To commemorate Britain’s entry into the Great War on 4th August 1914 The Royal British Legion asked people to use a single candle or light for an hour from 22:00 BST on 4 August 2014. The campaign was inspired by the words of wartime foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey, who said on the eve of war: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”
Formal events of commemoration took place all over the Country including a candle-lit vigil at Westminster Abbey on the same evening. Freemasons Hall in Great Queen Street, London was built and dedicated to the memory of the 3453 British Freemasons who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War. A roll of honour stands in the building and for one hour on 4th of August 2014 all the lights in this enormous (and extremely impressive) building were extinguished. All save a solitary light illuminating the roll of honour.
Here in Dorset our provincial Grand Master, Right Worshipful Brother Richard Merritt, asked all Dorset Lodges to support the event by holding a ‘lights out’ ceremony at their first meeting after the 4th August. At least 24 Dorset Brethren died during the first world war, this may not sound many but at the time it represented some 5% of the Freemasons in the Province. 10 Brethren from the United Services Lodge died.
My Lodge, Amphibious Lodge 9050, is a lodge with very strong military connections and we already commemorate the fallen at our November meeting, which usually falls just before Remembrance Sunday, every year. We were of course very keen to support the Provincial Grand Masters initiative. Our first meeting after 4th August fell this week on Wednesday 10th September 2014. It was also our ceremony of Installation, when the new Worshipful Master takes charge of the Lodge for the ensuing year. As any Freemason knows this is always a very special evening and this year it would be even more special as the Provincial Grand Master and a strong Provincial team would be in attendance.
After the Lodge opened and the 70 or so brethren present were in their seats the Director of Ceremonies called the brethren to order and read a short extract explaining the concept behind the ‘lights out’ campaign, this included lord Grey’s observations about the lights going out all over Europe. Worshipful Brother Sharkey Ward, a former Royal Marine, then perambulated around the lodge extinguishing the candles at each of the pedestals whilst the names of the fallen Brethren were read aloud by brethren who had themselves served in the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and the British Army. As the candles were extinguished the lodge lights were dimmed until, as the last name was read, the Lodge was in total darkness save for a solitary candle at the Worshipful Master’s pedestal. The brethren then stood in darkness for 2 minutes of silent reflection and in gratitude for the sacrifices made by our fallen brethren, by their families and by all of those touched by war and conflict in the 100 years since the war that was supposed to end all wars.
This was a solemn and incredibly moving experience for everyone present, a small but beautiful act that I trust will never be forgotten by anyone present.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.