ISSUE 17, April 2006
Editorial
Historic: The Brother who designed the Spitfire
Travel: The charm of Kerala
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's speech and Quarterly Communication
Public Relations: Hottest spot in town
International: Emulation in Bulgaria and Mauritius takes a leap forward and Hungary's Royal Arch library
Library & Museum: Recent acquisitions
Masonic Bibles: Lodges and their Bibles
    Royal Masonic Girls' School: My thanks to the Freemasons
Holocaust: The Count of Auschwitz
Education: International conference on the history of Freemasonry and Events
Specialist Lodges: Masonry universal - via radio
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity continues to help those in need and New Masonic Samaritan Fund and Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
Grand Charity: The Tsunami - one year on and Important Gift Aid information
Letters, Book Reviews, and Gardening

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Above:
Charlie Coward on the set of the film about his exploits, The Password is Courage, with Dirk Bogarde, who played him in the film

Below:
A local newspaper story showing Charlie and his wife beneath the Blue Plaque placed in his honour at Edmonton, north London, where he lived


    To most people in Britain, the name Charlie Coward means nothing or very little at least, and even in Lodge Camberwell Old Comrades No. 4077 his name is now hardly remembered.
    Charlie joined this Lodge, formed by the remnants of a pal’s battalion from the First World War, in January 1955 and remained a member until 1967.
    To the outside world he is renowned as the Count of Auschwitz – the only Englishman to have a tree planted in his honour in the Avenue of Righteous Gentiles in Vad Yashim, and apart from Bro Winston Churchill, is the only other British recipient of the Israeli Peace medal.
    This medal holds a place of honour in his grandson’s home in Canada.
    A movie was made on his exploits starring Dirk Bogarde called The Password Is Courage. How is it then that he is highly regarded throughout the world and yet hardly known here at home?
    After speaking to some who knew him, chiefly his pal and fellow Freemason Charles Stancer of Tee Square Lodge No. 3219, formed by members of the American Tee Square Glee Club, it is not so surprising. For Charlie Coward was a remarkable hero, a modest and self-effacing man.
    Ralph L Finn wrote of him in the Ha-Kol Jewish paper that he ‘was not one of the world’s great conversationalists, or one of the world’s geniuses. He was quite unremarkable. But he was one hundred and one percent a real human being.’
    Charlie joined the Royal Artillery on 16 June 1937 and was serving with the 8th Reserve battalion as Quartermaster Battery Sergeant-Major when he was captured at Calais by the Germans in May 1940. He managed to make two escapes before they even got him to a prisoner-of-war camp!
    During his seven subsequent escapes he managed to be awarded the Iron Cross whilst hiding in a German army field hospital, and he spotted experimental v1 rockets and managed to send coded information on them back to British Intelligence via letters to his father via Mr William Orange.
    He said of this episode: ‘On the pretext of writing to my father (who was dead), in care of William Orange, I could get out about a half dozen letters a week to let the people in England know what was going on. I figured that I could pass the censors that way, and at the same time get the information to the War Office.
    He once explained about Auschwitz: ‘In my letters I sent information that I thought had military value and I also wrote about the conditions of work for the civilians and the inmates, as well as the British prisoners-ofwar. I wrote giving the particular dates on which I had witnessed thousands arriving and marched to the concentration camp.
    ‘I used to inquire of the people in Auschwitz where the next batch was coming from. In my letters I would say that 600 arrived from Czechoslovakia, so many from Poland et cetera. The turnover was in the hundreds of thousands. You could not count them. The majority of them went into the camp next to us.’
    His wife Florence was at first confused by these letters and it took a few months before she spotted the ruse and redirected the mail to the War Office.
    Charlie recalled: ‘I arrived in Auschwitz in December 1943. Auschwitz was under the supervision of Stalag viiib. The camp at Auschwitz at which we lived was e715. It was one of the camps grouped around the IG Farben plant at Auschwitz.
    ‘At the time when I came to Auschwitz, about 1,200 British prisoners of war were working for IG Farben. Toward the end of 1943, our camp held 1,400 British prisonersof- war. At the beginning of 1944, British prisoners were sent to Heydebreck and Blochhammer and about 600 British prisoners of war remained.’
    Piotr Setkiewicz, in his book Selected Problems in the History of IG Werke Auschwitz, wrote: ‘The following year, IG Farben took over the Janina coal mine in Libia, where 150 British POWs laboured. The Britons were quartered in a small camp known as Kommando e562, Stalag viiib. Management at the coal mine looked upon the Britons as unwilling workers.
    “The Britons were generally regarded as having significantly lower productivity than average while demanding the same privileges as those accorded to German workers. The same situation was reported at other companies utilizing British POW labour in the eastern part of Upper Silesia.
    ‘The management at one coal mine summarized things thusly: ‘The English deliberately work more slowly, and sometimes state with utter frankness that they have no intention of mining coal that will be converted to aviation fuel and used against their countrymen’.”


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