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.
Loudly and clearly
As Freemasonry builds on the success of the Tercentenary celebrations, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes says there is still much work to be done in promoting its values
We now have the Soane Ark back with us in the Grand Temple. As those of you who were at the Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, or those of you who read Freemasonry Today, will know, the original of this beautiful mahogany piece, the Ark of the Masonic Covenant, was made by Sir John Soane in 1813. It was dedicated at the great celebration marking the union of the Antient and Modern Grand Lodges in 1813, and the Articles of Union were deposited inside.
The Ark was tragically destroyed by fire in 1883, but the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) commissioned an exact replica for our Tercentenary, which was dedicated at the Royal Albert Hall in October. Then, as in 1813, we placed a facsimile of the Articles of Union inside it, as well as the three Great Lights.
It was on public display at Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the months after the Royal Albert Hall celebration, but now it has returned to its intended place in Grand Lodge. Triangular in form, it has at each corner a column of the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian order representing wisdom, strength and beauty, the three great pillars on which our lodges, including this Grand Lodge, are said to stand. I am sure that it will grace our Grand Lodge meetings for centuries to come.
STANDING UP FOR THE CRAFT
We have become only too well aware of the term ‘fake news’ in recent times, and we began this year with our own encounter with fake news. Many of you will have seen the coverage generated by the outgoing chairman of the Police Federation and The Guardian newspaper, and I trust you will have also seen our responses.
Let me assure you that UGLE will always stand up for its members, their integrity and their care for the communities from which they are drawn. It is my firm belief that policemen are better policemen for their membership of our proud organisation. However, it is not just policemen who can benefit from membership – lawyers, public servants and indeed all men benefit from the teaching our ceremonies have to offer. The time has come for the organisation to stand up and make these points loudly and clearly. Enough, brethren, is enough.
I have said it before and I say it again: I strongly believe that the future is bright for Freemasonry. We created a bow wave of optimism last year that produced a surge of interest in the Craft. We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created and build on that legacy, and we will.
AN IMPORTANT ANNIVERSARY
This year, as you know, is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. I have no doubt that many of you will be commemorating this as appropriate in your area.
The current Freemasons’ Hall was built to commemorate those masons who lost their lives in that war. It was called the Masonic Peace Memorial but changed its name at the outbreak of the Second World War to Freemasons’ Hall. We shall commemorate the end of the First World War on 10 November 2018 under the auspices of Victoria Rifles Lodge, No. 822, and I am sure it will be an impressive occasion.
‘We must now ensure that we maintain the momentum created’