On 10th November 2018, in a full Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall, Victoria Rifles Lodge No. 822 hosted an event to mark the Centenary of the Armistice
Victoria Rifles Lodge, based in London, is one of the 37 Circuit of Service Lodges which exist to promote comradeship and fraternal contact between military masons. Given the sacrifice of so many of members in the First World War it’s appropriate that such a Lodge should have hosted the Armistice Centenary Meeting.
The lodge’s streamlined Installation meeting, and subsequent theatrical presentation, was conducted in the presence of the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes. The Past Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race and six Provincial Grand Masters were also in attendance.
The Pro Grand Master was escorted into the temple, accompanied by a banner procession featuring all the Circuit of Service Lodges. The banners and banner men filed either side of a Vickers machine gun, placed on a raised platform in the centre of the hall, manned by four Silent Sentinels, symbolising the moment ‘the guns fell silent’.
The Worshipful Master, Capt James Milne, extended a warm welcome to all present and was proclaimed as Worshipful Master of the lodge for a further year. Before the lodge was closed its members voted to donate £9,000 to the Royal Hospital Chelsea Scarlets Appeal and a further £9,000 to Veteran’s Outreach Support.
The Armistice Commemoration Event then began with the entrance of seven Chelsea Pensioners to the tune of ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’.
The Lodge Director of Ceremonies, Jamie Ingham Clark, then asked all those present wearing Hall Stone Jewels on behalf of their lodges to rise. With over 500 members standing, he then presented the Worshipful Master with the lodge’s jewel, his address epitomising the whole occasion.
He said: ‘I now have pleasure in investing you with the Hall Stone Jewel, which was presented to this Lodge by the MW the Grand Master in recognition of our contribution towards what was then called the Masonic Peace Memorial, the building we are now in.
‘The medal is suspended by the Square and Compasses, attached to a ribband, the whole thus symbolising the Craft's gift of a Temple in memory of those brethren who gave all, for King and Country, Peace and Victory, Liberty and Brotherhood.’
Actor and guest speaker Simon Callow CBE then commenced with the ‘Sound and Light show’ with readings of renowned war poetry and letters sent between a mother and a son fighting on the Western Front.
The members were then subjected to a sound and light show, with the Vickers gun at its epicentre, resembling an artillery bombardment. The barrage increased in noise and intensity becoming a completely immersive 360-degree experience. A flash and bang emanated from the gun, signalling an eerie silence and from the ceiling of the Grand Temple, a cascade of poppy petals floated gently from above.
Following the formal Act of Remembrance including The Last Post, Two Minute Silence, Reveille and Dedication, the Circuit Banners fell in and after the bugle call of ‘Men to Meal’ there was a recession in silence led by the Silent Sentinels. As the members filed out, they were each invited to place a poppy next to the machine gun as a personal tribute to the fallen. This remarkable meeting further consolidated the powerful bond that exists between English Freemasonry and Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. Lest we Forget.
On the following day, Remembrance Sunday, over 40 members of Circuit of Service Lodges participated in the official ‘March Past’ at the Cenotaph in Central London, each wearing armbands that attested to their membership.
Queen Victoria’s Rifles served with distinction in the First World War as the 9th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria's Rifles). Its two active Battalions were awarded 27 Battle Honours.
Officers and Men were awarded: 1 Victoria Cross, (Lt Woolley was the first soldier or officer of the Territorial Force to be so awarded). 7 Distinguished Service Orders, 40 Military Cross’, 18 Distinguished Service Medals and 141 Military Medals. Of two Battalions with an average strength of some 700 all ranks each: Queen Victoria’s Rifles lost, Killed or Missing in Action, 170 Officers and 1,395 Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Riflemen.