ISSUE 13, April 2005

The Campbells are coming: At speed!
Travel: Warming to Iceland
Royal Masonic Family: The Six Masonic Sons of George III, Part II
Quarterly Communication: Address of the Pro Grand Master and: Report of the Board of General Purposes
The flying eye hospital
Beamish Museum: The million pound project
  Wigan Grand Lodge: The Liverpool rebels
Chelsea Lodge: That's entertainment
Re-enactment: The way we were and: The Russian connection
Community Service: Weathering the storm
Faith and Freemasonry: God and the Craft
Education: Researching Freemasonry on the Internet and: Masonic events
Freemasons Hall: Masons at War
Grand Charity: Report and grant list and: Support for Asian tsunami
Masonic Charities: Reports from the Masonic charities
Obituaries, Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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Notice posted at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, concerning its use as an air raid shelter

HRH George, Duke of Kent, Grand Master 1939 to 1942

    At the outbreak of war, the basement of Freemasons’ Hall was scheduled as an air-raid shelter to accommodate 2,500 people in the daytime and 1,000 people at night, although this number was often exceeded. Members of staff became volunteer shelter wardens. The Grand Secretary took a great personal interest in the work, and during the latter part of 1940 he remained on the premises at night and took his turn in the shelter warden duties. Miss Haig, his secretary, and other female members of staff, were responsible for first aid and running the canteen.
    Freemasons’ Hall was lucky to survive without any major damage during the bombing raids on London. During the Blitz, at 9.10pm on Saturday, 11 January 1941, bombs fell on the nearby premises of Lambert and Butler and on Peabody Buildings. The blast broke all the windows on the Wild Street side of the building and some on the Wild Court elevation. The hall was converted into a temporary first aid post for the injured and homeless. Many other Masonic buildings were damaged or destroyed by bombs, including the Bristol Masonic Hall and Hope Street in Liverpool. Other Masonic meeting places, such as livery company halls in the City of London, and restaurants, were damaged and many Lodge records and items of furniture were destroyed.
    The UK mainland never suffered Nazi occupation, but in 1940 the Germans occupied the Channel Islands. Against this background, and with the fall of France in June 1940 and the Blitz continuing, measures were taken to preserve some of the most important original Grand Lodge records.
    In October 1940, the Grand Secretary wrote to his opposite number in New South Wales, New Zealand, Massachusetts and Canada:

“Dear Brother Grand Secretary,
    We have considered it desirable to place certain of our original documents in a place of safety in order to preserve them for posterity. Should misfortune befall all who are aware of the location, it is desired that the information be made available to their successors.
    It has been decided that a sealed envelope, which is enclosed, be deposited with four Grand Lodges, of which yours is one, asking them to preserve it and return, unopened, upon receipt of a letter making the request, or a cable worded ‘Return Envelope’.
    I feel sure that you will not mind doing this service for us.”

The Grand Secretary of Canada in Ontario replied:

“We gladly accept the trust and assure you that your instructions will be strictly carried out. Let us hope, however, that we will soon receive an “all clear” cable and that victory will be ours.”

When return of the envelopes was requested on 10 October 1945, the Grand Secretary wrote:

“In those days we were very concerned as to the safety of many of our historical records and it was a comfort to know that certain papers were deposited with you.”

In the summer of 1940, Grand Lodge began a scheme of collecting together Masonic jewels donated by members, which were then melted down for the war effort. Over £10,000 was raised by November 1940. A further cheque for £2,500 in December 1942 was acknowledged in writing by Sir Kingsley Wood, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, himself a Freemason.
    Masonic charities replaced their metal steward’s jewels with card or plastic versions, which were in some cases replaced by a metal version once the wartime restrictions were lifted. Pupils at the Masonic schools donated the money that would have bought their school prizes to charity. Threequarters of the beds at the Royal Masonic Hospital were set aside for the treatment of the armed forces, and by the end of the war over 8,600 had been treated there. Masonic charitable donations were also made to other organisations, including the Red Cross and the St. John’s War Fund.

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