Visit to the War Graves of Masons Awarded The Victoria Cross in The 1914 – 1918 War

RW Bro Roger Croome QPM, Past Pro Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex relates the recent visit he and other masons made to war cemeteries in France and Belgium to pay homage to those Freemasons buried there who had been awarded the Victoria Cross.

“At 8.00 am on the 10th October 2018, nine Masons gathered together outside Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, the building erected to commemorate those Masons who fell in the 1914 to 1918 War, and studied the newly established Memorial site bearing the names of those Brethren awarded the Victoria Cross during that conflict.

The purpose of the three day trip, researched and organised by W.Bro Paul Sully was to drive through France and Belgium to lay wreathes on the graves of 7 of those Brethren as a mark of respect and showing that they had not been forgotten 100 years on.

Over the next 850 miles we visited 8 cemeteries.

On the approach to each, a designated member of the group would read aloud the action that had taken place there.

Once the Brother’s grave had been located the same member would read the citation for which the VC had been awarded.

He then laid the wreath whilst we all stood in a quiet and dignified silence to reflect on what we had been told.

This procedure was followed at each cemetery visited and we all found that taking part in this way proved to be a most moving personal experience.

Every cemetery was beautifully kept and in the quiet, autumn sunshine a more peaceful and tranquil resting place couldn’t be envisaged.

It was a world away from what the occupants of those graves had endured, with the terrifying noise of shells, the pouring rain, the deep trenches and the endless mud, not to mention the pain and misery of seeing their friends wounded and dying alongside them.

At St. Symphorien Cemetery, one of the most beautiful we visited, the group kindly stood with me as I laid a wreath on my Grandfather’s grave.

Not a VC recipient, but one of those who died in the very first battle on the 23rd August 2014.

Also in that cemetery are the graves of both the first and the last British servicemen to be killed.

They being Private John Parr, aged 17, a reconnaissance cyclist who died on the 21st August 1914 and Private George Edwin Ellison who died on the 11th November 1918.

Tellingly their gravestones face each other only a few yards apart, showing rather poignantly how little ground was gained and lost during those 4 terrible years with such a devastating loss of life.

Finally, I must thank our organiser Paul Sully; our tireless driver Andy Cooper, and all my travelling companions for including me in this wonderful, but very moving experience.

It is something that I would strongly recommend for others to follow and I am sure that Paul would be happy to provide the itinerary should anyone wish to do so”.

Members of the Group:-

Adam Akhurst, Andy Cooper, Roger Croome, Jay Dyer, Matthew Eves, Chris & Neil Foreman, Perry Roper and Paul Sully.

All members of either the Lodge of Three Kindred Lights No.5066 in London, or of Ickenham St. Giles Lodge No.6028 in Middlesex.

Those Brethren awarded VC s whose graves we visited and the Cemeteries where they rest in peace:-

Douglas REYNOLDS Etaples Military Cemetery I.A.20
David NELSON Lillers Communal Cemetery V.A.16
Frederick William LUMSDEN Berles New Military Cemetery III. D.1
Oliver Cyril Spencer WATSON Arras Memorial Bay 1
John Stanhope COLLINS-WELLS Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery, Albert. lll. E. 12
John Henry Stephen DIMMER Vadencourt British Cemetery, Maissemy. ll. B. 46
Rupert Price HALLOWES Bedford House Cemetery Enclosure No.4 XIV. B. 36.

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