That secretive organisation that has a very large, very obvious building in central London that anyone can enter for a look around has put on a display about how their organisation was affected during WW1.

It’s a modest display, in a long line of glass cases within the library, and mostly deals with examples of how Freemasons were affected by the war.

Recruitment-advertProbably the biggest section is given over to the problems faced by Freemasons wanting to hold meetings while in prisoner of war camps, or interned as potential enemies in the enemy countries they were unlucky to have been living in at the time war was declared.

As lodges need formal permission to be set up, and letters had to be sent to their respective headquarters, it was difficult for Freemasons to meet in secret within their internment camps, and often did so openly for all to see.

Except for Germans interned in the UK, who were generally refused permission by the English Lodge to hold meetings, unlike the German lodge which was more general to its English residents.

The war also created new, war-related charitable causes for which Freemasons raised funds, prompted a response from the established masonic charities and fostered the formation of a major new masonic charity in the post war period.

A lot of letters, including some from Buckingham Palace are on display, showing how food parcels — from Harrods of course — were sent to English Freemasons in prisoner of war camps. It wasn’t all one-way traffic, as some prisoners were able to raise funds for an English hospital treating the wounded back home.

Amongst the objects on display also include lodge fittings created from appropriated war materiel, souvenirs from freemasonry on the front line and diaries kept by masonic prisoners of war.

And of all the Freemason artifacts from the war, the largest on display is the very building you are standing in — dedicated to those who died in the war.

You can look at this as either a history of Freemasonry, and treat it as such, or as a really fascinating look at how normal people coped in extraordinary circumstances.

Entry to the museum is free — and it is open Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm until 15th May.

There also tours of the lodge itself at 11am, 12noon, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm, which are very much worth taking if you are there.

 

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