One in ten of all Victoria Cross medals awarded during The First World War were awarded to Freemasons. On 25th April 2017 the actions of these ‘Brothers in Arms’ were honoured with a special memorial in London.
The unimaginable courage of the sixty-four English Freemasons who were awarded Great War VCs is now permanently recognised. Their names and details are engraved in commemorative stones embedded in the pavement in Great Queen Street in central London. They are laid out so that all can see them outside Freemasons’ Hall. The building was opened in 1933 as a memorial to all those Freemasons who died during the First World War. It is, therefore, a fitting location for the commemorative stones.
The memorial was unveiled by the Grand Master of English Freemasons, HRH The Duke of Kent. Included amongst those attending the unveiling were descendants of some of those named in the memorial. The event was one of the highlights of Grand Lodge’s Tercentenary celebrations.
The sixty-four Freemasons included three of the famous ‘Six Before Breakfast’ VCs. These were awarded to six members of the 1st Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers, during their capture of ‘W Beach’ at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915.
The new memorial will act as a reminder of the principles of Freemasonry: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. These founding principles were demonstrated in great abundance by the 64 ‘Brothers in Arms’ who hailed from all four corners of the globe.
The Victoria Cross is the highest award within the UK honours system that recognises ‘conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy’. It can be awarded to anyone serving with the Armed Forces with no distinction of rank or class, a value shared by Freemasons who come from all backgrounds and walks of life.
HRH The Duke of Kent said: “Over the last three hundred years English Freemasonry has welcomed into membership many of those who served their country in the Armed Forces and the Volunteer Reserve. Some of them achieved great distinction but all of them served to protect their country and communities, particularly in times of war and conflict.
“It is fitting that this permanent memorial to those sixty-four gallant servicemen who were awarded the highest accolade should become part of Freemasons’ Hall, which itself is a permanent memorial to the over three thousand of our Brethren who gave their lives on active service during the First World War.”