It started with a casual enquiry as to the whereabouts of the Sittingbourne Masonic Centre War Memorial. The enquirer was from the Sheerness Masonic Centre which has strong ties to the armed forces, particularly the Royal Navy, so the query was not surprising. The answer was simple; there wasn’t one, which triggered off a train of events finishing with the dedication of a memorial plaque at the recent St. Michael’s Lodge December meeting.
An enquiry was first made to Grand Lodge for them to check the Roll of Honour to find out the identities of any war casualties among the members. It turned out that there had only been one, a soldier in the 1st. World War.
St. Michael’s Lodge No. 1273 had been the only Lodge operating in Sittingbourne during the two world wars and its membership was drawn mainly from commerce and the majority were above active service age. There was a popular belief held among young servicemen that if they became members of the Craft, should they fall into enemy hands, there was a better chance of being treated more favourably by fellow Masons among their captors.
So it was that Private Gwynfred Ellis Griffiths of the Wiltshire Regiment, stationed at the temporary camp at Gore Court, Sittingbourne was initiated with two other candidates into St. Michael’s Lodge at a Lodge of Emergency on Wednesday 17th. July 1918. Bro. Griffiths was a china merchant from Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire and would have had some business empathy with many of his new found Masonic friends. He was due to be passed at another Lodge of Emergency with three other brethren set for Wednesday 14th. August 1918, but had been shipped out to the front in the intervening weeks. He was unfortunately killed during the attack on the Beaurevoir Line in France on Tuesday 8th. October 1918, just over one month before the cessation of hostilities. He is buried in grave I.A.40, Bois-des-Angles British Cemetery, Crevecoeur-sur-L’Escaut.
This information was achieved after further on-line research at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and visits to the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (Salisbury) Museum and Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire. Attempts to identify family members were unsuccessful. He was survived by his wife, but there was no issue. His father carried on the business which was included in a 1925 directory. Today Wedgwood House in Llandeilo houses a ladies hairdresser.
A Wiltshire Regiment wall plaque was purchased, mounted on a timber backing and a brass engraved dedication attached. The plaque was dedicated by W.Bro. Rev. Brian Blade and is now mounted on the Temple wall in the Tyler’s Lobby. The whole process was most satisfying and can be recommended to others who may be asked, where is your Centre War Memorial?