Part of the consecration of Lincolnshire’s 76th Freemasons Lodge on Saturday was an oration by Provincial Grand Chaplain Brian Roberts, which Provincial Grand Master Dave Wheeler said had told an important story. He said: “The Armed Forces Lodge of Lincolnshire is part of the county’s long association with the Armed Forces, and it is fitting that we, as Freemasons and members of one of the oldest fraternal bodies in the world, should help sustain that tradition.
“The oration by our Provincial Chaplain Brian Roberts during the consecration of the Armed Forces Lodge of Lincolnshire told an important story, which is deserving of our thanks, and why I was keen for it to be shared with as wide an audience as possible, publishing it in full on the web site here.”
Brethren all, I greet you well on this important day in the life of Freemasonry in Lincolnshire. It somehow seems inappropriate amongst present distinguished company that a former mere boys’ scout and boys’ brigade member should be delivering this address to you. I was my parents’ happy product in the celebration of the end of World War 2, and therefore not old enough to be called up in later life. But I do just remember sweet rationing! However, in spite of my limitations on this subject I hope that you feel able to hear me out or at least to be respectful enough not to heckle!
As I was finalising this oration during June it was coincidentally around Armed Forces Day which saw a number of events in the UK, including Cleethorpes, demonstrating the extensive support for the group we are recognising today. Please be assured and comforted by the fact that today’s occasion will always live in the records of Lincolnshire Freemasonry, as Consecrations are indeed rare and special events. You may recollect brethren that the Free Wheelers’ ceremony of Consecration in September 2021 was taken by Rt W. Bro Graham Ives, as Rt W.Bro David Wheeler was unwell for a few weeks around that time. It is a great delight to us all Sir, that you are able to preside today.
I have no doubt that today will be for you all enjoyable and memorable, and that you will take away with you a number of recollections – one will be the important and historic nature of the occasion, in particular the solemnity and sincerity of the ceremony. You will, I have no doubt, be impressed and indeed touched, by the contributions made by those who have made the occasion possible, many of whom have worked hard behind the scenes and who may not be taking an obvious role in today’s workings. The poet John Milton in his sonnet “On his blindness” said: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” How very true that is today brethren. It is unnecessary to name the people I refer to because the preparation done for today has been done with a love of Freemasonry which makes identification irrelevant. I am confident that you share this view with me brethren, as you would have done the same for others had you been called upon to do so.
Today sees the creation of a new and unique Lodge, The Armed Forces Lodge of Lincolnshire No 10040. Its mother lodge is Daedalus Lodge No 3843. This is an appropriate link brethren, because in Greek mythology Daedalus is known as a skilful architect and craftsman.
He is also seen as a symbol of wisdom, knowledge and power. He was also the father of Icarus – they both flew from Crete after they had created wings to escape from their captors. The wings were held together with wax, but in spite of Daedalus’ warning, Icarus flew too close to the sun, the wax melted and Icarus perished. Therein lies another of life’s important lessons: listen to your dad, or at least someone who knows more than you! I am sure that those of you who flew at Kirton Lindsey on Friday 11th August will have ensured that your glue was firmly fixed, and that you followed the advice of the experts!
On October 27th 2021 the Rt W PGM signed the Armed forces Covenant on behalf of Lincolnshire Province in recognition of the high regard in which we hold the armed forces. It was a tangible demonstration of a continued commitment to those who serve. The landmark document was signed by Major Mitch Pegg of the Royal Anglian Regiment, who was accompanied by a very senior officer not in uniform on the day, Richard Lenton. The PGM stated that our Lodges through the centuries have always had a close relationship with those serving in the Armed Forces. Servicemen have found that our values of integrity, friendship, respect and charity are a natural fit with their own values, and many ex-servicemen have commented that the camaraderie they find in a Lodge is similar to that they experienced whilst serving. Indeed the Core Values in each of the Services in many ways replicate our own Masonic values. Freemasons’ charities and individual Lodges have a long history of supporting the Armed forces. Freemasons in many communities continue to lay wreaths at cenotaph memorials on Remembrance Day.
Those of you who may have seen the TV series “Inside the Freemasons” may recollect an ex-army sergeant preparing to go into the Chair of his Lodge and relating how he had the same feeling of comradeship as that personally experienced in his army days. You could feel the emotion in his testimony. That same programme also showed the ex Grand Director of Ceremonies, V.W.Bro Oliver Lodge examining the records and stained glass window in Great Queen Street which commemorated those brethren who had fallen in the First World War.
However, brethren we need not go outside of Lincolnshire’s boundaries to see and feel the history of the Armed forces. Lincoln Cathedral was a landmark for Airmen returning from their sorties. During the second world war there were around 70 airfields in the County-no wonder it was called Bomber County! Many still remain at least in part. I noted that the recent Provincial Social Club Lunch received a talk on the former airfield sited at Hemswell given by the Past Master of St Lawrence Lodge W.Bro Dave Gibson. Dave was proposed into the Lodge by the late W.Bro Robert Wareing DFC. W.Bro Cyril Peters DFC was another war hero who I had the honour of knowing and who also made a significant contribution to Lincolnshire Freemasonry.
I referred earlier to the Cathedral – the links with the Armed Forces are legion. Three former chapels have been re-dedicated to form a Services’ Chapel which is divided into three distinct parts to remember those involved in the land, sea and air. The soldiers’ chapel is dedicated to St George the Patron Saint of England and of soldiers. The original Regimental Colours of the Lincolnshire Regiment were a yellow background surmounted by the cross of St George, hence the nickname of yellow bellies. The Regimental March is the ‘Lincolnshire Poacher’.
The Seaman’s Chapel celebrates those who travelled the unknown world to discover new continents- it is dedicated to St Andrew the Patron Saint of fishermen. The Lincolnshire connection is strong – Captain Matthew Flinders, Sir John Franklin, Captain John Smith, George Bass and Sir Joseph Banks are all depicted in its stained glass windows.
Lastly, the Airmen’s Chapel is dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. The Cathedral meant “home” for all those who served in Bomber command during World War 2. The names of 25,611 such young men who gave their lives are remembered here and plaques record their sacrifice. Battle of Britain Sunday is celebrated each year and an RAF Chaplain regularly celebrates Holy Communion in the Airmen’s chapel.
Lincolnshire’s links don’t stop there. The Battle of Britain memorial flight is based at Coningsby. The International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln includes a 31m tall spire and memorial walls that feature the names of all those who lost their lives serving or supporting Bomber Command during World War 2. Of course there is too the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell as well as the Dambusters’ Memorial at Woodhall Spa, and then there’s the Red Arrows!
Brethren you are already well aware of the Lincolnshire links with the Armed Forces it is ingrained so much within the community that you might well ask why there hasn’t been an Armed Forces’ Lodge before now!
As I said earlier this a solemn day but also a happy day. It is solemn only in the sense of the seriousness of the business we are conducting. I am conscious of the need for the Great Architect to look down upon us and to give His blessing to our proceedings on what we are creating today. I ask that He does so on your behalf and that He gives strength and sincerity of purpose to those who act in this important work today and into the future of this new Lodge.
This is a day for giving thanks to the Great Architect of the Universe. This is a day to remember. Let us not forget our past and what we have become. Let us be present in the present and give thanks for the here and now. Let us think of our future and give thanks for all that is to happen to us.
Finally, I hope that the Armed Forces’ Lodge, No 10040 will go from strength to strength in the years to come and that the distinguishing characteristics of Freemasonry which have so much in common with the Core Values of the Armed Services, remain with you throughout its existence and that the Great Architect of the Universe continues to bless all that you do now and for ever.”