The Victoria Rifles Lodge No.822 is one of the 37 Circuit Of Service Lodges which exist to promote comradeship and fraternal contact between military masons. Given the sacrifice of so many of our Brethren in the First World War it is but fitting that such a Lodge should have hosted an Armistice Centenary Meeting. The Victoria Rifles usually meet on the 2nd Thursday in November at Duke Street but for this meeting the Lodge met on Saturday 10th November in the Grand Temple, Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street.
To a full Grand Temple, the meeting commenced at 11.30 am with the Director Of Ceremonies, Metropolitan Grand Inspector Jamie Ingham Clark, PSGD, briefing the assembled Brethren on the format of the meeting by way of ‘Military Orders’ saying that this was not just a meeting but an Act Of Remembrance. Once briefed the Brethren were pleased to receive the Pro Grand Master MW Bro. Peter Lowndes and then the banners of the Circuit Of Service Lodges. The Worshipful Master, W Bro. James R Milne, SLGR, welcomed everyone to the meeting, opened the Lodge and the dispensation was read. Following a ballot for joining members it was proclaimed that the Master and all of his Officers would remain in office for the ensuing year. In the risings the Lodge voted to donate £9,000 to the Royal Hospital Chelsea Scarlets Appeal and a further £9,000 to Veteran’s Outreach Support, and, there being no other business, the Lodge was closed.
The Armistice Commemoration Event began with the entrance of seven Chelsea Pensioners to spontaneous applause and the tune of ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’. This was followed by a presentation on the Hall Stone Jewel (of which there were over 500 Masters of Hall Stone Lodges present in the meeting) detailing how in 1919, Grand Lodge decided to embark on the building of a new headquarters for the English Craft as a peace memorial to the many Brethren who had given their lives during the First World War. For this purpose Grand Lodge set up a special fund and contributions to the fund were recognised by special commemorative jewels known as Hall Stone Jewels.
The lights in Grand Temple dimmed and Simon Callow CBE introduced a Sound and Light show with a reading of Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Spring Offensive’ followed by a reading of letters sent between a mother and a son fighting on the Western Front. This was followed by Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ and John McCrae’s ‘In Flanders Field’ interspersed with music and songs of the era such as ‘Good-bye-ee’, ‘Keep the home fires burning’ and ‘Pack up your troubles’ for which the Brethren were encouraged to accompany the performers.
The Master went on to detail the actions of the Queen Victoria’s Rifles Regiment (from which the members of the Lodge were originally drawn) detailing the regiment’s battle hours, individual honours and the sobering massive loss of life endured by the regiment on the Western Front. Following a reading of ‘The Soldier’ by Rupert Brooke the Brethren experienced a sound and light show centred on a machine gun placed on a raised platform in the centre of the hall, and which evoked the experience of an artillery barrage culminating with a number of ‘flash bangs’ and the falling of thousands of poppy petals.
Following the formal Act of Remembrance including The Last Post, Two Minute Silence, Reveille and Dedication, the Circuit Banners fell in and after the bugle call of ‘Men to Meal’ there was a recession in silence led by Silent Sentinels and as the Brethren filed out they each placed a poppy next to the machine gun as a personal tribute to the fallen.
The Brethren then retired to the Connaught Rooms and, in the company of the Pro Grand Master and Simon Callow, partook of a most enjoyable Festive Board.