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Brotherly love during the First World War

The welfare of others

Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes that we should recall the brotherly love shown between Freemasons during the First World War 

At the Quarterly Communication held on 2 September 1914, one hundred years ago, the First World War had been under way for just under a month. Your predecessors would have known that, even in such a short time, the German Army had already defeated the Russian forces at the Battle of Tannenberg and the French and British armies were in fierce contact with the German advance in the south of Belgium. That Quarterly Communication was presided over by Sir Frederick Halsey as Deputy Grand Master, as the then Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill, were away serving their country. 

Sir Frederick proposed the motion that ‘Grand Lodge expresses the deep appreciation of the loyal and devoted service now being rendered to our country by HRH the Grand Master, the Pro Grand Master, and very many other brethren of all ranks in the Craft, and its earnest prayer for their continued well-being’. He went on to say – among other things – that it was a time of great anxiety and that every Grand Officer would carry out his work without panic and alarm and show that calmness and confidence which animates the breast of every Englishman and mason.

Sir Frederick added: ‘Our hearts go out to our friends and relations, to our dear ones, both in the Craft and outside it, who are now serving their country at the call of duty; our prayers follow them, and we trust that before long, in the mercy of the Great Architect of the Universe, they may emerge from this present struggle safe and sound.’

Sadly, more than 3,300 masons, serving in the four fighting services – Army, Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Flying Corps – never made it home. Freemasons’ Hall was created as a peace memorial dedicated to them and its magnificent commemorative window has recently been restored thanks to the generosity of London lodges and chapters, as well as individuals coordinated by Metropolitan Grand Stewards’ Chapter. Below the window is the bronze shrine containing the Roll of Honour parchment scroll honouring those who gave their lives in service of their country. We should not forget that numerous sons and grandsons of members were killed – many of whom would have been potential members.

Brotherly love remains as important today as it was in those dark days of the Great War. To exercise kindness, tolerance and charitable support – and to be interested in the welfare of others – is a source of the greatest happiness and satisfaction in every situation in life. 

It is, I believe, of the utmost importance today to ensure our long-term survival, but I am concerned that we are not always seen internally as a caring organisation, with junior members too often marginalised and unsupported. This must change and it is the responsibility of every member to help to retain those of integrity within their lodges by making them feel cared for. By so doing we will ensure that they will gain the same fulfilment and satisfaction from their masonry that we have all been lucky enough to enjoy.

‘Sadly, more than 3,300 masons, serving in the four fighting services, never made it home. Freemasons’ Hall was dedicated to them.’