Past Substitute Provincial Grand Master, Provincial GL of Fife and Kinross, Grand Lodge of Scotland
PM, Lodge Earl Haig No. 1260, Grand Lodge of Scotland
PM, Lodge Hope of Kurrachee No. 337, Grand Lodge of Scotland
A Perpetual Memorial
As Master of a research/lecture lodge during a pandemic I felt that one way that I could best spend my time was to further my studies out with the Scottish Craft in terms of the connection of Freemasonry and Remembrance. Even with so much more spare time, I found I was only scratching away at the tip of the iceberg and there was no way that could I do the topic justice. However, it is a journey I will continue until the lessons of the third degree become a reality. To give a wider perspective I felt it was easier to stay within the British Isles to look at the Masonic, Military Remembrance connections and I added to my reading list a Prestonian Lectures, The Freemasons at Arms by Bro Fredryck Smith. I also managed to buy on Ebay Gould’s book, The Apron and the Sword. I would highly recommend both to anyone interested in these areas of masonic research.
During my 30 years in the Craft I have had the pleasure to visit and attend meetings of a variety of Lodges under the English Constitution at Great Queen Street in London’s Covent Garden, I have even enjoyed a few libations in the Freemasons Arms – where it turned out that the landlord knew my good friends brother back home in Fife. Yes, I was aware that part of the building was a memorial to the Great War but I was certainly taken aback at the determination of the brethren of the 20’s and 30’s to commemorate their brethren. Although the following may not be new to many brethren from UGLE I am sure that the extent of what I now know will also be new to many brethren from other constitutions and over the following paragraphs I will introduce to you the Perpetual Memorial that is Freemason’s Hall in Great Queen Street.
During the Great War the Grand Master of English Freemasonry was another Field Marshal to add into this story. He was Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and had been initiated into the Prince of Wales Lodge in 1901. Similar to many of the great and the good of those times he received quite a meteoric rise in our fraternity. Eventually, becoming Grand Master. During a special meeting of the UGLE in June 1919 he announced his desire to create a fitting memorial to the freemasons that had fallen in conflict and to make a new and fitting home for the Grand Lodge. That new building, the third to be on that site, the one we know today, the one that is the star of many TV and film productions and members of the public watching programmes such as Spooks probably do not realise that this is a memorial to the fallen.
For those that have visited or have seen it on TV will surely appreciate to fund such a building in the immediate aftermath of the Great War when a depression was looming would have been an enormous feat in itself. But ultimately a lesser feat than those who gave their all that it was intended to honour. So to help raise the money the Duke announced the Masonic Million Memorial Fund which raised in excess of £1m in today’s money that is nearly £13million. I would suggest to make something on par with what they did back then today would cost more like £100million if not more.
We know that from December 1914 Grand Lodge had begun to compile a Roll of Honour of all members who had died in the war. In June 1921, the roll was declared complete, listing 3,078 names, and was printed in book form. After completion of the memorial shrine, the Roll of Honour, with the addition of over 350 names, was displayed within it on a parchment roll. Maybe this is a small nod to King Solomon’s Temple where the Ark of the Covenant was housed.
The building was designed by two of the leading architects of the day, Henry Victor Ashley and F. Winton Newman and the chose to honour the Freemasons who gave the ultimate sacrifice by a stunning interpretation in the Art Deco style. But similar to today you need to be able to fundraise the money for such an edifice. The first major event was lunch held at Olympia in August 1925 that was attended by over 7000 brethren who were treated to the finest of fayre over a five course meal that was served in just over an hour by 1250 waitresses. The numbers for the lunch are amazing and I shudder to think what it would have looked like if it were to be dinner. But the lunch consisted of five miles of tables that were laid with 50,000 plates, 30,000 glasses, 30,000 knives, 37,000 forks and 15,000 spoons. The brethren enjoyed salmon, lamb, chicken garnished with tongue and York ham.
So the fund was certainly off to a great start. The second way of raising money from the brethren was to ask for donations and in return they would be awarded a jewel. This Jewel would become known as a Hall Stone Jewel. Unfortunately they are readily available to buy on Ebay today. The donations levels for the jewels were as follows:
• Members who contributed at least 10 guineas (£10.50) were to receive a silver medal.
• Those who gave 100 guineas (£105) or more, a gold medal.
• Lodges that contributed an average of 10 guineas per member were to be recorded in the new building as Hall Stone Lodges and the Master of each entitled to wear a special medal as a collaret.
By the end of the appeal, 53,224 individual medals had been issued and 1,321 lodges had qualified as Hall Stone Lodges. My understanding from speaking to members of Hall Stone Lodges is that there is a great sense of pride in being part of this part of masonic and remembrance history.
In June 1938, the Building Committee announced that a memorial shrine, to be designed by Walter Gilbert, would be placed under the memorial window. Its symbols portrayed peace and the attainment of eternal life. It took the form of a bronze casket resting on an ark among reeds, the boat indicative of a journey that had come to an end. In the centre of the front panel a relief shows the hand of God in which rested the soul of man. At the four corners stood pairs of winged seraphim with golden trumpets and across its front were gilded figures of Moses, Joshua, Solomon and St George.
The Roll of Honour is guarded on top by kneeling figures representing the four fighting services: Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Flying Corps. On either side of the casket are bronze Pillars of Light decorated with wheat (for resurrection), lotus (for the waters of life) and irises (for eternal life) with four panels of oak leaves at their base.
So the United Grand Lodge of England had produced a very fitting memorial to those that gave there all and I have no doubt in my mind that Earl Haig had discussions with the Duke of Connaught.
To commemorate both the 300th anniversary and the Armistice Centenary UGLE commissioned a new Remembrance Stone, this commission was given to Granville Angell to commemorate all English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross. More than 200 Freemasons have been awarded the Victoria Cross – making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients. Granville Angell also wrote a very interesting book about Masonic VC holders.
The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the British Armed Forces and was first introduced in 1856. The VC was first suggested by Lord Newcastle but due to circumstance he could not progress it and it was left to Lord Panmure to follow it up, which he did and after some discussions with Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, the Victoria Cross came into being.
Therefore arguably it was down to a Freemason that the VC was introduced, Fox Maule-Ramsay, 11th Earl of Dalhousie, KT, GCB, PC (22 April 1801 – 6 July 1874), known as Fox Maule before 1852, as The Lord Panmure between 1852 and 1860, Maule was appointed Senior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1832, and later, as Lord Panmure Deputy Grand Master in 1857. He was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1867. In 1860, Panmure Lodge (now No. 723) was warranted, being named after the then Deputy Grand Master. This is a Lodge I have visited on numerous occasions in my neighbouring Province of Forfarshire. (…)
Every time I walk along Great Queen Street from Holborn towards Grand Lodge or if coming along Long Acre I now spend some extra time contemplating a War Memorial that probably the vast majority of the population pass by every day blissfully unaware of its symbolism and meaning, just as much as they are unaware of the other masonic symbolism that they probably come across daily.
The Masonic Builders of the Silent Cities
During this paper I have introduced three organisations that are heavily involved in the delivery or Remembrance in our country that arguably have masonic connections. But there is another organisation set up in the aftermath of the Great War and the leading lights in this organisation were also Freemasons. These brethren took the connection to the organisation one step further and also set up not one but three masonic Lodges connected to their organisation.
Bro. Major General Sir Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware, KCVO, KBE, CB, CMG, was a British educator, journalist, and the founder of the Imperial War Graves Commission, now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. An organisation that to this day tends lovingly for all the graves of those who gave their all for our nation, be they at rest in a foreign field or as many were brought home to their local cemeteries. I am sure that the small green and white plaque will be unnoticed by many but is present at most cemeteries across the country I have no doubt many brethren will lie at rest beneath these standard size grave markers. It was in October 1917 that a Royal Charter for the Imperial War Graves Commission was approved by the Imperial War Conference. As the war was fought by all races, creeds and religion the Commission had therefore to be free from both religious and political partiality. What other organisation do we know that has this as one of their cornerstones?
Out of the Imperial War Graves Commission, The Lodge of the Silent Cities no 12 was to grow, firstly as a Lodge under the constitution of the National Grand Lodge of France. It was originally based in St Omer, in the Province of Neustrie, that was between Flanders and Normandy and where so much of the carnage of battle raged, remember that poem where the poppies blow in Flanders field. When the Commission moved its HQ to Arras in 1929 the Lodge followed. Arras is a place of pilgrimage for many Scots and Canadians in particular with it being near to Vimmy Ridge, for the Scots it was the site of the largest gathering of Scottish soldiers anywhere at one time in the history of our nation. I was humbled in 2017 to be one of the Royal British Legion Scotland working party that delivered a Beating Retreat in the Square in Arras with the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. This event was attended by many local dignitaries and included the First Minister of Scotland.
Among the founder members of No.12 was Bro. Rudyard Kipling and he knew only too well the agonies of war as his son 2nd Lt. John Kipling was killed at the Battle of Loos in September 1915. It was Kipling that came up with the haunting name for the Lodge. When you visit the War Graves on the continent and you see them row on row you can picture what he means by silent cities! When I was a young airman stationed in Germany, I was part of a military funeral pall bearer party. An RAF flyer and his plane had been discovered in a marsh and some 45 years later he was laid to rest. This duty has remained with me and I can still feel the hairs on the back of my neck when I remember that day long ago in Germany. When the Piper played the Flowers o’ the forest and the bugler played the last post!
With the Commission again moving its HQ this time to London it was by necessity that a new Lodge under the auspice of the UGLE was needed and this led to the forming of The Lodge of Silent Cities no 4948 and the Bro Sir Fabian Ware a member of the French Lodge joined the English Lodge and went onto become its Master in 1930. This Lodge still survives and thrives in the 21st century.
The final place on the UK mainland that I want to speak about is the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire which since the first tree being planted in 1997 has grown to house over 300 memorials and is now alongside the Cenotaph in London the focus of our Nations remembrance. The focal point of the NMA is the Wall and many of our brethren particularly in the biking communities now make an annual pilgrimage called Ride to the Wall, where they join in with veteran biking organisations. This annual event sees thousands of bikers from all over head towards Alrewas.
The whole site now houses over 300 memorials to all aspects of the military family and I would heartily recommend a visit. In 2017 as part of the Tercentenary celebrations a Masonic Memorial Garden was commissioned and opened by Bro Peter Lowndes Pro Grand Master – the Masonic Memorial Garden can be found just outside the visitor centre. What makes it special is that it is one of the few memorials not dedicated to a Branch of our military be that a Regiment, Squadron or Service but is a memorial dedicated to all who were Freemasons.
Brethren, this journey through Freemasonry, Remembrance and Service brings me full circle to my mother Lodge, Lodge Earl Haig, the only masonic Lodge in the world to commemorate Bro Field Marshal Earl Haig in their name. As my journey hopefully has shown to you I always took an interest in the military connections with Freemasonry and although I knew that we were a Lodge that was formed in the aftermath of the Great War something was still niggling away at me. In the lead up to the 75th Anniversary of Lodge Earl Haig, No 1260, in 1996 I undertook to write the history of the Lodge and during my researches one thing stuck in my mind – that we did not have any Brother who had given the ultimate sacrifice in any of the later day conflicts and of course World War 2. Yes, we had many brethren throughout the years that had signed up and taken the King or Queen’s shilling. As you know I served in the Royal Air Force between 1988 and 1995 and had the pleasure to introduce four of my comrades in arms into our beautiful Craft. I just assumed that our brethren were very lucky and had come through their service unscathed. In many ways I was glad that our Lodge did not have the need to have a memorial plaque to sit alongside the beautiful memorial in the west of Elgin’s Lodge at Leven commemorating their brethren that had given their all for peace. (…)
From a situation in Lodge Earl Haig where we thought we had no brethren that had given the ultimate sacrifice we find ourselves honoured to count amongst our numbers FS Edwin Watson , 1361241, of 201 Squadron Royal Air Force Reserve. A footballing, flyer from Fife! (…)
Brethren as I hope you will see from this paper that all through my life I have had a connection to Remembrance a connection that I cannot explain, but a connection that I trust will never leave me. It may be another sign of this connection that I complete this essay on Founders Day. The day that along with my colleagues from the Royal British Legion Scotland we should have made our annual pilgrimage to our beloved Bro. Field Marshal Earl Haig’s grave at Dryburgh Abbey.
So in our Lodges let us continue to remember those who have served our Nation in its time of need, I have no doubt we will also commemorate those to whom we could not pay tribute in the usual way. By doing so we will be able to yet again show to the outer world that our brethren go through life with such exemplary conduct that the outside world will be convinced that merit has been their title to our privileges and that on them favours have not been undeservedly bestowed.
Lest we forget!