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Military Lodges

Lodges established in an army. They are of an early date, having long existed in the British army. The earliest Warrant creating a Traveling or Movable Lodge was issued in 1732 by the Grand Lodge of Ireland to the then First Foot, now the Royal Scots. The Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1743 established a Military Lodge in the Fifty-fifty Foot and the first English Military Lodge was set up or erected in 1750 and attached to the Thirty first Foot. The Grand Lodge of the Ancient was particularly active in such work and at the close of 1789 this Body had granted forty-nine army Warrants. The Grand Lodge of Ireland has always had more such Lodges than the English or Scotch. In 1813 there were one hundred and twenty-three under the Irish Jurisdiction. At that time the moderns had fifteen, the Ancient sixty-two and Scotland eighteen. These numbers have been greatly reduced and Brother Hawkins in 1908 pointed out there were then only two on the Register of the United Grand Lodge of England, seven under the Grand Lodge of Ireland and none under Scotland.

In the United States of America, the first Lodge of this kind of which we have any record was one the Warrant for which was granted by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, in 1738, to Abraham Savage, to be used in the expedition against Canada. A similar one was granted by the same authority, in 1756, to Richard Gridley, for the expedition against Crown Point. In both of these instances the Warrants were of a general character, and might rather be considered as Deputations, as they authorized Savage and Gridley to congregate Freemasons into one or more Lodges. In i779, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania granted a Warrant to Colonel Proctor, of the artillery, to open a Military Lodge, which in the Warrant is called a Movable Lodge. In the Civil War in the United States between 1861 and 1865, many Military Lodges were established on both sides; but it is questionable whether they had a good effect. They met, certainly with much opposition in many Jurisdictions. In the Spanish War and in the World War, Lodges were empowered to work the armies. In England, the system of Military Lodges is regulated by special provisions of the Grand Lodge Constitution. They are strictly limited to the purposes for which the Warrants were granted, and no new Lodge can be established in a regiment without the concurrence of the commanding officer.. If the military Body to which a Lodge is attached be disbanded or reduced, the Warrant must be given up, or exchanged for a Warrant for a Civil Lodge. They cannot make Freemasons of any civilian nor any military person below the rank of Corporal, except as Serving Brethren, or by Dispensation; and they are strictly enjoined not to interfere with the Masonic Jurisdiction of any country in which they may be stationed.

Military Lodges also exist on the Continent of Europe. We find one at Berlin, in Prussia, as far back as 1775, under the name of the Military Lodge of the Blazing Star, of which Wadzeck, the Masonic writer, was the orator.

J. H. Manners Howe contributed to the Graphic (December 11, 1909, see also Transactions, Leeds Installed Masters Association, volume vi, page ''29) the following paper on Fighting Freemasons, the Influence of the Brotherhood in War:

The annals of Military Freemasonry may be described as a veritable romance of "goodwill upon earth." This is not to deny to the civil records of the Craft the possession of an abundant fund of varied interest on the same excellent lines both in their archaeological and historical aspects. But, after all, the warrior members of the Brotherhood are those who have always carried its influence into what are still the most strenuous paths of romance-those of military adventure.

The earliest recorded names of English Freemasons, which date from the first half of the seventeenth century, are those of two soldiers. One of these was Captain Elias Ashmole, of Warrington, in Lancashire, who belonged to Lord Ashley's Regiment in the King's Service; the other being Colonel Henry Mainwaring, a soldier of the Parliament, whose name frequently appears in the annals of the Civil War. In Scotland, where Masonic records go back to an older time, there are many earlier names of warrior members among chief and clansman alike. Moreover, on the rolls of the Lodge of Edinburgh, there is an interesting record curiously testifying to the diligence with which Freemasons have pursued their craft even amidst the stress of warlike operations.

In 1641, the Scottish Army, having crossed the Tweed, defeated the Royalist forces at Newburn and seized Newcastle. The minutes of the Edinburgh Lodge record that while in occupation of this town the admission took place of " Mr. the Right Honorable Mr. Robert Moray, General Quartermaster to the Armie off Scotland." This is additionally interesting from its being the first initiation in Freemasonry on English soil. It is equally pleasing to note, also, that General Alexander Hamilton, who was present on the above occasion, and afterwards commanded Cromwell's Artillery at Marston Moor, is mentioned in the records of the same Lodge as assisting at the initiation of an officer of the Royalist forces in 1647. Similarly in England, during the height of the struggle between King and Parliament, the Masonic craft continued its mission of good-fellowship, and in spite of the fierce heat of partisan feeling, many additions to the brotherhood were made among the members of each of the contending forces.

Coming, however, to the nearer times of George II, we find a more systematic extension of Military Masonry taking place. The Grand Lodges of England, Scotland and Ireland began to issue warrants establishing traveling Lodges in British regiments, and these ultimately became the means of a remarkable extension of the Brotherhood in our oversea possessions wherever our soldiers were stationed. The first of these Regimental Lodges was established by the Grand Lodge of Ireland in a Scottish Regiment, appropriately enough the 1st Foot, or the Royal Regiment, now known as the Royal Scots. The date of this extent is 1732, and by the close of 1734 Lodges were founded in four other regiments. These, which at the time bore the names of their colonels, were subsequently known as the 33rd, the 27th, the 21st and 28th. The record of their names is interesting inasmuch as they are those of the first British corps in which Masonic Lodges were created and maintained for many years. The example once set was soon followed, and ere long these traveling Lodges began to increase and multiply throughout the British Army. They counted among their members numbers of the most distinguished soldiers of the time, and it is worth noting, that from them, as the pioneers of Freemasonry in every- part of the world garrisoned by British soldiers, has largely sprung and developed the great and important cult of Freemasonry in the United States.

The history of these Regimental Lodges seems to have been a very conquered one, most of them expiring, with occasional renewals, after more or less prolonged existence. This, however regrettable, was the inevitable outcome of the military life, the constant migrations from station to station. war, and the death or retirement of members. From a grand total of some four hundred they had dwindled nine years ago to about eight, and now the general practice of soldier Freemasons is to become members of stationary Lodges.

At the battle of Mars-la-Tour, between the French and Germans in 1870, thirteen French soldiers of the 64th Regiment, though opposed to a whole German battalion, refused to surrender, and, getting behind a fallen tree, fought on till all were shot down except three. The position was then rushed. and the survivors were about to be bayoneted when the French corporal gave the Masonic "sign of distress." The German leader, also a Freemason, at one cheeked his men, carving, "Don't harm him, he is my brother," and parried the blow aimed at hum The Frenchmen were made prisoners. but their lives were spared.

During the same war some Prussians, after looting a French chateau and destroying everything they could not carry away, seized a box containing a large sum of money. They were about to maltreat the owner, who endeavored to prevent them, when, as a last thought, he made the same sign. The Prussian officer was a Freemason, and instantly recognized the appeal. He expressed regret for what had been done, and placed a guard over the chateau to prevent further outrages. It is in accordance with the highest and best in human nature, therefore. that so many of our leading soldiers should all have been Freemasons. Referring to recent times we may mention Lord Chelmsford, of Ulundi fame, Sir Charles Warren, Lord Wolseley, Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, each of the last three being a Past Grand Warden of England.

The lively interest taken by the Craft from of old in the Brethren whose welfare may be involved in the fortunes of war is clearly shown in a few paragraphs mentioned by the Book of Constitutions, 1767, page 282, referring to the Seven Years War, 1756 to 1763. These particulars are as follows:

Grand Lodge, at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, in the Strand, was held on the 24th of Jan. 1760. A Motion was made and seconded, that the Sum of Fifty Pounds be sent to Germany, to be distributed amongst the Soldiers that are Masons in Prince Ferdinand's Army, whether English, Hanoverian, or Hessian. The Depute Grand Master acquainted the Brethren that Major-General Kingsley now in Prince Ferdinard's Army, was a Mason, and that if it was agreeable he would write to him, and desire he would distribute the aforesaid Sum amongst the Masons; which passed unanimously.

Ordered, that the Treasurer do par the Sum of Fifty Pounds into the Hand of the Deputy Grand Master, to remit to General Kingsley for the aforesaid Purpose.

Grand Lodge, at the Deril Tavern, Temple Bar, 14th of May 1760 in due Fornw.... The Deputy Grand Master produced a Letter from Major General Kingsley, with a List of the Masons in Prince Ferdinand's Armn also a Receipt for the Bill of Exchange, for the Fifty Pounds ordered to be sent to Germany at the last Quarterly Communication.

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