At a recent meeting of the Notts Installed Masters Lodge No 3595, a team from the Suffolk Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge delivered their presentation entitled ‘The Empty Chair’. Eleven brethren of the Lodge attended along with the Suffolk PrGOrator W. Brother Peter Thorogood.
The presentation was a ceremonial tribute to those Freemasons who made the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War and it was ‘personalised’ to our Province by mentioning by name and Lodge, those Nottinghamshire Freemasons who were lost. The ceremony was beautifully presented and was so moving that when our PGM gave them the following words of thanks, it was just not appropriate to applaud.
“On 25th April 2017, I was privileged to be at Great Queen Street to see the unveiling of 64 paving stones commemorating the English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War.
43 more Victoria Crosses were awarded to Freemasons of Grand Lodges within the British Empire – almost 1 in 6 of the VCs awarded in the First World War was to a Freemason. Of course, Freemasons Hall itself is a memorial to the 3000+ masons who died in that conflict.
Brethren having only a reasonable period of membership of the Craft will already have an insight as to why the level of VCs awarded to Freemasons was so high. The Craft teaches and promotes morality, ethics, social skills, and leadership – all qualities found in the men receiving the highest honour for valour.
Research into the VC paving stones project displays the best elements of masonry – self-sacrifice, honour, and sense of doing the right thing. Brethren, tonight’s superb presentation by a clearly dedicated team, reinforces the true Masonic spirit of those brethren who made the ultimate sacrifice. It is my belief that we later generations remain proud of our predecessors, many of whom could not complete their Masonic journey, and it is of course through their determination to fight oppression that we are free to enjoy our fellowship.
Brethren, I hope that our departed brethren in the Grand Lodge above look down on us and believe we are worth the all that they gave.
I thank those members of the Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge of Suffolk for taking us in a hugely poignant manner to reflect on that great debt we owe.”
Richard Gutteridge, the WM of the Lodge, personalised the evening even further by recounting the story of his grandfather:
“Many of us are old enough to have personal contact with the Great War and I wanted quickly to share mine with you.
My maternal Grandfather was Earnest Heaney (known as Mick) and he was not a Freemason. He was a postman here in Nottingham and in 1916 decided to volunteer for the war effort. As many did in those days, he joined the regiment associated with his job, in his case ‘The Post Office Rifles 8th Battalion City of London Regiment’.
There is a fascinating book called ‘Men Of Letters - The Post Office Heroes Who Fought The Great War’ and from that I learned they were in many sticky situations not least Passchendaele in the autumn of 1917. On route to war my grandfather Mick got his comrades to sign and write comments on a Union flag and, of course, many of those who signed did not return. Happily, for me, my grandfather did survive and brought that flag home and I clearly remember him pushing me as a child around our village.
That flag is now more than 100 years old in my safekeeping and I have it this evening to show you and it will be available afterward for those who want a closer look. So thanks to our friends from Suffolk of reminding me of my grandfather’s empty chair.”
The visitors from Suffolk were fascinated to see the flag and wanted to be photographed with it (see above).
At the Festive Board, our visitors were given a huge huge ovation and the WM (Richard Gutteridge) presented them with the £200 collection in aid of their 2019 RMBI Festival.