The Armistice was signed at Compiegne, France, at 5.00 am on 11 November 1918, with the ceasefire to come into effect at 11.00 am that day. It was originally only to run for 30 days and was regularly reviewed up until the signing of the formal peace treaty at Versailles on 29 June 1919 and on 19 July a temporary Cenotaph made of wood and plaster was unveiled in London as a focal point for the nation’s grief.
The Liverpool Masonic Hall War Memorial was unveiled in the 1920’s and contains the names of 189 brethren of Liverpool lodges who fell in the Great War. The diversity of their service during the war can only be explained by the fact that Liverpool was a major world port at that time, trading around the entire globe and the young men of the city had spread far and wide. The names of the fallen include members who died while fighting in all branches of the armed forces, but also with the Australian and New Zealand contingents, Canada, South Africa, East Africa, India and of course, the merchantmen who covered the oceans and seas across the globe.
This year was the first time many would have seen the additional memorial made of Balmoral marble which was dedicated on St John’s Day in June 2013, commemorating those brethren who have lost their lives due to conflicts since the Great War. The service was conducted by the Rev Graham Halsall, Provincial Grand Chaplain, with the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Howard Jones in attendance. Graham welcomed all present and noted that the service was particularly well attended and is growing each year as we near the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War.
Accompanying Howard Jones were Provincial Grand Secretary Peter Taylor, Deputy Provincial Grand Secretary Arend van Duyvenbode, Liverpool Group Chairman Sam Robinson, and Gladstone Group Chairman William Culshaw. As always, the ceremony was very well supported by many other Provincial officers in attendance.
Royal Arch chapters were also well represented, with Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals Paul Shepherd in attendance with acting Provincial grand officers, Dave Johnson and Geoff Cuthill and former Liverpool Group Vice Chairman Steve Walls.
Graham Halsall officiated in a most dignified manner in this very evocative service, with the words of affirmation recited by ex-merchant navy sailor, Jim Kontzle, a veteran of the Second World War, proudly wearing his service awards.
A number of wreaths were laid at the memorial, the first on behalf of the brethren of the Province of West Lancashire by Howard Jones, while that on behalf of the Liverpool Masonic Hall was laid by the hall chairman, John Roberts. Sam Robinson laid the wreath from the Liverpool group and Derek Parkinson for those of the Gladstone group. Perhaps one the most poignant moments came when Terry McHugh laid a wreath from the members of Neptune Lodge No 1264 who, during the period of the Great War, had an average of 330 members, of whom well over a third served with the armed forces and of those at least 14 are known to have paid the supreme sacrifice, with many more wounded or captured and held as prisoners of war.
The service concluded with Graham thanking everyone for attending and giving their support, after which light refreshments of tea and coffee and biscuits were served. Special thanks must be paid to the staff of Liverpool Masonic Hall for laying out the seating and serving refreshments and to Derek Cadwallader who with Roy and Bernie Ashley were in attendance and also looked after any needs on the day through West Lanc’s Regalia.