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.’

A family support room has been officially opened on Byland Ward at Harrogate District Hospital, thanks to generous donations from local Freemasons and the Friends of Harrogate Hospital and Community Charity

The Masons Suite was officially opened by the Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire, West Riding David Pratt following a £25,000 major grant from the Provincial Grand Master’s Fund, and £5,000 from the Friends of Harrogate Hospital and Community Charity.

The new Suite will improve patient experience on Byland Ward for patients, including those with dementia and learning disabilities. It includes reminiscence features and mood lighting and will provide a comforting non-clinical environment to patients.

Tammy Gotts, Matron, who has co-ordinated the efforts to open to the Masons Suite, said: 'The project has been two years in the making and we are delighted that the Masons Suite is now open.

'Our huge thanks go to the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding and the Friends of Harrogate Hospital and Community Charity, for their generous donations. Without them, the project would not have been possible. The Suite will improve the experience of staying in hospital for the patients on the ward.'

David Pratt said: 'It was my absolute honour to officially open the Masons Suite within Harrogate District Hospital’s Byland Ward.

'The grant application to financially support this initiative was made by Knaresborough Priory Lodge, and in the coming years it will help provide comfort and to countless people from the Harrogate district and beyond.

'In Harrogate and Knaresborough there are seven lodges, and all are active within the community. It is through to the generosity of our members that we are able to fund initiatives such as this family support room with the hospital.'

Invictus Games Competitor and British Army veteran Ashley Hall fought back after a terrorist bomb took off both his legs and part of his left hand while on duty in Afghanistan, but even he was unprepared by the callous thieves who stole his specially adapted bike – and his route back to mobility and a more normal life

Now thanks to Essex Freemasons, Ashley, aged 28, is back in the saddle four months after thieves broke into the shed at his Colchester home, taking the bike and most importantly, the special components that enabled him to ride it.

After his story was featured in the Colchester Gazette newspaper, Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex, immediately offered to replace the bike; a task that took four months and the skill of experts from across Europe to fulfil.

'Raising the £8,000 to replace the bike and purchase the modifications was the easy bit,' said Rodney, who officially presented Ashley with his new machine at the St Giles Masonic Centre in Colchester on 19th October.

'We had to approach a specialist company in Austria, the only one that could build the bespoke specification needed and even they had to order and adapt a wide range of additional components to complete the job. It was a long wait but worth it to be able to get Ashley back in the saddle.

'I was particularly appalled by the fact that thieves who have probably contributed little to the community, had deprived a brave Army veteran, seriously disabled serving his country, and my members agreed. I am delighted we could help.'

For Ashley, who was serving in the Royal Engineers in 2007 as part of a bomb disposal team at the time of his injury, it is a dream come true. 'I wanted to do all the things that I had enjoyed before the incident,” he said.

'One of these was riding a bike again on just two wheels, a thing that most people take for granted. The thieves stopped that on the day they broke into my shed.'

Not that Ashley is man who is easily deterred. In 2017, he competed in the wheelchair rugby event in Prince Harry’s Invictus Games and today practices martial arts – he is a blue belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. At the time of the robbery he was in Anglesey in North Wales competing for Team Brit, a racing car event.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 11:27

Berkshire Freemasons donate £5,000 to Me2 Club

Berkshire Freemasons have donated £5,000, via the Masonic Charitable Foundation, to local charity Me2 Club

The Me2 Club helps children with a variety of difficulties attend mainstream activities. As part of raising the charity’s profile, on 17th September 2018 the Me2 Club hosted a tea party which was attended by HRH The Countess of Wessex.

Amongst the guests were Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master of Berkshire, and David Jarvis, the Provincial Almoner. Both were introduced to Her Royal Highness and explained how Berkshire Freemasons had helped the club in raising funds to support their activities.

Anthony Howlett-Bolton also joined in the fun at the tea party, helping children draw and read, as well as serving them cake and other goodies.

Bernadette Ferne, Me2 Club’s Chair, was delighted at the support from Berkshire Freemasons over the last two years. She said: 'It has supported general activities as well as trading courses for the volunteers. Without this support our charity would find things harder to achieve.'

Members of Blundell’s School Masonic Lodge have met at the school in Devon for the first time since the lodge was consecrated in 1934

The event in 2017 was arranged to coincide with the Tercentenary of the world's first Grand Lodge for Freemasons last year, and to mark the occasion members of Blundell's Lodge No. 5467 wanted to celebrate it in a unique way.

This led to the idea of approaching Blundell's School, and so with the help of the lodge's Senior Warden Craig Cox and his wife Sarah the permission of the Head of Blundell's Nicola Huggett was obtained and plans were set in motion.

The logistics of such an event was never going to be easy to arrange, but the outcome was a marvellous afternoon and evening culminating in 116 members and their partners sitting down for a gourmet dinner in the main dining room of the school.

Nicola Huggett and Richard Swarbrick, Chairman of the Old Blundellian Club, were guests of honour and both the Worshipful Master of the lodge John Shepherd and the Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire Ian Kingsbury were each delighted to present the Head with a cheque for £1,500 – making a total of £3,000 to mark the celebrations of the Tercentenary.

This donation enabled year 11 students at the school to assist with projects identified by Community Learning International, who currently operate five learning centres in district towns of rural Luang Prabang in Laos, where they provide opportunities for children to develop their skills and knowledge.

This aid has now reached the children in Laos and the delight on their faces and the knowledge that without this sort of help the education of the children would be much poorer has made the project worthwhile in the eyes of everyone who took part.

In celebration of the 250th anniversary of the formation of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset, nearly 100 Freemasons paraded through the centre of the City of Bath on September 30th 2018

Starting at the Masonic Hall, Old Theatre Royal, members paraded under the banners of Royal Cumberland Lodge No. 41 and Lodge of Perpetual Friendship No. 135, finishing at the Friends Meeting House building in York Street, which was the original Masonic Hall from 1819 to 1842.

The Provincial Grand Master Stuart Hadler, accompanied by the Leaders, full Provincial Team, Ruling Masters and members from all parts of the Province, all in full regalia, paraded along the route in two columns and were well-received by the public.

Upon arrival at the Friends Meeting House, Stuart Hadler presented representatives of ‘The Friends’ with a cheque for £1,000. Dignitaries in attendance included: The Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Somerset - David Medlock; The Lord Lieutenant’s representative - Annie Maw; The Chair of Bath & NE Somerset Council - Councillor Karen Walker; and The Mayor and Mayoress of Bath - Councillor Patrick and Deirdre Anketell-Jones.

Provincial Historian Malcolm Toogood then presented a fascinating history on the formation of the Province, following which the members and their guests returned to the Old Theatre Royal for welcome refreshment.

An intrepid group of veteran soldiers, who are suffering the mental and physical effects of their service, are heading across the continent to Greece and back, thanks to a grant from Dorset Freemasons

The Veterans in Action (VIA) charity were awarded £25,000 from Dorset Freemasons last year for the Veterans Expedition Overland project, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation. As a result, four Land Rovers left Freemasons' Hall this month on for an overland expedition driving from the UK to Greece and back, a journey of 7,000 miles passing through 14 different countries.   

Veterans in Action helps veterans who have suffered the effects of war or who have found the transition to civilian life difficult. VIA also works to enable people to understand more about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and veterans' mental health issues. VIA uses the outdoors, centre-based projects, adventurous activities and expeditions to help veterans re-build their confidence, self-esteem, and self-belief. The charity was one of four to be nominated by Freemasons in Dorset, with local people voting to decide the level of their award.

Work started on the vehicles in November 2017, with a group of veterans from all over the UK, plus serving personnel from the local Tidworth Garrison, coming together once a month to work on first stripping the vehicles then fixing and preparing them for the overland expedition. To date, over 50 veterans and serving personnel have taken part in the project.

These vehicles will give longevity to the project and will be used to train veterans in all aspects of expedition planning, off road driving and active expeditions. Mini expeditions are currently being planned which are aimed at the local military garrison Tidworth in Wiltshire, where there are 15,000 troops and their families.   

In 2019, after the expedition returns from Greece, Veterans In Action plan to do a year-long road trip around the UK to raise awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They hope to raise funds to buy a property which will be set up as a veterans retreat which will include many workshops and outdoor activities.

Following the Dorset Freemasons' grant, VIA were also awarded £10,000 from AVIVA, £10.000 from The Veterans Foundation and £10,000 from the National Lottery. They have also received sponsorship from many companies which include Maltings 4x4, All Makes 4x4, Terrafirma 4x4, UPOL, Raptor Paint, Premier Group, Curry's/KnowHow, Teng Tools and Regatta Outdoors, as well as individual masonic lodges from across Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset.

Billy MacLeod, Chief Operations Officer of Veterans In Action, said: 'The initial support of the grant of £25,000 from Dorset Freemasons made the Veterans Expeditions Overland project a reality. That's why we've decided to set off on our expedition from Freemasons' Hall. On our return we'd like the chance to visit as many lodges as we can around the country to show them what their support has achieved'.

Mark Burstow from Dorset Freemasons said: 'We're very pleased to be able to support Veterans in Action, who do outstanding work with veterans who are living with the effects of war. Our service personnel have given a great deal to our country and it's only right that we give something back to them.’

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