Instrumental in shaping the way that Freemasonry is now run, Anthony Wilson embraced modernisation with a focus on teamwork
Anthony Wilson, a long-time Freemason, died on 14 May this year after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity. Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.
Initiated into Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997 and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004. He subsequently became President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004.
Anthony was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. ‘My background is in chartered accountancy, and I’ve always been interested in business and how you can improve it,’ Anthony told Freemasonry Today 10 years after becoming Board President. ‘Working on the Board was a way of helping the running of Freemasonry that wasn’t purely ceremonial but rather administrative. It’s very much a collegiate affair – we’re a team and I’m very fortunate with the support and counsel I get.’
Promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012, Anthony played a prominent role during the Tercentenary celebrations, including unveiling the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
He retired as President of the Board of General Purposes at the end of 2017. Following his death, the United Grand Lodge of England sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow, Vicky, and family.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes paid tribute to Anthony’s work: ‘I don’t often mention individuals in this context, but Anthony Wilson was a very special mason and a very special friend to so many of us. He carried out his duties in a very understated way, but he presided over the Board during a very busy period including, of course, the 300th celebrations.
‘He was an incredibly hard-working and efficient President who managed to carry out his role without falling out with anyone – quite a feat! And all this despite his illness, which was with him for far too many years. But he never, ever complained, and many would not have known how ill he was. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.’
Looking back on why he first became a Freemason, Anthony told Freemasonry Today: ‘Initially, what attracted me was the intrigue of finding out what Freemasonry was about, but once I’d been through the ceremonies, my whole view of it changed. It was relaxed, but there was also a formality – it wasn’t an easy ride. Don’t just expect to get things out of it; put things into it and you’ll get enjoyment. I realised that there was a lot of knowledge, that it was telling you a story linked to your values and that it gelled with what I stood for in life.’
Changing of the guard
Graham Ives reflects on 10 years of teamwork free from preaching and dictating as he prepares to step down as Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent
In the middle of May 2008, Graham Ives received a letter from the Grand Secretary that would change his life. The Grand Secretary had been instructed by the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, to offer Graham the position of Provincial Grand Master for Lincolnshire.
Graham was installed as Provincial Grand Master one month later. ‘I didn’t really know what the role held for me; it was a steep learning curve,’ he says. ‘For a time, I felt like a fish out of water, but I received much support, advice and friendship, and soon became very comfortable with the role.’
Graham’s rise to the role of Grand Superintendent in the Royal Arch happened at a more leisurely pace. ‘I had been a member of the Provincial Executive of the Royal Arch for a number of years before I became Grand Superintendent. I understood that role more fully and was immediately at ease with it,’ he says of the office, which he has held for as long as he has been Provincial Grand Master.
Occupying the two most senior roles in Lincolnshire Freemasonry, Graham knew there would be a tremendous amount to do in the years ahead. ‘Fundamental to my time in office has been a desire to reach out to every mason in the Province, whatever their rank. Whenever I was on an official visit, I ensured that I was talking not just to senior brethren and companions, but to everyone.
‘My hope was always that when I left the lodge or chapter, everyone would be smiling and would have enjoyed my presence as much as I had enjoyed their company – from the newest Entered Apprentice to the longest-serving Grand Officer. I genuinely believe that I have achieved that goal.’
Graham recognises how crucial those around him were during his time as Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent. ‘It would have been impossible for Lincolnshire to have achieved what it has without the capable and dedicated teams I have had the privilege of working with.’
Looking forward, Graham acknowledges that given the pace and form of modern Freemasonry, no one individual can accomplish all the tasks required. ‘The modern roles of the Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent are very similar now to those of a chief executive. I believe that it is an exciting time to be a Freemason and that we can all look forward with confidence to the future.’
HIGHLIGHTS FROM A DECADE AS PGM
Far exceeding Festival targets
‘Against a target of £1.5 million, Lincolnshire raised £2.75 million for the 2014 Festival for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. This was right at the top of my achievements during my term of office. I was overwhelmed by the way in which the brethren and their families donated their hard-earned money to this very worthy cause, especially when you recall that for part of the time, the country was in recession.’
The Tercentenary service in Lincoln Cathedral
‘In Lincolnshire, we celebrated the Tercentenary in fine style, culminating in a magnificent service in Lincoln Cathedral. It took a lot of organising by a large number of people, but it paid off handsomely. It was a splendid and moving feeling to see the brethren and their companions, together with families and friends, filling the cathedral to capacity, wearing full masonic regalia.’
The commitment to involving Provincial officers
‘I made a decision to invite the year’s acting Provincial officers to accompany me on all my official visits. I wanted to create the opportunity for it to be something very special, but this is a big Province, stretching from the Humber almost to Peterborough. Would the officers want to make those journeys? It turned out that they did, and the visits have been a resounding success for the acting Provincial officers as well as the brethren and companions of the lodges and chapters visited. I suspect that I shall miss those official visits more than anything else.’
Consolidating the Royal Arch in Lincolnshire
‘I was determined that the Royal Arch would play a prominent part during my terms of office, not only as Provincial Grand Master but also as Grand Superintendent. A number of successful initiatives have taken place, and I am very grateful to all the dedicated Royal Arch masons who have supported me in these ventures. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Lincolnshire has one of the country’s highest percentages of Royal Arch masons in relation to Craft masons. We have consolidated the strength of the Royal Arch in Lincolnshire over the past 10 years, and there is a very sound platform to move forward.’
The Masonic Charitable Foundation has developed specialist knowledge and expertise in order to give more targeted support to beneficiaries, as Chief Executive David Innes explains
When HRH The Duke of Kent, Grand President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), visited our offices at Freemasons’ Hall earlier this year, I was delighted to introduce him to our team and explain what we have achieved so far as a charity.
With around 5,000 members of the masonic community and hundreds of local and national charities supported each year since our launch, I am confident that the MCF has become the type of organisation that we hoped to create, supporting people from all walks of life with a wide range of needs.
GETTING SMARTER ABOUT WHAT WE DO
One of the benefits of forming the MCF has been the opportunity to develop specialist knowledge and expertise, rather than spreading our resources across many areas and limiting our impact.
With this in mind, we have made an informed decision to focus our energies and resources more intelligently and become smarter at what we do. From now on, our Charity Grants programme – historically referred to as ‘non-masonic giving’ – will target funding where it is most needed. Over the next five years, our grants will focus on two groups that we know the masonic community is keen to support: the young and the old.
Some of our grants will fund charitable projects that create the best start in life for disadvantaged children. Others will go to charities that help to reduce isolation in later life and support older people to actively participate in society.
FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST
Research has shown that the early years of a child’s life are crucially important to their health, well-being and success as an adult, while our growing and ageing population means that the number of older, potentially lonely people is increasing.
By focussing our funding within these overstretched and underfunded areas, our new grants programmes will, over time, help to address these issues in your communities across all Provinces.
Our support for hospices has also been updated to focus on grants for innovative and in-demand projects that target specific changes in the palliative care sector. This year, grants have focussed on bereavement care services.
All of our programmes will involve partnerships with some of the country’s leading charities, including Age UK and Hospice UK. These organisations have a wealth of expert knowledge in their respective fields that we can draw upon to ensure we reach the parts of society where people need us the most.
While we strive to improve the way that we tackle society’s big issues, the well-being of Freemasons and their families remains paramount. We’ve been working hard to make sure the masonic community knows who we are and what we do, and recent figures suggest that the message is working. We are giving more, to more people: the number of grants awarded is up by 9 per cent and the amount we spend to support Freemasons and their families has increased by 19 per cent.
None of this would be possible without the generosity of Freemasons, and their family and friends. Thank you for your support.
‘We have made an informed decision to focus our energies and resources more intelligently’
Do not hide the light
Following the Craft Annual Investiture, the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, is heartened by the enthusiasm shown by new Provincial and District Grand Masters
I congratulate all those whom I have invested. It is both a reward for past endeavours but also a clear indicator that we expect more from you in the future. An award of Grand Rank signifies the United Grand Lodge of England’s pride in you and recognises your efforts on our behalf. It denotes a senior and, in most cases, a public position within our brotherhood, and I would hope that you all feel willing to communicate the pride you now feel to those you meet, to those who might not understand us and to those who know little of us.
AN EXCITING TIME FOR FREEMASONRY
Your Rulers, I know, have been very busy already this year promoting Freemasonry across the world and installing new Provincial and District Grand Masters. I welcome those recently appointed and am greatly heartened by this youthful enthusiasm, for this is where our future lies. I welcome our new Grand Secretary, David Staples, while at the same time bidding farewell to Willie Shackell, who has served in a number of senior appointments for the last 11 years. We wish him well in retirement.
Many of those I have invested will go on to be leaders in the Craft, and I believe it is a very exciting time for Freemasonry in general. For 300 years men from all different backgrounds, faiths, ages and races have met as equals to make themselves better people. Such sentiments have never been more relevant, or more needed, than they are today. Be sure that we do not hide that light as we look forward to our next 300 years.
‘I welcome those recently appointed and am greatly heartened by this youthful enthusiasm, for this is where our future lies’
HRH The Duke of Kent, Grand Master and Grand President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), was present for the official opening of the charity’s refurbished offices
Following the launch of the MCF, the offices underwent a much-needed refit to meet the staff’s changing needs. During the transition from several charities to a single organisation, it became clear that the existing office structure was a barrier to working as a unified team.
The renovation has created a space that is lighter, brighter and more open, with more facilities for staff to meet and collaborate with one another.
The Duke of Kent’s visit helps to demonstrate the impact of the MCF’s work and how all teams are working together to support the masonic and wider community.
RW Bro Anthony Wilson died peacefully on Monday 14 May, after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity
He was President of the Board of General Purposes for 13 years, retiring from the role at the end of December 2017, and had been President of the Committee of General Purposes for three years before that.
Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for The Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund, which sponsors research fellowships at the Royal College of Surgeons. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons' Fund for Surgical Research.
Initiated into Tuscan Lodge No. 14 in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997, and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004.
He was appointed President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004 and was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. He was promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012.
He also played a prominent role in many events throughout our Tercentenary celebrations including the unveiling of the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during World War I, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
UGLE has sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow Vicky and family.
Read Anthony Wilson’s interview in Freemasonry Today in 2014, where he revealed that modernising the business of Freemasonry was one of his proudest achievements.
Craft Annual Investiture
25 April 2018
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG
Brethren, this meeting is always a very happy occasion and I do congratulate all those whom I have invested today. It is both a reward for past endeavours but also a clear indicator that we expect more from you in the future. An award of Grand Rank signifies UGLE’s pride in you, and recognises your efforts on our behalf. It denotes a senior, and in most cases, a public position within our brotherhood, and I would hope that you all feel willing to communicate the pride you now feel to those you meet, to those who might not understand us, and to those who know little of us.
Your Rulers, I know, have been very busy already this year promoting Freemasonry across the world and installing new Provincial and District Grand Masters. I welcome those recently appointed and am greatly heartened by this youthful enthusiasm, for this brethren is where our future lies. I welcome our new Grand Secretary – David Staples whilst at the same time bidding farewell to Willie Shackell who has served in a number of senior appointments for the last 11 years. We wish him well in retirement.
Many of those I have invested today will go on to be leaders in the Craft and I believe it is a very exciting time for Freemasonry in general. For 300 years men from all different backgrounds, faiths, ages and races have met as equals to make themselves ‘better men’. Such sentiments have never been more relevant, or more needed, than they are today. Be sure that we do not hide that light as we look forward to our next 300 years.
Brethren, events like this do not just happen and I would like, on your behalf, to congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his team for once again arranging such an impressive ceremony and the Grand Secretary and his team for ensuring all the other arrangements have gone so smoothly.
Enjoy the rest of our celebrations.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
14 March 2018
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 13 December 2017 were confirmed.
Election of the Grand Master
HRH The Duke of Kent was re-elected as Grand Master.
Grand Lodge Register 2008-2017
The tables below show the number of Lodges on the Register and of Certificates issued during the past ten years.
Charges for warrants
In accordance with Rule 270A, Book of Constitutions, the Board recommended that for the year commencing 1 April 2018 the charges (exclusive of VAT) should be as follows:
The recommendation was accepted.
Recognition of foreign Grand Lodges
The Grand Lodge of Amazonas, Brazil
The Grand Lodge of Amazonas was formed on 22 September 1904 by fifteen Lodges which had been regularly constituted by the Grand Orient of Brazil to meet in what is now the State of Amazonas. Those Lodges withdrew in a constitutional manner from the Grand Orient and were regularly constituted into a Grand Lodge with jurisdiction limited to Amazonas.
This Grand Lodge already recognises the Grand Orient of Brazil which recognises and shares territorial jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of Amazonas by treaty dated 5 August 2002.
The Grand Lodge of Minas Gerais, Brazil
The Grand Lodge of Minas Gerais was formed on 25 September 1927 by eight Lodges which had been regularly constituted by the Grand Orient of Brazil to meet in what is now the State of Minas Gerais. Those Lodges withdrew in a constitutional manner from the Grand Orient and were regularly constituted into a Grand Lodge with jurisdiction limited to Minas Gerais.
The Grand Orient of Brazil recognises and shares territorial jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of Minas Gerais by treaty dated 16 June 2000.
The Grand Lodge of Mato Grosso, Brazil
In 1976 the area of Mato Grosso in Brazil was divided into the States of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. The Grand Lodge of Mato Grosso was formed on 7 October 1978 by eleven Lodges which had been regularly constituted by what is now the Grand Lodge of Mato Grosso do Sul (which was recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England in March 2001). Those Lodges withdrew in a constitutional manner from that Grand Lodge and were regularly constituted as a Grand Lodge with jurisdiction limited to Mato Grosso.
The Grand Orient of Brazil recognises and shares territorial jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of Mato Grosso by treaty dated 7 October 2000.
The Grand Lodge of the State of Baja California, Mexico
The Grand Lodge of the State of Baja California, Mexico, was formed on 5 February 1933 by three regularly constituted Lodges as the Grand Lodge of the Northern Territory of Baja California. When, in 1953, the territory became the State of Baja California the Grand Lodge changed its name to reflect that fact.
This Grand Lodge recognises the York Grand Lodge of Mexico, which recognises and shares territorial jurisdiction with the Grand Lodge of the State of Baja California and has stated that it has no objection to our recognition of the latter.
Having shown that they have regularity of origin and that they conform to the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge recognition, the Board, having no reason to believe that they will not continue to maintain a regular path, recommended that these four Grand Lodges be recognised.
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
The Grand Lodge of Albania
The Grand Lodge of Albania was formed in 2011 and recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England in 2013. In 2014 the Grand Master of Albania consecrated a Lodge in Kosovo, an action regarded by other Grand Lodges in the area as unwarranted and an invasion of territory within the Masonic sphere of the Regular Grand Lodge of Serbia.
At a meeting of European Grand Masters in Belgrade in June 2015, an agreement was drawn up and signed by the Grand Master of Albania that, inter alia, the Lodge in Kosovo would be withdrawn to Albania and he would enter into discussions with the Grand Master of Serbia as to the future development of Freemasonry in Kosovo. Since the signing of that agreement Albania has consecrated a further two Lodges in Kosovo.
The Board considered that it would be in the best interests of the Grand Lodge for it to suspend relations with the Grand Lodge of Albania while further enquiries are made into the situation and consideration is given to any necessary further action.
A Resolution to this effect was approved.
Erasure of lodges
The Board has received a report that 34 Lodges have closed and have surrendered their Warrants. The Lodges are:
Skelmersdale Lodge, No. 1599 (London), Commercial Travellers Lodge, No. 3700 (Northumberland), Ruislip Lodge, No. 4301 (Middlesex), Davenport Lodge, No. 4391 (Cheshire), Bernicia Lodge, No. 4479 (Northumberland), Electra Lodge, No. 5124 (East Kent), Travellers Lodge, No. 5495 (KwaZulu-Natal), Deltaic Lodge, No. 5640 (London), Swinford Lodge, No. 5729 (Worcestershire), Lodge of Patience and Industry, No. 5781, (Middlesex) Saint Margaret’s Lodge, No. 5816 (Northumberland), Sir Galahad Lodge, No. 5897 (Cumberland and Westmorland), Langley Lodge, No. 5951 (Buckinghamshire), Merantune Lodge, No. 6149 (Surrey), Saints Peter and Paul Lodge, No. 6159 (Essex), Bona Fides Lodge, No. 6696 (London), Castle Lodge, No. 6713 (Durham), Field End Lodge, No. 6924 (Middlesex), Linthorpe Lodge, No. 7032 (Yorkshire, North and East Riding), Lodge of Security, No. 7299 (Northumberland), Daws Heath Lodge, No. 7466 (Essex), Bexley Marine Lodge, No. 7546 (West Kent), King David Lodge, No. 7667 (Durham), Ben Marsh Lodge, No. 7938 (Worcestershire), Cherleton Lodge, No. 8439 (Gloucestershire), Unanimity Lodge, No. 8669 (South Africa, Eastern Division), Sutton Coldfield Lodge, No. 8960 (Warwickshire), Gredington Lodge, No. 8982 (North Wales), Lodge of Light and Friendship, No. 9138 (Essex), Birchington Lodge, No. 9159 (East Kent), Wheatsheaf Lodge, No. 9170 (Cheshire), George Eliot Lodge, No. 9227 (Warwickshire), Meridian Lodge, No. 9653 (Devon), and Carlisle Castle Lodge, No. 9731 (Cumberland and Westmorland).
The Board recommendation that they be erased was approved.
3.22 As required by Rule 277 (a) (i) (B), Book of Constitutions, seven Brethren were recently expelled from the Craft.
Motion pursuant to notice: Amendment to the Book of Constitutions
The President of the Board of General Purposes moved that the Schedule to Rule 61 be deleted and a new Schedule be substituted on the appointments as Metropolitan Grand Officers and Metropolitan Grand Rank. The change to the Schedule was approved.
List of new lodges
List of new lodges for which warrants have been granted by The MW The Grand Master, showing the dates from which their Warrants became effective with date of Warrant, location area, number and name of lodge are:
13 December 2017
9960 Invictus Lodge York Yorkshire, North and East Ridings.
21 December 2017
9961 Oldham Lodge Singapore Eastern Archipelago (the previous Petition in respect of Lodge No. 9958 having been withdrawn).
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge is held on the second Wednesday in March, June, September and December. The next will be at noon on Wednesday, 13 June 2018. Subsequent Communications will be held on 12 September 2018, 12 December 2018, 13 March 2019 and 12 June 2019.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers takes place on the last Wednesday in April (the next is on 25 April 2018), and admission is by ticket only.
Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter are held on the second Wednesday in November and the day following the Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge. Future Convocations will be held on 26 April 2018, 14 November 2018 and 25 April 2019.
With vision, energy and, above all, a sense of tolerance, the Duke of Sussex played a pivotal role in shaping modern Freemasonry
The Duke of Sussex, Grand Master from 1813 to 1843, is a towering figure in the history of English Freemasonry. Playing a pivotal role in the unification of the Premier and Antient Grand Lodges to form the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of his influence on Freemasonry.
Augustus Frederick was born a royal prince on 27 January 1773, the ninth of the 15 children of George III and Queen Charlotte. On 27 November 1801, at the age of 28, he was made Duke of Sussex by the King.
Augustus had a reputation for open-mindedness and was considered the most liberal of his siblings, being something of a social reformer. In opposition to the views of some of his older brothers, in particular the Duke of Cumberland, Augustus favoured Catholic emancipation. He was, despite his devout Christianity, a strong supporter of the Jewish community, too. He also lent his influence to promote various benevolent schemes and was once referred to as ‘the most charming beggar in Europe’.
Augustus was initiated into the Lodge of Victorious Truth in Berlin in 1798 while studying in Germany. He took rapidly to masonry, eventually occupying the Chair of his German lodge. Back in England, in 1800, Augustus joined his brother George’s Prince of Wales Lodge, now No. 259. The Duke joined the Lodge of Friendship, No. 6, in 1806 and Antiquity, No. 2, in 1808. In 1814, he was instrumental in the resuscitation and, later, amalgamation of several lodges to form Royal Alpha Lodge, No. 16 – which was the Grand Master’s personal lodge and remains so to this day.
BRINGING THE LODGES TOGETHER
In 1813, Augustus was elected Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge while his elder brother, the Duke of Kent, became Grand Master of the Antients, and they became involved in the completion of the negotiations for the unification of the two Grand Lodges.
The Articles of Union were finalised at the end of 1813 and on 27 December 1813, the Duke of Kent graciously stood aside for his younger brother to take the reins of the new Grand Lodge. Augustus remained Grand Master for 30 years until his death in 1843. He referred to the union of the two Grand Lodges as ‘the happiest event of my life’.
Augustus was a very hands-on Grand Master, resolving ‘to rule as well as to reign’. He attended meetings of the special Lodge of Reconciliation (1813-1816), personally chaired the Board of General Purposes and was involved in the detail of all of the major Board decisions. The Union did not proceed quite as smoothly as it might appear from our vantage point, 200 years further on. Indeed, Augustus faced significant resistance to the changes necessary to bring together two proud organisations with similar aims and ceremonies, but with important differences.
Demonstrating his independent thinking, he was the first royal to be buried in a public graveyard. After his death on 21 April 1843, and following the instructions recorded in his will, he was laid to rest in Kensal Green Cemetery in North London. Such a humble choice of burial place by a royal prince required the permission of Queen Victoria. He had been the Queen’s favourite uncle and gave her away at her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. The Spectator of 29 April 1843 wrote: ‘Her acquiescence in his selection of a place of burial may be received as an indication that she understood as well as loved him.’
Did you know?
The Duke was famed for his open-mindedness and liberal attitude, and he supported people of different religions
Did you know?
He was the first member of the royal family to be buried in a public graveyard – Kensal Green Cemetery in London
Words: Dr Lawrence Porter
Memorial paving stones commemorating the 64 English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross during World War I were unveiled outside Freemasons’ Hall
Roughly one in six of the 633 VC recipients during World War I were Freemasons. Of these, 64 were under UGLE and 43 were under Grand Lodges in the British Empire.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, attended the ceremony for the stones’ unveiling and blessing, together with General Lord Dannatt representing the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, the Mayor of Camden, senior officers from the military services, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and representatives from the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association, as well as representatives from the regiments in which the VC holders had served. Specially invited were the families of those being commemorated.
The event was open to the public, with Great Queen Street and Wild Street closed to traffic. The crowd included representatives from many of the service lodges. Music was by the Band of the Grenadier Guards and the North London Military Wives Choir.
Radio and television presenter Katie Derham narrated the first part of the ceremony, which opened with Chelsea Pensioner Ray Pearson reading an extract from AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, followed by the then President of the Board of General Purposes Anthony Wilson warmly welcoming those attending.
‘The horrors of war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, who read from the diaries of Major Richard Willis’
Simon Dean OBE paid tribute to his grandfather Donald John Dean, who, at the age of 21, was awarded the VC in 1918. Col Brian Lees LVO OBE, chairman of the Rifles, Light Infantry and KOYLI Regimental Association, and Lt Col Matt Baker, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion, The Rifles, paid tribute to Oliver Watson, who was posthumously awarded the VC in 1918.
The horrors of the war were brought vividly to life by Sebastian Cator, a pupil at Harrow School. He read from the diaries of Major Richard Willis, who had also been a pupil at Harrow, in which he described the carnage resulting from landing his men on W Beach at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. For his part in that action he was one of the famous ‘six VCs before breakfast’ of the Gallipoli landings.
The Grand Secretary, Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, gave an exhortation that was followed by the last post, a one-minute silence and reveille. The stones were then unveiled and blessed by the Grand Chaplain the Rev Canon Michael Wilson.