The annual service of remembrance at the war memorial, within Liverpool Masonic Hall, is held following the correct time-honoured tradition of 11 o’clock on 11 November. However, with the 11th day falling on the Sunday this year, the service was brought forward to the Friday and was ministered by Rev Wilfred Alexander, a Past Provincial Grand Chaplain of West Lancashire.
Rev Alexander commented on how humbled he felt every year to be standing next to the magnificent Liverpool Masonic Hall War Memorial, but this one in particular, coming 100 years after the armistice of 1918. The memorial commemorates close on 200 Liverpool Freemasons who had given their all during the First World War, but it does not tell the complete story, as the number is many more than the names depicted; for example, a large number of mercantile marines are not shown. Then add the numbers from World War Two and other conflicts and one starts to appreciate the sacrifice made by Liverpool Freemasons within our community, to guarantee the freedom of this country.
The memorial was designed and modelled by renowned sculptor Walter Henry Gilbert, in association with Louis Weingartner and was cast in bronze by the H H Martyn Company of Cheltenham. The work is dated to circa 1926, but it is not definitely known when it was placed in position, probably by 1930 at the latest. Walter was initiated into Howe Lodge No 587, in Birmingham, on 11 March 1907, age 35 and described as an art metal worker of Farm, Bromsgrove. He was passed to the second degree on 8 April and raised as a master Mason on the 13 May, with his grand lodge certificate being issued on 20 September 1907.
According to Phillip Medhust, an authority on Walter’s life and works, this memorial is chronologically listed as Walter’s 30th work, coming after the memorials at Eccleston Park, Prescot, the Newsroom War Memorial at Exchange Flags and also before a number of his creations within Liverpool Cathedral.
It is described thus; A PLAQUE DEPICTING IN THE CENTRE THE REAR VIEW OF A SAILOR, SOLDIER AND AIRMAN WITH COLUMNS OF NAMES ON EITHER SIDE THEN A SOLDIER AT EACH END. ON EITHER SIDE OF THE MEMORIAL ARE THE BADGES OF THE MASONIC COAT OF ARMS AND THE LIVER BIRD OF LIVERPOOL.
(ACROSS TOP): MY SWORD I GIVE TO HIM THAT SHALL/SUCCEED ME IN MY PILGRIMAGE/GOD IS OUR GUIDE/MY MARKS AND SCARS I CARRY/WITH ME TO BE WITNESS FOR ME/THAT I HAVE FOUGHT HIS BATTLES.
(ACROSS BOTTOM): THESE BRETHREN FROM THE LODGES IN LIVERPOOL AND DISTRICT, INSPIRED BY HIGH IDEALS, WHEN THE/CALL OF DUTY CAME, LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR, PASSED INTO THE GREAT SILENCE, FOR THEY LOVED THE BROTHERHOOD
The centennial armistice ceremony opened with a portion of scripture, followed by a reading taken from John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrims Progress’. Following the two minutes silence and the playing of ‘The Last Post’, Major Bob Paterson, looking resplendent wearing his medals, recited ‘The Exhortation’.
The ceremony of wreath laying commenced with John Roberts, representing Liverpool Masonic Hall, placing his wreath, followed by Sam Robinson for the Liverpool Group, while other wreaths were laid by Dave Johnson the vice chair and in respect of individual lodges, Tim Burgess for Blenheim Lodge No 7519 and Terry McHugh on behalf of Neptune Lodge No 1264, with Mike Winterbottom laying one on behalf of the Mark Masons.
With Liverpool being the most important sea-port during both world wars, and with its men suppling a large percentage of crew members on most vessels, the sacrifice of the people of Merseyside can never be overstated. This led Sir Winston Churchill to say in May 1941, while visiting Liverpool after heavy German bombing: “I see the damage done by the enemy attacks, but I also see the spirit of an unconquered people.” Rev Alexander spoke of the local poet Wilfred Owen, educated at the Birkenhead Institute and who was killed in action on 4 November 1918, his parents receiving the news of his death on the day of the armistice.
The service was completed by Wilfred Alexander, leading all assembled in a prayer of commemoration and thanking them for their attendance. It was nice to renew old friendships and to see former hall manager John Barnes, now enjoying his well-earned retirement. Afterwards, refreshments of tea or coffee were served along with a selection of sandwiches and cakes, courtesy of the staff of Liverpool Masonic Hall, while the order of service was produced and distributed by members of the Merseyside Association for Masonic Research, based at Liverpool Masonic Hall, 22 Hope Street.