On January 8th 1940 Provincial clothing was presented to W.Bro Suttie by the W.M. as there would not be a Provincial Grand Lodge meeting due to the war.
At the meeting of June 3rd 1940 a notice from Grand Lodge was read cancelling all future meetings in the Province due to the war.
In May 1942, the Combined Meeting suffered a severe loss in the death of W.Bro.F.Blake, who had shown great interest in these War Time meetings. W.Bro.G.May, P.M., The Union Lodge No.127, was asked to act as co-ordinating Secretary, and has continued to act until the final meeting.
It is gratifying to record that although the Temple was damaged by Enemy action and in spite of Air Raid Warnings, the business of the Agenda at all meetings was completed, and no Brother was injured as a result of Enemy attack.
At the inception of our meetings and after W.Bro.Blake had been in communication with the Province, we found a little difficulty in Lodge procedure. In the first instance, each Lodge that had business to transact, had to open and close. This resulted in rather lengthy meetings, but at a suggestion of W.Bro.Branson, D.G.D.C., Kent, we resorted to one opening and one closing: After the work of one Lodge was complete, the Chair was vacated in favour of another Lodge who had business to transact. We had very little difficulty in filling Lodge Offices, a regular Officer of either of the three Lodges would occupy an office in either Lodge and indeed, there were times when offices were filled with P.M.'s of neighbouring Lodges. This was a great incentive to improve the harmony and good fellowship of Freemasonry during these days of trial and it is sincerely hoped, that this harmony and good fellowship will continue in Margate.
In October 1942 news was received of the loss of His Royal Highness Air Commodore the Duke of Kent, the Grand Master, who had died as a result of enemy action.
Our largest attendance was on the 26th November, 1942, when W.Bro.R.G.Scott was installed into the Chair of St.Johns Thanet Lodge No.2753 when some 133 Brethren were present. After this meeting, a Dinner was served at the invitation of W.Bro.Scott at the "Chez Laurie", Thanet Way, Herne Bay.
Our thanks are due to W.Bro.Scott for his zeal and assistance rendered in arranging all our Meetings.
On the 25th January, 1945, we received a visit from the Right W.Bro.W.Jordan, P.G.W., High Commissioner in London for New Zealand. This was the occasion of the installation of W.Bro.T.F.Pettman, when some 96 Brethren were present, including 62 Masters and Past Masters. A very enjoyable evening was spent with a Dinner at "Harold Lodge" under the superintendence of Bro.W.Pegg, to whom we are most grateful.
We were glad to welcome to our meetings, Brethren from all the three Services, including those from the Dominions, many of whom were stationed in the Town.
Some Fifty Pounds was collected at our meetings and the Royal Masonic Hospital and Nursing Home, and the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution have benefited from these collections.
The proceedings of these combined Meetings terminated on the 3rd September, 1945, when we held our final Meeting. On this occasion we were honoured with presence of the Right Worshipful The Right Hon., The Lord Cornwallis, K.B.E., M.C., D.L., P.G.W., Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Kent, P.G.W., Deputy Provincial Grand Master of the Province of Kent. together with members of the Executive.
(Signed) G.May. P.M. 127, P.P.G.Stwd.,
Secretary of the Combined Meetings.
At the first meeting of the Combined Lodges, there were no minutes to read as the previous minutes had been put away in safe custody.
Porta Maris presided over this meeting. An election by ballot was taken for a Master for the following year. There being only one Brother of Porta Maris residing in Margate eligible (owing to the emergency) the Master announced that the Ballot must automatically be in his favour. Accordingly W.Bro.Wilson-Price was elected and installed. The Master announced that he appointed the same officers to fill the various Offices as were already in office. Most of them were absent from Margate. He invested the Treasurer and Inner Guard who were the only officers present.
As there were no Wardens present the address to them was cancelled.
At the meeting of Thursday 15th October 1942 the Worshipful Master referred in sympathetic terms to the loss the Craft has sustained in the untimely death of our respected and beloved Grand Master, the Most Worshipful Air Commodore, H.R.H. the Duke of Kent, K.G., and the Brethren stood in silence as a tribute of respect to departed merit.
A letter was read from the Secretary of Provincial Grand Lodge expressing a wish by many members of the Province that our Provincial Grand Master's son the Hon. Fiennes Neil Wykeham Cornwallis, Coldstream Guards, be asked to accept a wedding present on the occasion of his forthcoming Marriage. Subscriptions to be limited to one guinea per Lodge. The wedding to take place on the 17th October 1942.
FREEMASONRY IN THE SOUTH-EAST COASTAL TOWNS 1939-1945
W.Bro. Fred Brook, Provincial S.G.W. 1945 (Kent)
Among the areas in England which have been most affected by War conditions, few can have had the experience of the S.E. Coast Towns. From the time of the magnetic mine, before Dunkirk, through the days when invasion seemed imminent, the Battle of Britain and subsequent air-raids, to the final ordeal of the continual strain of enemy shelling, the towns within a radius of 30 miles from the Continent have withstood the full force of enemy action against this country.
Through wars and rumours of wars this corner of Kent has seen many changes, but never before has a population been subjected to such mass evacuation. Very few people remained and normal life was at a standstill. Under such conditions, depressing beyond description, it is amazing that any form of social activity should have continued. In the following report it will be seen that not only has Freemasonry been preserved, but in addition to the growth in numbers, it has strengthened its bond of fellowship and brotherhood.
During the five and a half years of War, very few Lodges closed except for a short time when advised to do so by Grand Lodge. In all districts most of the younger brethren had been called to National Service and this imposed additional responsibility on those who remained. These Masons, many of them advanced in years, have shown a fine example by their work and great courage in the manner under which it was carried out. However disturbed a meeting may have been by warnings, bombs or shells, there is only one record of its being abandoned before the agenda was completed. Temples have been damaged several times in Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Sandwich, Deal, Dover, Folkestone, Sandgate and Hythe, but where necessary, no time was lost in finding alternative accommodation. Temporary repairs were speedily effected and these buildings, with the exception of the one at Dover, are all again in use. Under such circumstances, it is amazing and gratifying that no Brother has been injured whilst attending to his Masonic duties.
It is not surprising that there have been fewer visitors to all Lodges. As this was declared a closed area, the uncertainty of conditions, air-raid warnings, shelling warnings, together with the difficulties of travel and blackout, were largely responsible. A great welcome was always extended to those who braved dangers and particularly to any Brother who was a Members of H.M. Forces. Several request were received from Lodges in other parts of the county to Pass and Raise candidates who were temporarily stationed in the district before leaving for service overseas. Changes had to be made in the times of meetings and Lodges usually completed their work before dark. Social functions were drastically curtailed but in some cases the undaunted Freemasons held their festive boards and even their annual Ladies' Night.
Owing to a very heavy evacuation of the population of a town without industries, which relied on its holiday attractions for visitors, it soon became apparent that the three Lodges would have great difficulty in functioning separately. At a meeting held in the Autumn of 1940 it was decided to amalgamate. A co-ordinating Secretary was appointed and meetings were arranged under the joint banners of the three Lodges. at each meeting, the Masters, in turn, conducted the business of their own Lodge and the officers of any Lodge were always willing to act temporary. Under this arrangement the stronger Lodge helped the weaker and, though each preserved its individuality, a deeper sense of Brotherhood has been the result. The regular succession of Officers was maintained and no member was penalised for leaving the Town. It is now felt that the time has come for separation in order that the beneficial effects may not result in weakening of responsibility.
KINGSGATE & BROADSTAIRS
This is another instance where two Lodges combined. In this case they did not amalgamate under a co-ordinating Secretary, but held their meeting separately and supplied each other with Officers in order to fill vacancies. The population of Broadstairs, normally 13,500, was reduced to 2,000. Only a quarter of Members of the Bradstow Lodge remained and Kingsgate Lodge was so depleted that it was unable to carry on without their help. Hospitality was extended to a number of brethren from a R.A.F. Station in the neighbourhood, and this was greatly appreciated.
Ramsgate was fortunate in being provided with a wonderful system of deep tunnel shelters and this, with the importance of the harbour and the establishment of a naval base, caused more people to remain in the town. The three Lodges were just strong enough to function separately, owing to the loyalty and enthusiasm of the P.M.'s, who undertook this responsibility during the absence of the younger men. Meetings were held regularly in spite of the 3,703 air-raids and 86 shelling warnings, but often under very disturbed and dangerous conditions. Events made it necessary that Lodges should be held in the afternoon, but P.M.'s meetings continued to take place at night, usually in a cellar or dugout. On several occasions the business had to be adjourned because of an inrush of people seeking shelter from enemy machine guns overhead. The temple was damaged by bombs and shells but accommodation was obtained at Broadstairs until temporary repairs could be effected.
Although this town has not suffered the same amount of material damage as its neighbours, the strain of War conditions has been as great. The Lodge has met regularly fixing its time for the nearest Wednesday to the full moon for convenience of country members. Surmounting all difficulties, social functions and even Ladies' Nights have been continued.
This old fashioned resort spread out along a shingle beach has been exposed to the full force of the enemy's fury. With no caves or deep shelters, small protection could be given to the few people who remained. Masonic work has been really difficult. One Lodge, the George Hamilton, had to close because practically all its members had left the town. The other two combined and meetings were held, which were both nerve-wracking and dangerous. The Temple was badly damaged and alternate accommodation was obtained. When this too was shelled, the Brethren again had to find other premises.
At the time of Dunkirk, the situation and outlook were so black that all three Lodges closed, but long before the threat of invasion was removed the Brethren decided to carry on their Masonic work. Although their Temple had been practically destroyed by shells in October 1940, the Military Jubilee Lodge made arrangements to start meetings again a month later at the Queens Head Hotel. The Corinthian Lodge opened again shortly after at the Friendly Society Institute, but ultimately all Lodges met at the Queens Head. Many times ceremonies were carried on there while the town was being heavily shelled and the only people who remained in the building were the Brethren, who completed their work before taking shelter. At one Meeting a lecture was being given by a Brother who was over seventy years of age, when shells crashed in the Market Place fifty yards away. The windows of the room were shattered and guttering blown down. The Brother unfalteringly finished his lecture and the calmly remarked "I think we had better adjourn now". This is one instance of what is euphemistically called "Working under uncomfortable conditions". Even in this front line town there were no casualties among the Brethren whilst they were engaged upon Masonic work, and it is recorded that 2,666 shells fell in the town. Many service visitors were entertained, these being chiefly Brethren of H.M. Navy who were stationed in Dover. No change was made in the time of Meetings and afterwards a festive board, though modified, was always enjoyed.
FOLKESTONE, SANDGATE & HYTHE
A study of War maps of these towns showing the points where bombs, shells and flying bombs fell, makes the previous statement, that no Brother was injured whilst attending Masonic duties seem impossible to believe. No Lodge closed down for any length of time and attendances in general were surprisingly good. Each Lodge has carried on separately and meetings were held during every kind of disturbance. At times the noise was so great that speech in the Temple was inaudible, necessitating a pause in the work until things became quiet again. Ceremonies were actually conducted while air-raids and shelling were in progress. Meetings were held in the evenings as usual and because of the difficulties of travel and blackout, very few visitors attended. The Temples suffered only slight damage, though many high explosive shells fell near them.
The war time story of Masonic working in the S.E. Coastal area is, in many respects, the same in all towns. Damage to buildings may have been great or small, but the strain of five and a half years of constant exposure to danger was an ordeal such that only those endured it can realise. A common danger has bound the Brethren closer together producing a deep spirit of Brotherhood, mutual defence and support. Past Masters, Brethren who have undertaken the responsibilities of Mastership and the Secretaries, who have guided their Lodges through the trials and dangers of the War Years have done a truly great service. With the relaxation of the tension, a new and difficult period commences for Masons in common with the rest of the World. It is to be hoped that tolerance and understanding will prevail and the re-building of the broken Temples so may the beauty of the whole Masonic structure be enhanced.
(Signed) FRED BROOK, Prov, S.G.W. 31.5.45
"THE SOUTH EAST CORNER"
(Dedicated to the Lodges of Kent)
They met when sirens were wailing,
They met midst the bombs and the blast;
When the shells overhead were screaming,
The Lodges of Kent held on fast.
In the South East corner of Britain
"Carry on" was the watchword and cry;
And the Banner of Kentish Freemasons
At the mast-head is still flying high.
Inspired by their worthy Grand Master,
The Masons of Kent gave a lead;
That Duty to God, King and Country
Comes first in a good Mason's creed.
So the Lodges of Kent met bravely
In the Corner then known as "Hell Fire".
Spreading the Gospel of Brotherly love
And the ideals to which they aspire.
In the South East Corner they gathered,
Marking the progress they'd made;
Holding the fort for Brothers in Arms,
Who'll come back now the debt has been paid;
And Masons in every clime once again
May gather in Freedom and Peace;
In that better world now in the making
When War, strife and bloodshed shall cease.
So here's a new Toast,
To the Lodges Which met in the Province of Kent,
"And stood firm in the midst of the battle
Through the veils of their Temples were rent".
And now that the turmoil is over,
We thank God for the strength that He gave
To the men in the South East Corner
Whom we Honour along with the brave.
J.B. FOAD, 1945
St Johns Thanet Lodge resumed working in its own right on Monday 1st October 1945, at which 28 brethren and 32 visitors attended.
At the Installation meeting on 5th November 1945 there were 51 brethren and 72 guests.
On 6th December 1948, W.Bro May presented to the Lodge a copy of the minutes of the combined lodges, Union Lodge No.127, St.Johns Lodge No.2753 and Porta Maris Lodge No.4287, taken during the war years while he was Secretary.
Also at this meeting the Brethren were informed that a new Lodge was being formed in Margate. No opposition was offered from the Brethren.