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Freemason Heroes Honored for Gallipoli Bravery

The morning of April 25, 1915, witnessed an extraordinary act of courage amidst the chaos of the First World War's Gallipoli campaign.

A battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers, tasked with capturing the formidable W Beach on the Turkish Peninsula, faced daunting odds. Spanning just 350 yards and bristling with enemy machine guns and sniper nests, the cove seemed impregnable.

Undeterred by the onslaught, the Fusiliers stormed ashore at 6am, met with a barrage of bullets that decimated their ranks before they reached land.

Yet, against all odds, a courageous few breached the barbed wire defenses and scaled the cliffs overlooking the beach, achieving the seemingly impossible.

Starting with 27 officers and 1,002 soldiers, the Lancashire Fusiliers endured heavy losses, leaving behind 16 officers and 304 men within a day.

Six among them were honored with the Victoria Cross, forever etched in history as the "six before breakfast" heroes.

Beyond their wartime valor, the story reveals a lesser-known facet: three of these heroes - Captain Richard Willis, Major Cuthbert Bromley, and Lance Corporal John Grimshaw - were Freemasons.

Recent research has unveiled that 64 Victoria Cross recipients during WWI were Freemasons, a significant representation considering the era.

Established in 1856 to commend acts of bravery post-Crimean War, the Victoria Cross remains Britain’s highest military honor.

Over 628 VCs were awarded from 1914 to 1918, with Freemasons accounting for more than one in 10 recipients.

In honor of these gallant Freemasons, a memorial will be unveiled on April 25 outside London’s Freemasons’ Hall, the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England.

This art deco building, opened in 1933, already houses a roll of honor for 3,000 Freemasons who perished in the conflict, but their individual acts of valor have now been fully acknowledged.

Mark Smith, a historian and Freemason for 15 years, highlights the challenge in uncovering Freemason VC recipients: “It’s not easy to identify VC winners who were also Freemasons.”

He attributes the high number of Freemason recipients to their inherent qualities of camaraderie, generosity, and responsibility.

As part of its 300th anniversary, the United Grand Lodge of England is set to unveil this memorial, reaffirming its commitment to honor the sacrifices of its members.

Brigadier Willie Shackell, the Grand Secretary, reflects on the enduring legacy of VC recipients like stretcher bearer Thomas Edward Rendle, who exemplified self-sacrifice by rescuing comrades under fire.

Shackell emphasizes that Freemasonry, often misunderstood, embodies principles of honor and service.

He acknowledges lingering misconceptions but stresses the fraternity’s positive impact on society, marked by solidarity and shared values.

With the unveiling of the memorial, the bravery and sacrifice of Freemason VC recipients during WWI will be forever commemorated, ensuring their legacy endures across generations.


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