The Lodge: 1940 - 1949

The outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 brought with it various constraints on public life and mobility, but of course the biggest issues which Richard Collyer had to face were reduced attendances (as people were called up for active service or for other important duties in support of the war effort away from Horsham) and reduced membership as it proved very difficult to attract new members as people tightened their belts financially and their attentions were diverted to more pressing matters. Indeed during the War years only 7 new members were admitted into the Lodge and so the Lodge essentially went into a "care and maintenance" mode in the charge of its senior members and those still locally based but it was perhaps very fortunate in the circumstances to be able to continue to meet at all. In common with all activities it is likely a watchful eye was kept on Lodge proceedings by the "authorities"- annual membership returns were being signed by the Clerk of the Peace.

Following the catastrophic defeat of the British Expeditionary Force and its miraculous evacuation from Dunkirk, German invasion seemed inevitable and so England swung into full defensive mode with the mobilization of the Home Guard, the erection of pill-boxes and tank traps at strategic points throughout the countryside, obstacles placed in large fields to prevent enemy aircraft from landing, blackout restrictions, removal of road signs etc. The new Masonic Hall was commandeered by the Royal Air Force for use in emergency by the Royal Observer Corps in the event of damage to their nearby local HQ. Fortunately this "occupation" was limited to the Dining Room, Kitchen and the Robing Room, the Temple being spared, so permission was granted to the two Lodges to continue to use the Temple for meetings,but it was no longer possible to hold festive boards there and these appear to have been discontinued after the May 1940 Installation until at least 1943.The Masonic Hall fortunately escaped the attentions of the Luftwaffe but it appears proceedings were enlivened on a number of occasions by air raid warnings.

The pattern of meetings for Richard Collyer initially continued unchanged but with far fewer candidates demanding ceremonies. Membership of the Lodge stood at 51 at the outbreak of War. Such had been the haste it appears for the removal from The Black Horse to Denne Road the Lodge had forgotten to vote to formally approve the move and in consequence a special meeting had to be held in early January 1940 to regularise this step. During 1940 only 3 ceremonies were carried out with lectures being organised for meetings when there were no candidates. The annual Installation ceremony continued as usual. One casualty of the War was the Lodge of Instruction which was suspended from 1939 until January 1946. The Lodge's membership of Quatour Coronati Lodge lapsed at this time. In recognition of the circumstances faced by those on active service consideration was given to offering a reduced subscription of one guinea to such brethren. Several such brethren clearly found paying for subscriptions a problem and in 1943 the Lodge set up a sub-committee to investigate ways of alleviating these difficulties. The question of a wartime reduction in subscriptions for all members was also considered but not adopted.

To ease travel to and from the Provincial Annual General Meetings especially in hours of darkness, Provincial Grand Lodge had advised wartime brethren to produce their summonses if challenged by the police and this practice may have been followed by brethren for regular lodge meetings.

Only one ceremony was carried out during 1941 when the Lodge welcomed as a candidate for Initiation at the age of 70, the retired former Second Master of Collyer's, John Brammall Shrewsbury. "JB" had been persuaded to become a freemason at the same time as his son, John Cheverton-Cooper, and both were proposed for membership at the September 1941 meeting, although the son was not initiated until 1956.Sadly "JB" died in April 1949 but his son "Jack" remained a loyal member until his death in 2002.The 1941 Installation saw "Froggie" Kenyon become Master and he was in fact to be re-elected for a second year as Master in May 1942 as the Senior Warden was unwilling to proceed to the office of Master and the Junior Warden was unwilling to jump offices. It appears that there had been a significant disagreement within the Lodge in January 1941 (possibly the first in its existence) over the suitability of a candidate being proposed for membership. This argument resulted in P.A.Tharp and W.Stanley Sutton resigning their Lodge memberships (Tharp later rejoined in 1948) and the Senior Warden, E.B.Griffiths (brother of the then Lodge Secretary) refusing to accept the Mastership. It is possible that this difficulty may have been connected with the proposed initiation of a police officer but the records are silent on this matter.

1942 proved to be a busier year with ceremonies at all but two meetings. The timings of meetings were temporarily changed to the third Saturdays of March to July and September until further notice (no January or October meetings) presumably to obviate travel in the dark. In July 1942 the Lodge initiated Roger Seed, an RAF fighter pilot who, along with another pilot H.W.Cagby (later landlord of The Stout House), was to take part in the defence of Malta in 1942, both being awarded medals for gallantry for their exploits (Cagby, the BEM and Seed the DFC, later also receiving from the French Government "theCroix de Guerre"). Two other brethren were later honoured for their services away from the front line - T.L.Lane MBE (Royal Observer Corps) and D.Bryce, Order of St.John of Jerusalem (Civil Defence and Red Cross).  

The Lodge suffered the loss of two members whilst on active service, A.E.Agate and F.H.Wilson (killed on active service on HMS Lancaster and buried in France. As a result of his exploits he had been posthumously honoured with theBEMand mentioned in despatches),and it was subsequently learned at the end of the War that another brother, H.J.Holder (who had originally been classified as missing whilst on active service in the Far East) had become a Japanese prisoner-of-war in Borneo and had sadly died in captivity. English Freemasonry suffered the grievous loss in 1942 of its Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who was killed on active service.

In common with many people in the country the Lodge supported the war effort financially through the purchase of Defence Bonds. Several purchases of such bonds were made during the War years to a total of 100.Charitable giving continued albeit on a much reduced level with the main support continuing to go to The Royal Masonic Institute for the Boys' Festival in 1943. It was not until 1946 that the Lodge's charitable fund raising was channelled through a separate charity account - hitherto all charity monies had been routed through the Lodge's current account. During the years 1942 to 1945 the Lodge's financial year end was temporarily changed to March, reverting back to February after that period.

Meetings continued regularly through 1943 and 1944 with some ceremonies being conducted, but a large number of lectures were being delivered to substitute for lack of ceremonies. In September 1944 the Lodge felt it appropriate to read again in Lodge the Grand Lodge statement "Aims and Relationships of the Craft" which had been first circulated in August 1938. By 1945 with the end of the War in view, life appeared to become easier as members slowly returned from active service or other duties elsewhere. In April 1945 the Lodge members stood in silent memory to mark the death of the US President, F.D.Roosevelt. 

Interest in Freemasonry picked up quickly and during the Masonic Year 1945-1946 11 new candidates were proposed and a further 16 in the years to 1950. Only one Joining member was admitted during the decade. Membership, which had dipped to the mid-forties during the War yearsand 38 by the end, quickly picked up and by the end of the decade stood at 61. In May 1945 the meeting dates reverted back to their pre-1942 basis (Third Saturdays of January, February, March, May, September and October) and the festive boards were resumed, catered by Wakefields who had taken this over from Trust Houses following the move to Denne Road (cost now 5s.0d but rising to 6s 0d in 1946 and 6s 6d in 1948), but almost certainly with a reduced menu until rationing could be lifted. The Summons was once again professionally printed with an embossed crest (a single sided sheet for regular meetings detailing the agenda and a more elaborate four-sided document for the Installations) - by F.C.Holmes and then from 1950 onwards by the Springfield Press - in stark contrast to the Roneo-produced substitute copies (produced by Bob Greenop at Collyer's) that had become necessary during the War years. The original Lodge Warrant which had been sent to Grand Lodge for safe-keeping (the Lodge having displayed a photocopy during the War years) was returned. The Lodge of Instruction was also resumed and gratifyingly enjoying increased support. The number of ceremonies increased as new candidates sought to join and existing candidates who had missed out on ceremonies caught up on their Masonic progress. Ladies' Nights also seem to have been resumed from 1948.

In April 1946 a Lodge Benevolent Fund was set up (receiving a generous donation of 50 guineas (£52.5s.0d) from H.E.Blackiston (one of the Lodge Founders) which would be used for the receipt of all charitable donations and for making all payments to Charity. It was overseen by a committee made up of the Master, Treasurer, Secretary, Charity Steward and Almoner. This was to be later converted in 1952 to a trust status administered by 3 Lodge Trustees. Charitable giving by way of a Covenant was introduced in February 1949 and this was to continue as a method of committed giving until the end of the Century. In September 1946 the "Broken Column" was introduced at Lodge meetings for charitable donations from members and visitors.

April 1946 saw a special meeting when 2siblings took their Third Degrees - Charles Martin, (who had been serving in Malta with the Royal Navy and was a member of the Royal Naval Lodge (Malta) No. 2761 which had requested Richard Collyer to carry out the Ceremony on its behalf) and hisbrother William. The Third Degree Charge at that meeting was delivered by another Lodge member who had also been commended for bravery in the War, Squadron Leader A. Peskett AFC.

In April 1946 the Masonic Hall Company sought to raise the annual rent charged to the Lodge from £25 to £50 per annum but after negotiations an alternative deal was struck whereby the rent would continue at the level of £25 per annum but the Lodge would make regular annual purchases of shares in lieu. These and other rising costs necessitated an increase in annual subscriptions, the first since 1927, with the new subscription beingset at £2.12s.6d from March 1947. All other membership fees were also increased. The Lodge was paying an annual rental to March & Darnley for use of the Temple and facilities of £25.0s.0d per annum. By February 1949 the Lodge held 113 shares in Horsham Masonic Hall Ltd.

The Lodge was saddened in 1947 by two deaths, that of a Founder and the first Secretary, W.Stanley Sutton (later honoured with a memorial in Horsham Parish Church) and that of the Provincial Grand Master who had consecrated the Lodge, Major.R Lawrence Thornton (the Lodge subscribed ten guineas (£10.10s.0d) to a fund in his memory).

Close ties continued with both March & Darnley and Honor Deo Lodges during the period. In February 1949 a double Third Degree was conducted by a Past Master of Honor Deo. In February 1948 the Master of Pentalpha Lodge No 3164 in Pulborough (R.C.Tilling) was invited to conduct a double Initiation Ceremony which included his son F.C.Tilling, who remained a subscribing member until his death in 2004.

In March 1948 the Lodge was invited to become a member of the recently formed "Federation of Schools' Lodges" which sought to link all non-public school lodges together primarily by way of an annual festival meeting (the first held in January 1949) to which all member lodges would be invited. This was to be the start of a long and happy association with that body which endures to this day. In May 1949 the Lodge invited the President of the Federation to attend the Installation.

Plans were put forward to try and hold a "21st" anniversary meeting in April 1948 but this idea was abandoned in favour of holding a Ladies' NIght instead.

In September 1946 all lodges were requested to compile biographical details of the wartime service of their members. In 1948 a history of the March & Darnley Lodge was published by three of its members W.Bros. Bryant, Browne and Harris (a copy of which resides in the Lodge archives).

Charitable giving continued with the Lodge agreeing in 1946 to support the 1948 Mark Benevolent Fund Festival. In May 1949 the Lodge pledged its support for the Royal Masonic Institute for Girls' 1953 Festival, committing itself to raising one hundred guineas (with each brother being asked to contribute one shilling per week).

The closing years of the 1940's heralded the entry into the Lodge of three of our senior present day Lodge members and thus the narrative hereinafter can now be embellished by some direct personal experiences and memories. It is to be regretted that the first twenty years of the Lodge's existence could not be similarly treated.  

Attendances at meetings (members and visitors) varied during the decade and were obviously much lower during 1940-3 as a result of the difficult times being faced. Installation meeting numbers varied from a low of 25 in 1943 to a high of 127 in 1947. The average attendance by members was 26 and visitors 37. Average attendance at emergency meetings was 19 members and 9 visitors and for regular meetings 20 members and 8 visitors.During the period the lowest recorded number of visitors at any one regular meeting was again 0, the highest being 91 for the May 1947 Installation.