The Great War
One hundred years on from the Great War of 1914 – 1918, the loss of life, suffering and destruction wreaked across Europe continues to feature prominently in the Nation’s consciousness. There have and will be many acts of commemoration over the next four years not only to respect the memory of those that made the supreme sacrifice but as a reminder of the ultimate futility of war.
The memory of those that died is perpetuated not only by the many acts of remembrance each November but also by the hundreds of military cemeteries and memorials found throughout Western Europe. The graves and memorials of the British dead, lovingly cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, are even more frequently visited by many school groups, serving and veteran military and families.
Opposite – War Graves at Heycombe cemetery in Bath
Somerset Freemason Casualties of the Great War 1914 – 1918
Of the 9 million soldiers died in the Great War, nearly 10% were from the UK and colonies. 3453 of them have been identified as Freemasons.
In order to remember and commemorate the Masonic War Dead of the Great War, a project has been established to identify as much detail as possible about the 3453 Brethren. The Masonic Great War Project can be accessed on line.
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry has an exhibition “English Freemasonry and the First World War” running until 6 March 2015.
The Province of Somerset Great War Memorial Project has created an on-line database to record the personal history of the 31 Members of Somerset lodges who died in service of their Country.
The Masonic Peace Memorial Building
Many organisations and communities established Rolls of Honour in the early months of the war. These were originally intended to record the names of those who had volunteered, but they also quickly became a record of casualties. The idea of a Masonic Roll of Honour was first considered by the Grand Lodge at its meeting in December 1914, its second meeting after the outbreak of war.
Documents sent by the Grand Lodge to lodge secretaries asked for the name, military rank and masonic rank of brethren known to have died. The first list appeared in the 1916 Masonic Year Book – it was thirty pages long with five hundred names.
Following the end of the Great War and to celebrate the ensuing peace it was decided to erect a new building to provide a fitting memorial to honour those brethren who made the ‘Supreme Sacrifice’. The Masonic Peace Memorial was erected in Great Queen Street between 1927 and 1933. It remains our Headquarters and contains the Masonic Memorial Shrine. 3225 brethren are formally recorded at the Shrine but a further 228 were identified at a later date.
The architects were Henry Victor Ashley and F. Winton Newman. It is an imposing art deco building, covering two and one quarter acres.
The name was changed to Freemasons’ Hall at the outbreak of the World War II in 1939.
Above – Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street, London. Headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England and the Masonic Peace Memorial. The building was completed in 1933.
The Masonic Million Memorial Fund
It is reported that following the end of the Great War and to celebrate the ensuing peace, Prince Albert, His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn KG, PC, KT, KP, GCMG etc., the MW Grand Master at that time, attended an extraordinary meeting at the Royal Albert Hall and suggested that a new building be erected “in this Metropolis of the Empire dedicated to the Most High and worthy of the great traditions of the United Grand Lodge of England…” The primary goal was to provide a fitting memorial to honour those brethren who made the ‘Supreme Sacrifice’ during the course of the Great war 1914-1918. The idea developed further and to fund such an ambitious goal, the “Masonic Million Memorial Fund” was launched in 1920. An appeal to Craft Lodges within the English Constitution was made requesting that, as the title so amply states, a million pounds be raised towards the new “Masonic Peace Memorial”. A system of honorifics was drawn up which would be in the form of a jewel in order to encourage individuals to participate through voluntary contribution. A competition with a prize of £75 was also launched to provide a design template for this jewel. The Jewel became known as the “Hall Stone Jewel”.
The Memorial Shrine (above) The bronze memorial casket below the stained glass window was designed by Walter Gilbert contains the memorial roll with the names of the 3225 who died on active service, viewed through a glass aperture at the corner of which are gilt figures representing the fighting services.
Hall Stone Jewel
The Hall Stone Jewel is one that generates much interest within Freemasonry. A reasonable synopsis and description is of an artefact of a charitable act which commemorates individuals who gave their lives for a greater good. But, charitable acts in Masonic circles are usually kept more private so what is the Hall Stone Jewel, how did it arise and why is it so recognised so amongst Freemasons?The competition was won by Cyril Saunders Spackman, a Freemason whose mother Lodge was Panmure No. 720. His design was a jewel pendant in the form of a winged angel carrying a temple atop a symmetrical cross laying atop a wreath. At the head of the cross are the Square and Compasses, two of the most recognised and significant symbols used within Freemasonry. The dimensions of the cross appear to be perfect square, with square blocks also being emphasised on the [points] of the cross. On the side points of the cross within the square blocks, the dates of the Great War are inscribed; 1914 on the left, 1918 on the right. The colour of the ribbon is deep blue, or light blue dependent on the variant. It is reportedly recorded in official notes:
“The jewel is in the form of a cross, symbolising Sacrifice, with a perfect square at the four ends, on the left and right, squares being the dates 1914-1918, the years in which the supreme sacrifice was made. Between these is a winged figure of Peace presenting the representation of a Temple with special Masonic allusion in the Pillars, Porch and Steps. The medal is suspended by the Square and Compasses, attached to a riband, the whole thus symbolising the Craft’s gift of a Temple in memory of those brethren who gave all for King and Country, Peace and Victory, Liberty and Brotherhood.”
The Gold Individual Hall Stone Jewel. Photo by kind permission of MQ Magazine
Three size variants of the jewel were struck:
1. The Masonic Million Fund Commemorative Jewel – This is an individually worn breast jewel and is the smallest of the three measuring around 3.5cm (diameter of the wreath). It is suspended on a dark blue ribbon. 10 guineas or more purchased a silver one, 100 guineas or more purchased a gold one.
2. The Hall Stone Lodge Jewel – This jewel is slightly larger at 4.2cm (diameter of the wreath) and is handed down from Master to Master of Lodges who achieved an average contribution to the Fund of 10 guineas per member. They are of silver gilt and appended to a light blue ribbon and designed to be worn around the collar (Collarette). In the Province of Somerset there are two lodges that qualified for the Jewel: Lodge Marine No. 232 and St Alphege Lodge No. 4095.
3. The Provincial or District Hall Stone Jewel – The largest Hall Stone jewel is made of 18 ct. gold and is embellished with coloured enamels. It is similar in respect aside the dates and wreath are highlighted with the enamelling and the size is slightly larger at 4.8cm. It is worn by means of a dark blue collar. To qualify for this jewel, the province or district must have contributed an average of 500 guineas from its component Lodges. As the Hall Stone Lodge Jewel is worn by successive Masters, so the Provincial or District Hall Stone Lodge Jewel is passed down and worn by successive Provincial/District Grand Master’s.
It is reported that a combined total of over 53,000 individual jewels were issued (which realised at least 530,000 guineas, or at least half the fund). In addition to the “Hall Stone Lodge Jewel”, Craft Lodges were also recorded as ‘Hall Stone Lodges’ and of 1321 that originally qualified, 88 were overseas. These lodges have their names and numbers inscribed on twelve marble wall panels in the Temple Vestibule at Freemasons’ Hall. These are sited six within the upper area or “The Shrine” room wherein are recorded the names of those brethren to whose memory the enterprise relates and which leads to, and six further panels in the lower area leading to the cloakrooms, one on each side of the staircase and one further located in an alcove.
1937 the building is completed but another conflict looms
The Memorial Shrine (Shown above) commemorates the 3225 brethren who died on active service in the First World War and in whose memory the building was raised. The theme of the stained glass memorial window is the attainment of Peace through Sacrifice, with the Angel of Peace carrying a model of the tower of the building. The bronze memorial casket was designed by Walter Gilbert (1871-1946), who also designed the Victoria Memorial facing Buckingham Palace. The casket contains the memorial roll, viewed through a glass aperture at the corner of which are gilt figures representing the fighting services.
[The Data for this part of the project is courtesy of and with special thanks to the Library and Museum]Detail of the stained glass window in the memorial shrine showing the Angel of Peace carrying the model of the tower of the building.
This article was compiled from articles and web material published by UGLE
Photos by Ray Guthrie unless otherwise stated.