cascaded through the sky above.

W Bro Wilkinson was one of the last remaining Battle of Britain pilots and was described as “a true gentleman” by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.

Those present included Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, representing The Prince of Wales, as well as senior military commanders of the Royal Air Force and members of the Royal British Legion.

W Bro Wilkinson died on 31st July 2017 at the age of 99.

Published in More News
Friday, 16 September 2011 12:14

Magnificent backdrop for military band concert

A popular event in the District Grand Lodge of Cyprus calendar is the annual Grand Charity Military Band Concert. This year it was given by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force. The day was organised by Agapinor Lodge No. 8905 EC and Dionysos Lodge No. 9716 EC, and held in front of the Byzantine castle at Paphos Harbour. Around 1,150 people attended and the district welcomed figures from the Western Sovereign Base Area. This is the region’s biggest annual charity event and €10,000 was raised, with €5,000 apiece donated to the Cyprus Anti-Cancer Society and The Alzheimer’s Association of Paphos.

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