Not for parades
A model of ruthless efficiency, the Machine Gun Corps was only in existence for seven years. Paul Hooley charts its beginnings, endings and the creation of a masonic lodge
As the First World War began, the tactical use of the machine gun was largely unappreciated. There was no coordinated training, and infantry and cavalry units were allocated two guns each. This was added to in November 1914 by the formation of the Motor Machine Gun Service, administered by the Royal Artillery, which consisted of motorcycle-mounted machine-gun batteries.
However, a year of warfare on the Western Front highlighted the need for larger machine gun units crewed by specially selected and trained men. After much debate, this led to the formation of the Machine Gun Corps in October 1915.
From the start, it was perceived as being an elite corps that drew many of the best men from infantry and cavalry regiments. This frequently aroused jealousy and resentment at all levels within the army. While machine gunners always attracted admiration, they were also viewed as being mavericks who, out of necessity, showed an independence of thought and action. Tony Ashworth in Trench Warfare, 1914-18: The Live and Let Live System references ‘a lance corporal in charge of a gun in action who became detached from his superiors, would be the sole judge as to the best position for his gun, and when and where it should be fired’. Collectively known as the ‘Suicide Club’, they were always first in and last out of every action, as the moment a gun started up it became the target of every enemy weapon within range.
Following its formation, brigade machine gun sections were transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, while its headquarters, together with a depot and training centre, were established at Belton Park near Grantham, Lincolnshire. It was from here that all new machine-gun companies were raised.
‘The lodge was named Maguncor after the telegraphic code word used for “machine gun corps” during the First World War’
Initially there were three branches to the corps – Infantry, Cavalry and Motor. In early 1916 a Heavy Section (renamed Heavy Branch that same year) was added, and the men of that branch crewed the first tanks at the Battle of the Somme. In 1917, the Heavy Branch separated from the Machine Gun Corps to become the Tank Corps – although some of the men continued to display the Machine Gun Corps insignia.
The corps gained a reputation as a frontline force. Some 170,500 officers and others served with the corps, of whom 62,049 became casualties. Among those who died manning their guns in the Battle of Arras in May 1917 were my grandfather, Richard Foot, and his brother, Roland. They and a third brother, John, had joined the corps in late 1916, where they were issued with consecutive numbers, and they did their training at Grantham before being sent to the Western Front.
While my grandfather and great uncles were undergoing their intensive training at Grantham, a group of officers were in discussions with Brigadier-General Henry Cecil de la Montague Hill concerning the possibility of establishing a masonic lodge dedicated to the corps. The idea was approved, and this led to the formation and consecration of Maguncor Lodge, No. 3806, at the Guildhall, Grantham on 20 September 1917, with the brigadier general himself becoming the first Senior Warden.
The lodge was named Maguncor after the telegraphic code word used for ‘machine gun corps’ during the First World War. Before the lodge was formed, 10 meetings were held in 1917 under the aegis of Grantham’s long-established Doric Lodge. The Consecration ceremony was conducted by the Provincial Grand Master of Lincolnshire, the Earl of Yarborough. By the end of the lodge’s first year, 72 candidates had been initiated and a further 48 officers had become joining members, raising the membership to 132.
In August 1918, a large number of Maguncor members were moved to Alnwick in Northumberland to form a Machine Gun Corps sub-depot. Because they were unable to attend meetings in Grantham, the Alnwick Lodge allowed members to meet at its premises. Then in early 1919, the Machine Gun Corps was moved to Shorncliffe in Kent. Again, this would have proved difficult for some to attend meetings, so with the help of Castle Lodge, which offered its premises, meetings were held at nearby Sandgate from October 1919 until January 1921.
In early 1921, with the Machine Gun Corps being absorbed into various other corps, a decision was made to apply to the United Grand Lodge of England for Maguncor to become a London lodge. This was granted, and in August, the 45th Regular meeting was held in the old Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street. After the building of the current Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street, Maguncor Lodge meetings were held there until 2007, when the lodge moved to its present home: Mark Masons’ Hall on St James’s Street.
Thirteen members of Maguncor Lodge were killed during the war, and three more during the Second World War. The lodge annually lays a wreath of poppies at the Machine Gun Corps Memorial at London’s Hyde Park Corner, where the inscription on the main column reads: ‘Erected to commemorate the glorious heroes of the Machine Gun Corps who fell in the Great War.’ And then below, a quotation from the Book of Samuel: ‘Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands’.
OPEN TO CIVILIANS
Membership of Maguncor was originally restricted to Machine Gun Corps officers. After it disbanded in 1922, this was extended to serving officers of any army units, followed by ex-serving officers, officers of other armed services and later to other ranks. Membership was opened to civilians in the 1960s.
Maguncor Lodge is proud to have had two Victoria Cross-holders – Captain William Allison White and Major James Palmer Huffam – as members. Another of Maguncor’s members, Col William Musson, was awarded the George Medal for his bravery as a civilian in the Second World War.
Lodge members of the Machine Gun Corps would have been unable to fire machine guns while wearing gloves, and this resulted in brethren of Maguncor Lodge not wearing gloves during their ceremonies. There are a number of other subtle differences in its ceremonies, including the use of the sword of the aforementioned Captain White, VC and the apron of Brigadier-General Noble Fleming Jenkins, seventh Master of the lodge, who died in 1927 after trying to save a woman from drowning at St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. A solid-silver model of a Vickers gun is also displayed at each Festive Board.
The Machine Gun Corps was disbanded in 1922 as a cost-cutting measure after just seven years. All of its operational records, its establishments and regimental orders were destroyed in a fire at its last headquarters at Shorncliffe in 1920. Not a single sheet of paper survived the fire, and even the partly written history of the corps was lost.
In his book With a Machine Gun to Cambrai, machine-gunner George Coppard wrote of the corps: ‘No military pomp attended its birth or decease. It was not a famous regiment with glamour and whatnot, but a great fighting corps, born for war only and not for parades.’
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 41 SPRING 2018
Matter of record
Concerning my article about the Machine Gun Corps that appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of the magazine, a number of readers have asked why so few records of the Corps exist today. The answer is simple: the vast majority were lost in a fire that occurred in a store at Somerset Barracks, Shorncliffe, near Folkestone, the then headquarters of the Corps, during the early hours of Thursday 18 June 1920.
It took 20 men from two fire stations, together with military fire pickets, three hours to get the blaze under control. The cost of the damage was estimated to be £4,000 (£175,000 today) and the cause of the fire was recorded as being ‘unknown’.
As was explained in the article, the Machine Gun Corps had been considered to be an elite corps and machine gunners were often seen as being mavericks who could decide themselves where they would position their guns and who and what they fired at. This frequently aroused jealousy and outrage at all levels within the army.
The Corps was disbanded soon after the Great War and it has been suggested that the army establishment wanted to quickly forget it had ever existed – for it had taken away from the long-established infantry regiments some of the very best and cleverest officers and the line regiments had been combed for recruits, taking the fittest and the best to meet demands for evermore intelligent young men to man the guns.
Little wonder therefore that its demise was looked upon with satisfaction in some quarters and with suspicion in others, for the entire contents of the store were destroyed – not a single sheet of paper survived and even the partly written history of the Corps was lost.
Paul Hooley, Pitzhanger Lodge, No. 5465, London
Africa Fashion Week London came to Freemasons’ Hall with an amazing splash of colour, along with more than 5,000 visitors, 42 catwalk designers and 60 exhibitors
The marbled hallways and vestibules of Freemasons’ Hall played host to visitors browsing for Africa-made and inspired jewellery, clothing and accessories.
Attendees also enjoyed delicacies in the African food court before the catwalk shows, where around 15 different countries were represented.
Freemasons from Leicestershire and Rutland, who cycled 300 miles during the summer, made their last short trip from Leicester to Loughborough to present a cheque for £11,704 to Rainbows Children’s Hospice in Loughborough
In June 2017, 23 Freemasons cycled around the Masonic centres in Leicestershire and Rutland and down to Freemasons’ Hall in London and back – completing a total of 300 miles as part of their 300th anniversary celebrations.
A total of £23,408 was raised from Freemasons, family and friends which was split equally between Rainbows and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
A number of the cyclists took the short ride to Rainbows Hospice at Lark Rise in Loughborough to present the cheque to David Strudley, Rainbows CEO. The Provincial Grand Master of Leicestershire and Rutland David Hagger was also on hand to formally present the cheque.
After light refreshments, the cyclists were delighted to have a guided tour of the Hospice and hear first-hand about the amazing care and support provided by Rainbows for life-limited children and their families.
Simon Oldfield, who organised the ride, said: ‘Riding 300 miles in four days was a first for many of us. After seeing the excellent work that Rainbows do, it makes me very proud to be a Freemason and to have been part of the team to help raise funds for such an amazing charity.
‘We all felt very humbled and everyone who took part in the ride, the cyclists and support team, felt immensely proud of our fundraising achievement and the opportunity to support such a deserving local charity. It made all the hard work of training through the depths of winter so very worthwhile.’
David Strudley, Rainbows CEO, commented: ‘We are especially grateful to Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons in making Rainbows Hospice part of their 300th anniversary fundraising event. The magnificent total raised from their cycling marathon will go a long way to supporting youngsters with life-limiting conditions and their families when they need it most.’
Provincial Grand Master David Hagger added: ‘I most sincerely thank the cyclists and assisting crew on behalf of all the Freemasons and their families in Leicestershire and Rutland for the generous contribution they have made – it is truly a magnificent achievement.’
Funds will buy two extended high-res lifts for London Fire Brigade
Metropolitan Grand Master Sir Michael Snyder surprised a packed Freemasons Hall on 2nd November 2017 when he announced the launch of a £2.5 million appeal to purchase two extended high rise aerial vehicles for London Fire Brigade
This took place at the annual London Grand Rank Investiture meeting of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, where a party from London’s Fire Brigade were welcomed into the Grand Temple, led by Steve Apter, London Fire Brigade Director of Safety and Assurance, and Dr Fiona Twycross, Chair of London Fire EPA. They were presented with the first instalment of a cheque for £375,000.
These appliances will be in addition to the extra resources for extended height aerial vehicles already requested by the Commissioner as part of a Mayoral review into the Brigade’s resources in July.
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton thanked Sir Michael Snyder for their generosity: ‘We are very grateful to Sir Michael Snyder and London Freemasons for this first donation and their commitment to raise the significant sum of money to buy such important equipment. It’s important that we have the most effective resources for the city environment in which we serve, so we not only have to consider the reach of our aerial appliances but whether they are agile enough to move around the capital’s narrow streets.
‘This has been an incredibly busy and emotional year for everyone connected with London Fire Brigade and we welcome this recognition.’
At the meeting Steve Apter, in his address to the members of Metropolitan Grand Lodge, commented: ‘They will be mobilised across London and used for both fighting fires and effecting rescues. They can reach 22-24 floors far higher than anything we currently have in service. This generous donation by London Freemasons provides a very large support to our tight public funds and financial capability.
'On behalf of The London Fire Brigade and the people of London, we thank you for your very kind offer and look forward to working with you in the future.’
Sir Michael Snyder then replied: ‘On behalf of every London Freemason, I am delighted to announce the launch of our latest charity appeal in support of the London Community. These extended height aerial vehicles will help better equip the busiest fire and rescue service in the country. The appeal is the latest step in the London Freemasons objective to support the London community and help make London a safer place to live and work.’
'It follows successive appeals to support London’s Emergency Services by the purchase a two-million-pound state of the art Cyberknife for Bart’s Hospital, five rapid responder cars for the London Ambulance Service, and the recent two million pounds donation to help fund London’s badly needed second Air Ambulance.’
Grand Masters from around the world come bearing gifts
When Grand Masters from around the world came to Freemasons’ Hall as part of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations last week, many of them also came bearing gifts
Around 90 gifts were presented to the UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who spent time inspecting this wonderful selection which ranged from a ceremonial sword and bronze stag, through to a collection of Russian dolls depicting the Grand Master himself.
The gifts have now been put on display in The Library and Museum of Freemasonry for anyone who visits Freemasons’ Hall to see.
As you can see from the gallery at the top, the array of thoughtful gifts was vast.
Over 4,000 Freemasons from Provinces, Districts and 136 Grand Lodges around the world were present as the Royal Albert Hall was centre stage for the United Grand Lodge of England’s Especial Meeting and Tercentenary celebrations on Tuesday 31st October
This gala event marked 300 years since four lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in St Paul’s Churchyard on St John’s Day, 24th June 1717, to form the Premier Grand Lodge. The spectacle was also streamed live to audiences from around the world, including UGLE’s headquarters at Freemasons’ Hall.
With Grand Lodge having been opened and called off in a convenient room, the procession of Grand Officers entered the Hall, before the Grand Master, MW Bro HRH The Duke of Kent, took his place in the Queens’s Box. He was accompanied by the Pro Grand Master MW Bro Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master RW Bro Jonathan Spence and Assistant Grand Master RW Bro Sir David Wootton.
He was also joined by a number of special guests, which included RW Bro HRH Prince Michael of Kent, VW Bro HM King Tutu II of Ashanti and RW Bro HE John Kufuor, Senior Grand Warden.
The audience was wowed by a theatrical extravaganza showcasing the history and heritage of Freemasonry and featuring a cast of renowned actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar. The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra provided the musical accompaniment against the backdrop of a colossal 55ft gold Square and Compasses and dramatic light show incorporating the ‘All Seeing Eye’.
After the performance, the Grand Master was processed on to the stage and all the Rulers were seated in their normal thrones. The Deputy Grand Master then read a letter of loyal greetings sent to Her Majesty The Queen and the reply received sending ‘warm good wishes to you all for a most successful event’.
The Grand Master, as Permanent Master of the three Time Immemorial Lodges (Lodge of Antiquity No.2, Royal Somerset House and Inverness Lodge No.IV, and Lodge of Fortitude and Old Cumberland No.12), then called upon his three Deputy Masters and was presented with the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and Compasses and the Wren Maul.
Other highlights included the return of the Soane Ark – the Ark of the Masonic Covenant – as the Deputy Grand Master announced that following 30 years in the making, a replica had been made to the original design. This was brought onstage where it was dedicated by the Grand Master.
The finale was the most rousing singing of the National Anthem, before the procession of Grand Officers retired from the Hall.
Following the meeting, Grand Lodge was called back on in a convenient room, and this Especial Meeting to celebrate UGLE's Tercentenary was closed.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 40 WINTER 2017
A grand occasion
The Tercentenary event at the Royal Albert Hall, which I was fortunate enough to attend, was a stunning occasion, and I can thoroughly recommend the broadcast footage of it to you. Do find time to watch it; all you need to do is to click on rah300.org and register. The whole event made one very proud to be a Freemason.
Mike White, St Barnabus Lodge, No. 3771, London
I write to express not only my total, complete and utter satisfaction with a wonderful event, but also to congratulate all involved at UGLE for organising such a magnificent and memorable occasion. The masonic world was set alight.
It is very clear that the effort to create and deliver such an event was even greater than could have possibly been imagined. All my brethren and I are still buzzing and we have been unable to stop talking about the day.
It was a great pleasure as Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire West Riding to have led a large delegation of my brethren to join with those from all of the Constitution, and also from all over the masonic world, at the Royal Albert Hall. The whole presentation was absolutely splendid and a credit to all those involved in writing, creating and delivering such a stupendous event.
First impressions as I saw the set were, ‘Wow, this is going to be good.’ And it was! As the cast appeared on stage, I believed them to be amateur volunteers who were going to do their best, and then thought, ‘He looks a bit like Derek Jacobi.’ Then it dawned on me that it was indeed the great knight of the stage himself. There were few dry eyes as we sang I Vow to Thee my Country, Cwm Rhondda and The National Anthem. On to Battersea Evolution for a wonderful meal. We then floated back to our hotel with so many stories to share. What a day, how lucky we are to have been Freemasons at this moment in time. Many thanks.
David Pratt, Legiolium Lodge, No. 1542, Castleford, Yorkshire
May I congratulate everyone involved in the Tercentenary celebration on Tuesday, 31 October 2017 at the Royal Albert Hall. Not only was I fortunate enough to be selected to attend, I was in one of the best seats in the house to not only enjoy the play and presentations, but also to truly appreciate the amount of work that went in to creating them.
Truly outstanding and a credit to all involved. With thanks and admiration for the day.
George Waldy, Bourne Lodge, No. 6959, Bournemouth, Dorset
On 31 October 2017, I felt like Charlie when he got a golden ticket. Mine was to be in The Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall for the live screening of the Tercentenary celebrations from the Royal Albert Hall. How honoured I felt. I could feel that I was part of something very special.
Firstly, I must give a huge thank you to the stewards who kindly escorted me from the front door to the Grand Temple and to a seat with a great view. The quality of the recording was excellent and I am certain that we saw a lot more than if we were at the Albert Hall. The atmosphere was incredible and I cannot say how privileged I felt to be part of your special day.
You could have heard a pin drop as everyone watched with great interest and when, spontaneously, most of the men joined in singing the hymns. It made you realise just how wonderful an organisation Freemasonry is. Well done, guys, and happy 300th birthday UGLE. May you go from strength to strength.
Ruth Wright, Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons
I write to congratulate all for the Freemasons’ 300th anniversary show that was online. For most of us Down Under and in other parts of the world, it showed the world a great story and what Freemasonry’s aims are about. Congratulations to the team who wrote the script for the anniversary show. If this does not bring in members to the order, then what do we have to do?
Mike Burrell, Lodge Combermere, No. 752, (Unattached), Vict., Australia
The Grand Temple at Freemasons’ Hall was the setting for the largest gathering of Grand Masters from all corners of the world on 30th October
For the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary celebrations, Grand Masters from over 130 foreign Grand Lodges were welcomed by UGLE’s Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
HRH The Duke of Kent then addressed all those present: 'Ladies, Gentlemen and Brethren, I am delighted that so many of you have been able to come to London to celebrate our Tercentenary anniversary with us. Indeed, I am advised that this is the largest gathering of Grand Masters that there has ever been.
'I am so pleased to have this opportunity to greet you all this morning in the relative peace and tranquillity of our magnificent Temple within Freemasons’ Hall, and it is most important to me that I meet you all.
'May I also thank you for your gifts which we will have the chance to see in the Museum after this meeting. Thank you again for your support.'
Dressed in their formal Regalia, they bought kind words and greetings – and some brought gifts to commemorate the Tercentenary – for the Grand Master, which the Library and Museum of Freemasonry will soon be putting on special display for visitors to see.
Events were then set to continue into the evening when the Grand Masters, along with their guests, attend a reception held at the Mansion House, with a welcome by the Lord Mayor of London Andrew Parmley and Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes.
The glitz and glamour of the Grand Ball took centre stage at Freemasons’ Hall on Saturday 30th September
Held in honour of the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary, over 2,000 Freemasons and their partners and guests from across the country attended this lavish event.
Freemasons' Hall was transformed as part of the celebration, with a big band performance by the Oxford University Jazz Orchestra in the Grand Temple, which had been converted into one of the largest raised dancefloors in London.
Other musicians and entertainers performed throughout the building alongside ‘silent’ and normal discos and a casino, which ran long into the night.
Securing our future
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes is encouraged and humbled by members’ efforts as they ensure the Tercentenary year is a success
In our Tercentenary year, it is fitting that we look back on our history with pride. On 18 April we remembered brethren who have fallen since 1945 in the service of their country by opening the Masonic Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. A week later, in the presence of the Grand Master, we remembered those of our brethren awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War in a magnificent ceremony outside Freemasons’ Hall.
And so, as we look back with pride, we must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good in society and have so much to contribute to it. The Sky 1 documentary series has given us an amazing platform and viewing figures have been good. It has been well received and our Provinces are reporting an upsurge of interest, which I know you are capitalising on in order to secure our future. In addition, I believe it has enabled us to be aware of how important it is to talk openly about our Freemasonry and, perhaps, how best to do so.
GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT
As Pro Grand Master, it is very encouraging, yet humbling, to witness just how much effort you are all putting in to promoting our masonic values and making this Tercentenary year such a tremendous success. Your charitable giving never ceases to amaze me, and a magnificent total of £3,617,437 was raised at the Sussex Festival for the Grand Charity. This has been followed by the West Yorkshire Festival for the RMBI, which raised £3,300,300. I now have firm figures that show that last year we not only supported our own brethren with more than £15 million in grants, but also helped non-masonic charities with grants in excess of £17 million.
This year, the nation has been rocked by the serious terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, the Manchester Arena and at London Bridge. You should be aware that we have received numerous letters of support and concern from other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, some enclosing generous cheques to the East Lancashire Fund. These have supplemented the extreme generosity shown by many towards this fund, and I have been assured by the Provincial Grand Master that the money will be spent wisely where need is identified.
While congratulating you on all your efforts, I must pay tribute to my fellow Rulers, who have been globetrotting on our behalf. Having previously been to Bombay, the Deputy Grand Master paid a second visit to India this year to join the District of Northern India’s Tercentenary celebrations, and followed this by attending a Regional Conference in Jamaica.
The Assistant Grand Master, as President of the Universities Scheme, invaded South Africa with a very strong team. He followed this, immediately after our Grand Investiture, with a gala lunch and banner dedication in Malta. As a past Ruler, David Williamson kindly represented us in Gibraltar. And just to show that I have not been sitting idly by, I have just returned from a most enjoyable visit to our District in the Eastern Archipelago, having previously visited Bermuda for the bicentenary of its Lodge of Loyalty.
Carrying out these visits is a great privilege, and our brethren in the Districts value our presence and have great pride in being members of the oldest Grand Lodge.
‘We must look forward with confidence, recognising that we are a force for good’
Craft on canvas
In its Tercentenary year, the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, gives a fresh perspective on Freemasonry
On 24 June, the general public were invited into Freemasons’ Hall to view a new exhibition, Rough to Smooth: Art inspired by Freemasonry – past, present and future. It featured work by the United Grand Lodge of England’s first ever Artist in Residence, Jacques Viljoen, who had been given unprecedented access to objects and spaces throughout the five-floor Grade II* listed building.
All of Viljoen’s subjects were painted from life, using traditional techniques and no photography. His work presents a new look at the world of contemporary Freemasonry, showing intimate moments that might usually go unnoticed. ‘This has been an incredible opportunity to explore an organisation with an intricate and ancient history,’ he said.
Alongside Viljoen, nine guest artists were also given unique access to Freemasons’ Hall, working in different mediums that ranged from oils to mixed media and photography. Renowned Norwegian oil painter Henrik Uldalen’s contemporary yet classic figurative work sat by work by Lithuanian artist Elika Bo, who creates images by endlessly layering objects, while Nicholas Chaundy offered a technical homage to the painting techniques used in the many masterpieces that fill the Hall.
President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson commented: ‘What has struck me, above all else, is the amount of thought and work that has gone into each picture. The artists have demonstrated both an understanding of, and a variety of responses to, Freemasonry, its values and, in particular, our splendid building.’
Rough to Smooth was just one of the attractions at the Freemasons’ Hall Open Day, with members of the public also able to visit the building’s ornate Grand Temple and the shrine to those Freemasons who lost their lives in World War I. Musical performances from Grand Organist Carl Jackson, the Occasional Strings quartet and the Art Deco Orchestra accompanied visitors throughout the event.
The Open Day was organised by the Library and Museum of Freemasonry. Reflecting on the event, Library and Museum Director Diane Clements said: ‘It was a very successful day, with more than 2,800 visitors enjoying the music, the architecture and the opportunity to see the Artist in Residence exhibition.’