ISSUE 17, April 2006
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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This Time Next Week by Barbara Kelland, Epona, £19.95 hardback. ISBN 0 9543099 2 8.
    Masons are proud of their charities, not least the Royal Masonic School for Girls, but rarely does a book appear written by someone who was a beneficiary of Masonic benevolence.
    This is a heart-warming tale of a little girl who lost her father between the two World Wars, whose mother was unemployed in the days before the welfare state, but who was educated by the generosity of Freemasons.
    Barbara Kelland’s story is not only a tribute to the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls (RMIG) – both the junior school at Weybridge and the senior one at Rickmansworth – but is an intimate story of socio-economic conditions of the time.
    At seven she began writing a weekly letter home, and her book is based on 11 years of such correspondence, all kept by her mother. This is a story of an educational world with an accent on discipline, learning and high standards. But it is also a tale of how girls will be girls, of midnight feasts, snowball fights and other pranks.
    Her mother faced unemployment both at the beginning and end of the war, but stoically did her utmost for her daughter, in that quiet but determined way that was typical of women of that time.
    Such was the influence of this upbringing that the author became a teacher herself.
    Now retired, she wanted to thank Freemasons in some tangible form. This excellent and moving tale is her thanks.
    In addition, a portion of the royalties will go to the RMIG Endowment Trust. The book is on sale at Letchworths shop at Freemasons Hall, London and an audio version is available at
    John Jackson


How do you track down and chronicle the veterans and their stories for your books?

There are now just three British men left who served on the Western Front. However, when I started interviewing veterans 20 years ago, there were between 50,000 and 100,000 survivors and finding them was easy. At first, I simply knocked on the doors of residential homes, but as numbers declined, I placed advertisements in newspapers. Latterly, with the publicity surrounding the French award of the Legion of Honour to all surviving veterans, a last list of 300 survivors was put together and I was lucky enough to see it. In all, I have been privileged to interview over 270 veterans of the war. When I interviewed the first few, I simply took notes. I quickly realised, however, that notes could never do justice to the stories they were telling me so, in the late 1980s, I switched to a tape recorder. I have continued to record and photograph as many veterans as possible and many of their best stories were used in my recent publication, Britain’s Last Tommies.

What first prompted your interest in oral history and the First World War?

My interest began in 1984 when a programme on television about the Great War stirred my enthusiasm. When, at Christmas, my parents asked what presents I might like, I asked for a soldier’s biography of the Great War. They bought me Robert Graves’ Goodbye to all that. I was 19 years old then, about the same age as Graves had been when he fought at the Front. I was hooked by his stories and decided I must meet the men who had served. I nominally set myself a target of talking to 250 veterans, never for one moment really believing I would meet so many.

Following your success with Britain’s Last Tommies, have you planned your next project?

Yes, I tend to find that one book leads to another. After hearing so many stories of the soldiers who died in the 1914– 1918 war, I had the idea of talking to the children or siblings of those who had lost their lives, and the effects on their family. For this reason, I am currently on the look-out for anyone aged 90 or over who lost a close relative.

When writing a book, do you have a preferred place of work and a favoured writing routine?

First and foremost I am a researcher. As well as interviewing veterans, I like nothing better than burrowing away in an archive somewhere, finding extraordinary details about life at the front, or remarkable stories that no one has heard before. I am constantly amazed at incidents, such as the exchange of newspapers across no man’s land, which periodically occurred on the Western Front. I’m glad to say my daily commute is from the bedroom to my study, ten yards, which means I am fresh and ready to work every morning. In the past I was able to work until the small hours of the morning, but nowadays I am much more effective writing in the morning. As I love my subject, and work fairly consistently, I tend not to let too many distractions get in the way, international cricket being the exception. Last year’s Ashes series greatly interrupted work!

Who is your favourite author?

Ever since school, I have particularly loved Joseph Conrad’s books.

Which book are you reading at present?

The Liar by Stephen Fry, and Copse 125 by Ernst Jünger

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