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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Cardboard charity jewel

An example of a jewel of a Lodge formed during the war

Library and Museum staff are giving a series of free afternoon talks at Freemasons’ Hall in the week of the anniversary of VE Day. All commence at 4pm.
    Monday, 9 May: The Spirit that Sustains: An Overview of English Freemasonry and the Second World War, Diane Clements.
    Tuesday, 10 May: A Building at War: Freemasons’ Hall, London 1939-1945, Diane Clements.
    Wednesday, 11 May: Exiles, Allies and Victors: Masonic Association 1940-50, Martin Cherry.
    Thursday, 12 May: Doves, Dragons and the Leafy Idyll: A Study of the Iconography of Masonic Jewels, 1939–1945, Alison Royle.
    Friday, 13th May: From Peace to War: the material culture of Freemasonry in the Second World War, Mark Dennis.

    However, in 1939, the situation was complicated by the issue of refugees. The Board of General Purposes put forward a two-part proposal – the first part mirrored the policy of the earlier war, seeking voluntary withdrawal. The second part proposed that brethren of enemy birth might be requested by the Master of the Lodge to abstain from attending if the Master was of the opinion that “the presence of such brother would create discord.”
    The Freemason’s Chronicle pointed out that the use of the term ‘enemy birth’ rather than ‘enemy nationality’ was harsh and did not allow for the process of naturalisation, and that by putting the onus on the Master of the Lodge, the policy was liable to be inconsistently applied.
    This issue caused considerable debate and was amended to read: “No Brother being a national of any state with which Great Britain is at war shall attend or be admitted to any Masonic Meeting held under the English Constitution.”
    Many Czech Freemasons fled to London, where they established the Czech Grand Lodge-in-Exile. This consecrated a new Lodge, Comenius-in-Exile, which met at the Café Royal from 1942 until its return to Prague in 1947. Other foreign troops visited or joined English Lodges. As early as August 1940, New Zealand Lodge No 5175 included 80 members of the New Zealand armed forces among its membership.
    During the later stages of the war, after the Allied landings in Italy and following D-Day in June 1944, Freemasons started to form Masonic clubs or societies in towns across Europe where they were stationed. The clubs were informal, unofficial gatherings, but were not discouraged by the members’ Grand Lodges, as they embodied the principle of fraternity. Membership of the clubs was often short-lived, reflecting the fact that they were run by men on active service.
    As the clubs were informal Masonic gatherings, no ritual was performed or members initiated. Time was spent discussing Freemasonry, listening to lectures and raising money for local and Masonic charities. Two examples were the Friday Night Club for Freemasons stationed in Cairo, and the Tyre-Rhenian Masonic Club in Italy.
    Other ‘Masonic’ meetings (usually Lodges of Instruction) were held in prisoner-of-war camps in Europe and the Far East, and the working tools and archives of these meetings remain poignant reminders of Freemasonry under duress.
    The war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945. Fighting continued in the Far East until August, and wartime conditions persisted for even longer – food rationing continued until 1954, with Grand Lodge proceedings in September 1946 and afterwards recording the “many offers of gifts of food parcels... received from different parts of the world”.
    Clothes rationing ended in 1949 and Grand Lodge hoped that “dark suits, black shoes and ties, and white collars will become the general wear in Masonic clothing”. The wearing of white gloves continued to be left to the discretion of the Master.
    After the war, Lodges were asked to document their wartime experiences and list members who had served or been killed, with the view to producing a Book of Remembrance to mirror that produced after the 1914-18 war. However, only about half the Lodges replied, and this material was later used as the basis for an incomplete Roll of Honour produced by Keith Flynn.
    When the United Grand Lodge of England met for its regular quarterly meeting on 6 June 1945, a month after the end of the war in Europe, tribute was paid to the Masonic Lodges which had continued to carry out their duties in spite of the difficulties and dangers of the war. “Freemasonry has meant much to its members during the past five and a half years” said George Emmerson, the President of the Board, “it is hoped that the spirit which has sustained them will be maintained”.

Further Reading
Many Lodge histories include fascinating references to the wartime experiences of the members. Keith Flynn, Freemasons at War, 1991 Keith Flynn, Behind the Wire: an account of Masonic activity by prisoners of war, 1998

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