Review of Freemasonry

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by Bro. A. R. Hewitt
Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, 1964



WHEN the subject of Freemasonry amongst prisoners of war is mentioned, one tends to think immediately of the Napoleonic wars and of Thorp's research in this field. His work on this aspect of the subject (1) may be regarded as definitive, apart from minor items which have occasionally come to light in recent years. In the days of which Thorp wrote, prisoners, although their plight was distressing, enjoyed privileges and liberty unheard of in recent years. Prisoners in the two world wars enjoyed no parole; on the contrary, their incarceration was rigid. Their accommodation was overcrowded, frequently squalid and with few amenities. Particularly in the second world war they suffered many privations and often cruelty and torture, especially at the hands of the Japanese. Many died as the result of ill- treatment and lack of food. Members of the Armed Forces and civilian internees who were members of the Craft turned to Freemasonry to sustain them during the rigours of their ordeal. In spite of the fact that Masonry was ruthlessly suppressed both in Germany and Japan, imprisoned brethren made every effort to discover each other, to meet, to maintain their Masonic knowledge by rehearsal, and generally to comfort, help and sustain one another, well knowing that discovery would involve severe punishment. They were often subjected to fierce anti-Masonic propaganda.

Although this paper is devoted to recent events, it may be desirable, by way of introduction, to refer briefly to those before the year 1914. Thorp (2) wrote of lodges formed amongst French soldiers imprisoned in England and elsewhere during the Seven Years' War, 1756-63, and during the Napoleonic wars, and records that there were no fewer than 44 such lodges in Great Britain. Vibert, Bossu and Kay mention others discovered since Thorp's work was published in 1935. Most of these lodges were legally constituted Masonic bodies which met in the normal way and made Masons, and a number of their lodge certificates are in existence. Their members visited English lodges, and English brethren, in turn, attended French lodges. Frenchmen were also made or admitted members in English lodges.

Little is known, however, of the activities of English brethren in French hands. Thorp tells us that there is only one instance on record of a lodge being held amongst them during their detention (No. 183, "Antients"). It is a fact, however, that many individual brethren on parole attended French lodges as guests. Again, it is known that some were relieved and assisted by their French brethren, who also made representations to the authorities to make the lot of the English brethren less harsh. It is believed that the escape of some was also made possible with French help and connivance. Indeed, a pamphlet was published in Paris in 1913 accusing French Masons of so doing. A translation of the pamphlet appeared in the Leicester Transactions, 1923- 24.

Vibert (3) records a lodge of British soldiers imprisoned in Kongsberg, Norway, in 1807. He also mentions a lodge formed amongst prisoners at Charlotteville, Virginia, during the American War of Independence, but on reference to his authority, Tatsch, (4) it is not clear whether this was a separate lodge formed by German officers who had joined the "Irish Lodge No. 63 of the 20th Regiment of the Line". Gould (5) recounts the story of the capture by Washington's forces of the lodge box belonging to the Lodge in the 46th Foot, and its subsequent return, by Washington's orders, under a guard of honour. There is no record, however, of Masonic activities amongst British troops captured during that war.

Of Masonic activities during the Boer Wars, nothing is known.

After these brief references to occurrences before 1914, let us now pass to more recent times.

A few papers and personal reminiscences have been written on Freemasonry amongst prisoners in Europe and the Far East during the last war, but no attempt has been made to survey the subject as a whole. This I now attempt to do, my sources being: -

(a) Minute books, papers and relics in the Grand Lodge Library and Museum;

(b) Papers by former prisoners of war, published and unpublished, designed for reading in lodges ;

(c) Information supplied by former prisoners and personal reminiscences collected in the course of interviews ;

(d) Gastvrijheid Lodge, first minute book, which I had the advantage of examining, a privilege I wish thankfully to acknowledge.

Some facts have come to my notice in answer to an appeal in the Masonic Press and to a note in a circulated agenda paper of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, but the total result of the appeal was somewhat disappointing. I hope that further information win come to light in the future, perhaps as a result of this paper. The published and unpublished papers and personal reminiscences have been invaluable in the compilation of this survey, and I desire to express to the authors, and to all my correspondents and informants, sincere thanks for permission to quote from their papers, notes and letters. I am also indebted to the Board of General Purposes for permission to use material in the Grand Lodge Library and Museum.


(1) Thorp, J. T., French Prisoners' Lodges, 2nd ed., Leicester, 1935 ; 304 pp., illus. Further discoveries since 1935 are recorded in Trans., Lo. of Research, Leicester, by S. Kay, 1950-52, pp. 33-44, and 1959-60, pp. 18-29; J. Bossu, 1957-58, pp. 62-74, and 1958-59, pp. 39-54. See also Vibert, below.

(2) Thorp, op. cit.

(3) Vibert, Lionel, "Masonry Among Prisoners-of-War", in Sussex Masters' Lodge Trans., 1937, pp. 4-26. [Also published in other Research Lodge Transactions.]

(4) Tatsch, J.H., Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies, New York, 1929 ; 266 pp., illus.

(5) Gould, R. F., Military Lodges, London, 1899; 264 pp., illus.







There is a dearth of information concerning Masonry amongst prisoners of war in Germany during the First World War. Doubtless, members of the Craft in prison camps became known to each other and found additional solace in the bond which united them.

A number of brethren were internees in the civilian camp at Ruhleben (Spandau), but nothing is known of any organized Masonic activities amongst them. They were able, however, to identify each other and to get together from time to time. They met on one occasion to draw up an Address to Grand Lodge of England in the following terms: -

"We, the undersigned brethren, at present interned with other British civilians at the concentration camp at Ruhleben, Spandau, Germany, send hearty good wishes to the Grand Master, officers and brethren in Great Britain, hoping that we may have the pleasure soon of greeting them personally."

It was dated 9th December, 1914, and signed by 112 brethren. In spite of postal difficulties, it was received by the Grand Secretary on the 18th December and acknowledged by him on the 21st. In the following February a further list of brethren was sent to Grand Lodge, with a letter explaining that the brethren listed "were prevented from signing the address sent in December, partly from not being identified and some from being later arrivals at this concentration camp and who wish to be associated with the greetings then sent". The lists include brethren from England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, the West Indies, the United States, South America, Egypt and, strangely enough, from Germany. Most of the signatories were identified and a photographic copy of the Address was sent by the Grand Secretary to each lodge concerned, together with a covering letter in which he said: "Amongst these names you will observe a member of your lodge, of whom the brethren will be interested to hear. Perhaps you will kindly acquaint the family of such member of the communication, of which I shall be pleased to send them a copy." From the same camp, a beautifully-prepared Address, signed on behalf of all the brethren by Percy C. Hull, P.Dep.G.Org. (now Sir Percy Hull, Kt., P.G.Org., Mus.Doc., F.R.C.O), was sent to Grand Lodge on the occasion of the bicentenary celebrations in 1917. This also was copied and circulated. As the result of a request for aid on their behalf, Grand Lodge set up a special committee to act in the matter. An appeal Lodges was launched and met with a generous and continuous response, thereby enabling parcels of food and personal comforts to be regularly despatched to English brethren, and the aid was later extended to brethren of other jurisdictions under the Crown). (1)


Of Freemasons captured at sea, the Grand Lodge of Scotland possesses an interesting relic in the form of a sheet from a writing-pad bearing the signatures of a number of brethren captured by the German cruiser Karlsruhe on the outbreak of war and transferred to the S.S. Crefeld, a cargo boat. It was commandeered to serve the cruiser as a prison ship in which to accommodate crews and passengers of sunken vessels, who were afterwards landed at Santa Rosa, Tenerife. Amongst those on board the Crefeld was a W.Bro. Alfred Greer, who recognized some of the captives with whom he had sat in lodge. Wondering how many brethren were on board, he set about the task of collecting a record of them. He asked each to write the name of his vessel, signature, and name and number of his lodge in the pad. The list includes 19 names of brethren of four Constitutions - England, Scotland, Victoria and the United States - captured from 11 different vessels. To make the list "authentic", Bro. Greer asked the purser to place the ship's stamp upon it. The purser told him that the Captain of the Crefeld was a Freemason, who, when approached, added his signature, after which the sheet was duly stamped and dated, 10th October, 1914.


For Servicemen interned in Holland and prisoners of war transferred there under the Hague Convention, the story is a different one. Two lodges were formed in that country to meet their needs, namely, the Gastvrijheid Lodge, at Groningen (1915), and the Willem van Oranje Lodge, at the Hague (1918), both still flourishing.

The formation of the Gastvrijheid Lodge had its origin in 1914, when a part of the Royal Naval Division was hurriedly despatched to the Continent, at the instigation of Winston Churchill, in an attempt to prevent, or at least delay, the capture of Antwerp and so halt the German advance until the arrival of the main body of British troops. By subterfuge, including constant sorties from various parts of the city, the enemy were led to believe that many more troops were holding the city than was, in fact, the case. The Germans accordingly slowed down their advance and Churchill's objective was attained. But the city had to be evacuated, and when it fell the gallant men of the Naval Brigade inside were forced over the Dutch frontier, resulting in their subsequent internment at Groningen. Among the 1,500 officers, N.C.O.s and men interned were many English Freemasons, including the Commanding Officer, Commodore (later Admiral) Wilfred Henderson. He and eight others met in the camp library in March, 1915, to discuss the formation of a lodge. (2) A petition was accordingly sent to Grand Lodge, but as "constitutional and international reasons prevented the formation of a lodge under the English Constitution in a place within the jurisdiction of the Grand Orient of the Netherlands", the Grand Master advised the petitioners to apply to the Grand Orient for a Warrant for a Lodge to meet at Groningen, with permission to use the English ritual. (3) In the meantime, Loge L'Union Provinciale at Groningen had extended hospitality to all the Freemasons amongst the interned forces. The brethren of that Lodge, in the words of Bro. Henderson, "welcomed them to their Lodge, invited them to their homes, and [had] done everything in their power to ease the sting of the restraint which their obligations as neutrals forced them to impose". (3)

In accordance with the Grand Master's advice, the British brethren thereupon sent a petition to Loge L'Union for transmission to the Grand Orient. It was granted immediately and arrangements were made for the consecration on the 22nd May, 1915, in the Masonic Temple of Loge L'Union Provinciale. Working tools and English clothing were obtained, and by-laws prepared for submission to the Grand Orient. The consecration was performed in English, but in accordance with Dutch ceremonial, by V.W.Bro. Dop, Grand Orator of the Netherlands, assisted by Masters of the Groningen, Leeuwarden and Harlingen Lodges, in the presence of R.W.Bro. Baron van Ittersum, Representative of the U.G.L. of England near the Grand Orient of the Netherlands. The ceremony was a most impressive one; fortunately, an account of it has been preserved by the Lodge (a copy is also in the Grand Lodge Library). After the consecration, Commodore Henderson (4) was placed in the Master's Chair by Bro. Dop and the Lodge proceeded with normal business, which included two propositions for initiation, consideration of the by-laws and the presentation of a gavel by Loge L'Union Provinciale. The Lodge was named "Gastvrijheid", meaning hospitality, and was given the number 113 on the roll of the Grand Orient. It led a very full and active Masonic life, meeting at least monthly. These regular meetings, together with emergencies, totalled 55 during its three-and-a-half years' sojourn at Groningen. There were initiated no fewer than 64 candidates, usually two at a time, who were, of course, duly passed and raised, so that at every meeting there was much work to be done. Four brethren were elected to joining membership and three to honorary membership. "Instructional" meetings were also held, two or three times a month.

It was resolved that the usual collection should be made at each meeting of the Lodge and at the Instructional meetings, and that the proceeds should be sent to the Louisa Stichting Institution at The Hague. The Book of Constitutions of the Netherlands was translated into English by Bro. Henderson and printed, so that each member should be presented with a copy. At the installation meeting, held on the 23rd May, 1916, the minutes record that "after the Dutch Installed Masters had been obligated in respect of the secrets of an Installed Master according to English Ritual . . . the Master- elect was installed". In June, 1917, congratulations were sent to the Grand Lodge of England on its attaining its bicentenary.

The Lodge did much to assist the formation of the second Lodge already mentioned, the Willem van Oranje, in 1918. When the latter lost its Master by repatriation, the Gastvrijheid undertook to ensure the attendance of a Past Master once a month to confer degrees. Eventually Bro. Henderson performed the duties of Master of the Willem van Oranje. (5)

The Gastvrijheid Lodge held its last meeting in Holland on the 5th November, 1918. The transfer of the Lodge to England had been previously under discussion, and the minutes of this meeting record that permission had been granted by the Grand Orient of the Netherlands for it to retain the Warrant and Minute Book. The transfer from one jurisdiction to another is referred to later in this paper.

Whereas the Gastvrijheid Lodge was formed amongst Service personnel interned in Holland, the Willem van Oranie Lodge was founded by actual prisoners of war transferred from Germany to Holland under the Hague Convention. With the knowledge and approval of the Grand Lodge of England, it was, like the Gastvrijheid, constituted under the Grand Orient of the Netherlands.

In an account of the Lodge by Bro. H.S. Biggs, (6) it is recorded that, before the Lodge was brought into being, a number of informal conferences were held. It was decided that the proper course to pursue was, firstly, to obtain proof of the good standing of those wishing to join. Lists were, therefore, prepared of brethren under the English, Irish and Scottish Constitutions, and sent to the Grand Secretary of England by Baron van Ittersum, Representative of the Grand Lodge of England, who asked the Grand Secretary for his assistance as regards the Irish and Scottish brethren. In due course confirmation was received that the English and Scottish lists were in order, but that information from Ireland had not, at that time, been received. On the strength of this communication from London, the founders-to-be proceeded with the task-there were twenty-five brethren of the English Constitution, eight Irish, seven Scottish and one Canadian. An Inaugural meeting was held under the presidency of Baron van Ittersurn and final arrangements were made, including the drafting of a Petition to the Grand Orient. The Petition was approved and the proposed Lodge was allocated the number 118 on the Netherlands Roll. The Baron then issued a notice and invitation, printed in Dutch and English, and containing the Agenda (a copy of which is preserved in the Grand Lodge Museum), stating that the ceremony of Founding the Lodge up to and including the installation of the Worshipful Master-Elect (W.Bro. Col. J. A. C. Gibbs, C.B., P.Prov.G.Reg., N. and E. Yorks.) would be performed according to the ritual of the Grand Orient of the Netherlands. With sanction of the Grand Orient, the remainder of the ceremony, including the investiture of officers and the addresses, would be conducted according to the ritual of the Grand Lodge of England by W.Bro. Percy C. Hull, P.D.G.Org. (Eng.) (to whom reference has already been made), acting as Installing Master, assisted by W.Bro. Walter Clark and W.Bro. Commodore Wilfred Henderson, P.G.D. (Eng.). The notice concludes with the following: "In consequence of existing circumstances, the British brethren, to their great regret, are unable to invite their guests to their fraternal board after the conclusion of the ceremony."

The Lodge was consecrated on the 16th July, 1918, by the Grand Master of the Netherlands at a meeting of the Grand Orient, an impressive ceremony, an account of which appears in Bro. Biggs' paper. The Petition, a transcript and translation of the Warrant, and a copy of the form of Lodge Certificate are in the Grand Lodge files.

Regalia was of the Netherlands pattern of a colour chosen by the Lodge, orange, Forty-one of these aprons were made and presented by the sister of the Senior Deacon of the Lodge. One of these, together with two group photographs of members of the Lodge in regalia, is exhibited in the Grand Lodge Museum. Working tools were presented by Gastvrijheid, a gavel by Baron van Ittersum, and the square and compasses by three local Dutch Lodges. The tracing boards were painted by a member of the Lodge.

Under its Warrant the Lodge was given authority to use English ritual. One restriction was imposed, namely, that only British naval, military and civil prisoners, released from belligerent countries for internment in Holland, should be admitted to membership, either as initiates or joining members.

Soon after its consecration the Lodge suffered the loss, by death, of its Director of Ceremonies, (7) and the Master and other brethren by repatriation (8) and it was obliged to call upon Gastvrijheid for assistance in providing a Past Master to confer degrees, as has already been mentioned.

In addition to the 41 Founders, 18 joining brethren and 20 initiates brought the membership up to 79 (9) during the short period of active work in Holland.

The war being ended, the brethren of these two Lodges expressed to the Grand Master their desire to be transferred from their original jurisdiction to that of the United Grand Lodge, as was foreseen when both Lodges were constituted. With the full concurrence of the Grand Orient, their petitions were approved. As the Lodges already enjoyed full Masonic existence, it was not necessary that they should be re- consecrated. (10) The Grand Master, therefore, issued Special Warrants and Charters of Dedication, both dated 7th April, 1919, enabling them to continue their Masonic functions, but under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England. They were allotted the numbers 3970 and 3976 respectively. The Board of General Purposes, in its report to Grand Lodge in September, 1919, acknowledged the kindness and courtesy of the Masonic authorities in the Netherlands. The Dedication ceremony in each case was performed by the M.W. the Pro Grand Master, Lord Ampthill - the Gastvrijheid Lodge on the 31st May, 1919 (an account of which appeared in The Freemason (11), and the Willem van Oranje Lodge on the 14th July, 1919. The Masters of the two Lodges holding office in their Lodges in Holland in 1918 were again installed as Masters of their respective Lodges under the English Constitution.


One well-recorded case of Masonic activity amongst prisoners of war in Turkey during the First World War is that of a "Lodge of Instruction", named Cappadocia, conducted by brethren imprisoned in Yozgat. The inaugural meeting was held on the 14th February, 1918, with Bro. Major E. G. Dunn as Master. By-laws were approved and a nominal roll prepared, which does not seem to have survived, but it would appear that there were 14 original members. It was later declared that "all newly arriving Freemasons were ipso fact members of the Lodge". It met on alternate Fridays, first in the "Chapel" and later in a store-room, until the 13th September, 1918. At these meetings, of which there were 12, the opening and closing ceremonies in the three degrees, as well as the initiation, were rehearsed or addresses on Freemasonry were delivered. Working tools and other items were made by the brethren. Collars of canvas were fashioned and covered with blue paper, each with the appropriate badge of office cut tins. Handkerchiefs, trimmed with such ribbon as was available from the local bazaar, were worn as aprons. Minutes were kept and have survived, having been presented to the Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2, by Bro. Durm. (12) Benevolence was not forgotten, for sums of money were collected and passed to the Camp Chaplain for the benefit of the many starving Armenian women and children in the locality.

It would appear from an introductory note to the Minutes by Bro. Dunn that "towards the end of 1917 a Petition was sent to Grand Lodge for a temporary Charter as a special case in view of the peculiar circumstances we were placed in. This, however, could not be granted, so we had to be content with our Lodge of Instruction".

The minutes of the last meeting, held on the 13th September, 1918, record that "Bro. Major Dunn expressed the sympathies of the Lodge on the recapture of Bro. Lieut. Sheridan, and on behalf of the Lodge bid God-speed to Bro. Lieut. O'Donoghue. Bro. Capt. Sweet seconded Bro. Major Dunn's proposals and suggested that a note of sympathy be sent to Bro. Lieut. Sheridan". The natural desire for freedom was obviously in many hearts, for Bro. Dunn has added a postscript to the minute book. He wrote: "Here the records end apruptly, for it was just after this final meeting that some 25 officers escaped. They scattered in small parties, but all excepting eight . . . were recaptured. The inevitable result was our confinement to quarters and no further opportunity for meeting occurred before we left Yozgad for repatriation."

The minutes of the Cappadocia Lodge of Instruction reveal the existence of two others in Turkey. On the 30th August it was recorded that hearty greetings were received from the Lodge of Instruction at Aflum Karakisa. Again, on the 13th September it was reported that a "Lodge" called Mesopotamia, of which there were no less than 60 founders, had been formed at what appears to be "Busia", but the writing is not clear. Apart from these bare references, no information concerning these two "Lodges" has come to light.


(1) U.G.L. of England, Proceedings, 1st December, 1915; 6th September, 1916; 7th March, 1917 4th December, 1918. 

(2) Gastvrijheid Lodge, No. 113 (Neth. Const.) (now No.3970, E.C.), Minutes, prel. meeting, 10th March, 1915. 

(3) U.G.L. of England, Proceedings, 1st March, 1916. 

(4) The Grand Master of England, "in commemoration of so unprecedented and gratifying a Masonic event", the Board of General Purposes records, "has conferred on W.Bro. Henderson the rank of Past Grand Deacon (Senior)". 

(5) The Freemason, 7th June, 1919. 

(6) Biggs, H.S., "Some Account of the Willem van Oranie Lodge " (including notes by Col. J. A. C. Gibbs), Trans., Lo. of Research, Leicester, 1920-21, pp. 71-90. 

(7) Gastvrijheid Lodge Minutes, 15th August, 1918. 

(8) Ibid., 8th October and 5th November, 1918. 

(9) Lodge by-laws, Historical Note, 

(10) U.G.L. of England, Proceedings, 3rd September, 1919. 

(11) 57th June, 1919. 

(12) Record of Proceedings of Lodge of Instruction " Cappadocia ", Yozgat, 1918 ; MS.





Information concerning the Masonic activities of brethren in prisoner of war camps in Europe in the Second World War has been gathered from correspondence with former prisoners, a minute book and other documents and relics in the Grand Lodge Library, and two printed and three unpublished papers, also in the Grand Lodge, by the following brethren: Bros. C. B. Selby-Boothroyd, (1) Sidney Brown, (2) D.P. Iggulden, (3) F. S. Payne (4) and H. Wallwork, (5) all of which are quoted freely. These sources disclose activities of some kind in no less than fourteen camps in Germany, Austria and elsewhere in Europe, the most extensive being in "lodges" established -

(a) in Oflag VIIIF (Mahrisch Triibau, Czechoslovakia) and continued in Oflag 79 (Brunswick, Germany);

(b) in Oflag VIID (Tittmoning, near Salzburg), later in Oflag VIB (Warburg, Westphalia), and finally in Oflag VIIB (Eichstatt, Bavaria); and

(c) in Stalag 383 (Hohenfels).

Where there was continuity in the work of a particular group of brethren transferred from one camp to another, a connected story of their activities has been set down as they moved from place to place. Activities in other camps are also noted in the paragraphs which follow.


Bro. Selby-Boothroyd was captured, after a brief battle, in May, 1940, and found himself in a prisoner of war camp at Laufen. On June 6th of that year some 200 British officers and a few orderlies arrived there, including Bro. Brown, but the paths of these two brethren did not meet (Masonically) in captivity. Practically every day more prisoners arrived, so that by the end of the month the camp, an old Palace once belonging to a Prince Bishop of Salzburg, was occupied by about 1,500 British officers and 150 men. Overcrowding was extreme. Prisoners lived in rooms holding any number from 20 to 100, so that privacy of any kind was impossible. Selby- Boothroyd did not, it seems, discover other brethren, but Brown records that he recognized another prisoner as a brother Mason who, being a senior officer, shared accommodation with only one other. He and Brown decided to try and arrange some kind of gathering in his room of such members of the Craft as they could discover. Altogether, between 15 and 20 brethren were identified and they held a meeting. A second projected meeting was never held, as the senior officer was moved to a larger room which he shared with others, so that privacy could not be ensured. Brown was shortly transferred to another camp at Tittmoning (to which reference is made later) and lost touch with his fellows. He learned later that no meetings were held in Laufen after he left, but records that a printed Emulation ritual had been found there.

From Laufen, Selby-Boothroyd was sent to Warburg, where he discovered two other brethren, and thence to Eichstatt. Although he remained there from May, 1942, to the end of 1943, he never learned of the extensive Masonic activities recounted by Brown, a fact which emphasizes the great care taken to keep Masonic activities secret.


In January, 1944, Selby-Boothroyd was transferred from Eichstatt to Oflag VIIIF at Mahrisch Trubau. Some months after his arrival, having made a casual remark, he was questioned by his hearer, from whom he learned that some 40 brethren, transferred from an Italian camp, where they first met, were holding regular meetings. Selby-Boothroyd was accepted amongst them. At first these brethren had little more than the opening and closing ceremonies and the initiation, but a "lodge" or society of improvement was formed under the Preceptorship of a Bro. Clifford Downing, one of the few Past Masters in the camp. It was called a society as a "blind", to mislead the enemy, so that the term could mean a society for the improvement of anything. Bit by bit the ritual was put together, and by May they were able to work the three degrees more or less completely, as well as a shortened version of the lecture on the 2nd T.B. By this time Bro. Iggulden also reached the camp. Within a few hours of his arrival he was contacted by Downing and invited to attend the "lodge", after, of course, a very thorough proving. The Senior Chaplain of the camp was a member of the Craft, and he allowed the brethren to meet in the camp Chapel under the guise of attending theological lectures. It was a common practice at Masonic gatherings in camps for the Master, or someone else, to be ready to lecture on some pre-arranged subject at a moment's notice if an alarm was sounded.

In May, 1944, the whole camp was moved to Brunswick and there renamed Oflag 79. Being kept together in this way, the brethren were able to keep their "lodge" intact and ready to function in the new camp. Although it was several weeks before they were able to meet again, it was at Brunswick that the "lodge" became firmly established. In due time it included brethren from England, Scotland, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. At first it met weekly in the air-raid shelters with which the camp was well supplied, it being a former Luftwaffe camp and airfield. Fitted with steel doors, secured on the inside, the shelters made admirable lodge rooms. They were lit by electricity, but during air-raids the power was cut off, so that they were obliged to resort to "margarine lamps". These lamps were made by purifying margarine (when available) and pouring the liquid into a cut-down tin, with a piece of string, or an old pyjama-cord, as wick. In winter the temperature in the shelters was around freezing point and all attending wore coats and gloves. Near the camp was a large aero-engine factory and, in consequence, they were frequently bombed. Selby-Boothroyd records sardonically that, after one raid, "rough ashlars and emblems of mortality were plentiful". Working tools were made from wood stripped from sleeping bunks and tea chests, the chisel being fashioned out of a piece of reinforcing rod from a bombed building and rubbed, for many hours, on a stone. These tools were small enough to be instantly concealed in the pocket should a meeting be interrupted by the guards. Collar jewels were also made, but seldom used, as their nature could not have been disguised if they had been discovered. When the brethren met for the last time these tools were distributed; a set consisting of a square, compasses and gavel (used during rehearsals), together with a Master's "jewel", is now in the Grand Lodge Museum; the chisel in Canada; other pieces in South Africa and the United States. Three small T.B.s were prepared by a young artist prisoner in charcoal wash of such design that they could be used during the rehearsals, yet disclosing nothing to the uninitiated. A copy of the Second T.B. is now in the Kent Provincial Museum and a photograph in the Grand Lodge Museum. Part of the camp equipment were four-legged stools, issued to each prisoner, which he took with him wherever he went, whether it was to church, to an entertainment or to a lecture. Brethren took these stools with them to their gatherings; those acting as Warden borrowed another for use as a pedestal. No attempt was made, of course, to fashion any kind of Masonic apron. In the matter of dress, Iggulden recalls the care and trouble taken by brethren to attend their meetings "properly dressed". They wore their best clothes, such as they were, with collars and ties in place of the scarves usually worn, as many possessed only one collar. Some of the brethren were even able to press their trousers, threadbare and patched though they were.

After much discussion a book of ritual was compiled from memory, a number of copies of which were made in small exercise books easily concealable from searchers. From these, brethren learned the ceremonies for rehearsal at the meetings, at which they took the various offices in turn. On one occasion the Scottish brethren demonstrated the first degree according to their Constitution; on another the installation was rehearsed without, of course, the inner working.

At first, weekly meetings were held, but by the winter of 1944 that became impossible. Brethren were growing weaker and air-raids were taking place at all hours of the day. A special meeting was held on New Year's Day, 1945, at which it was decided to make a contribution of 150 guineas to one of the Masonic schools as Grand Lodge might decide. The "deed of gift", in the form of an illuminated scroll, signed by six officers, is preserved in the Grand Lodge. The donation was allocated to the R.M.I.B. and is recorded on a mural plaque at the school, which reads: "This plaque commemorates the British and Overseas Masons in Prisoner of War Camp Oflag 79 during the Second World War who, in Masonic ritual, sought relief from suffering through the uplifting spirit of Masonry." The scroll was signed in camp and brought home for delivery.

After March, 1945, meetings were limited to one a month. Under existing conditions and with constant danger from the air, it was realized that the end, whatever it might be, could not be far off. It was decided to hold a last meeting, for which summonses were sent out. A harmonium was borrowed for the meeting, which was held during an air attack on the German defences nearby. After the opening a representative of each country was invited to speak on what the Craft had meant to him in adversity, a fitting conclusion to the life of the "lodge".


Bro. Iggulden's Masonic activities really commenced in a transit camp at a place called Moosburg, near Munich. It was here that he first came in contact with German propaganda against Freemasonry, contained in a newspaper called The Camp which the enemy issued to British prisoners of war. Every opportunity was taken in this and other papers to publish antiMasonic articles and cartoons. Bro. Iggulden writes: "At this time there were about 200 British officers living in one large hut, and for the most part they were quite young. Three of us recognized each other as Freemasons, and walking together up and down the wire we came to the conclusion that the insidious propaganda . . . might prejudice the minds of these young men. We decided that a short talk should be given explaining the real object of Freemasonry, its place in the social structure of Britain and some of the fallacies of the German propaganda." The talk was given, one result of which was the discovery of other brethren in the camp, but, as privacy was impossible, no Masonic activities could be arranged. They agreed, however, that when a properly-organized Oflag was reached, they would try and arrange a meeting. This objective was attained when they reached Mdhrisch Triibau, as I have already recounted.


The story of the "lodge of instruction", commenced in Tittmoning and transferred to Eichstatt, is told by Bro. Brown. It was to Tittmoning, near Salzburg, that he and two other brethren were transferred from Laufen. The camp was in an old Schloss used at one time as a hunting lodge by the same Prince Bishop of Salzburg who had owned the Palace at Laufen. In the courtyard was a large marble trough bearing a bas-relief depicting the pillars, the square and the plumb- rule, and a date believed to be 1781; nothing could have been more appropriate.

Brown and the two others from Laufen were put in the same room. They decided to trace other Freemasons in the camp, and enough were identified to hold a meeting. Soon there were 20 brethren, including two P.M.s, meeting weekly in the camp library, and a "lodge of instruction" was formed. As they had no ritual at that time, the two P.M.s, assisted by Bro. Brown, set out to prepare one from memory, each taking a portion, writing it down and passing it to the other, doubts being settled by discussion. At a later date this ritual was checked and very few corrections were found necessary, truly a tribute to the P.M.s who compiled it. It is now in the Leicester Provincial Museum.

These brethren commenced modestly with the opening and closing ceremonies, moving on to degree work by stages. As they became more proficient, so did the preparation of the book of ritual until they were able to rehearse an initiation. The room was fairly large, so that floorwork was possible, but in place of gavelling the left forearm was struck. They continued their work until August, 1941, when they learned that the camp was to be moved. They set off for Warburg, in Westphalia, taking with them their handwritten ritual hidden in Brown's records, which he carried in his capacity of camp postal officer. Warburg proved a difficult camp in which to engage in any Masonic activity, due to the fact that many huts were so constructed that words spoken in one room could be heard in the next. There were also continuous security patrols. Brown records that the most he and his companions could do was to learn parts of the ritual privately, repeating them to one another as they walked about during exercise.

In August, 1942, they were warned of another move which they did not regret, except that they discovered the camp was to be split into smaller groups. Fortunately, two Past Masters remained with the party sent to Oflag VIIB at Eichstatt, which they reached in September. Once more the ritual went with them concealed in Brown's postal records. After a few weeks they settled down to a new camp routine and were able to resume their former activities. Membership of the group fluctuated, but there were always about 40 brethren in the camp, in all from ten different Constitutions. To provide scope for as many brethren as possible they divided into four "lodges", two working under the English Constitution, one Scottish and one Australian. Meetings were held in the camp Dental Surgery, but it was so small that floorwork was impossible. On two occasions, when a larger room became available, full-scale demonstrations of a degree and of an installation (except for the inner working) were arranged, to which all brethren in the camp were invited.

Each of the "lodges" met monthly, except during the summer, when suspicion would have been aroused if black- out had been placed over the windows in daylight. Emblems were not used, but working tools were made of cardboard for rapid destruction in an emergency. It was the custom, amongst those working according to Australian rituals, during the opening ceremonies for each officer to be asked not only his place and duty in the lodge, but to describe his badge and what it represented.

After D-Day the brethren were too unsettled to concentrate on memorizing the ritual and lectures were given instead. Before being moved on by the retreating enemy a final gathering was arranged at Eichstatt, at which a "greeting" to the Grand Master was prepared and signed by 33 brethren. The document reads: "Greetings to the Most Worshipful the Grand Master and Brethren of the United Grand Lodge of England from the undersigned, on their return from captivity in Oflag VIIB, Eichstatt, Bavaria, who, while in Germany, have endeavoured to make a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge." It was bound, the cover bearing the design depicting the columns, square and plumb-rule which had been discovered on the marble trough in the courtyard of the Schloss at Tirtmoning. Brown was able to retain the greeting, and on his return to England it was duly despatched to the Grand Master, the Earl of Harewood, who later presented it to the Grand Lodge, where it is displayed in the Library.


The fourth chronicler of events in prisoner of war camps, Bro. H. Wallwork, was captured in May, 1940, and sent to a Stalag on the outskirts of Salzburg. He had with him two books, the New Testament and an "Emulation" book of ritual, both of which, although examined, he was allowed to retain. Although there was a fairly large number of brethren in the Salzburg camp, there is no record of any singly co-ordinated group formed to pursue Masonic study, but the fact that more than 30 copies were taken from his ritual, or parts thereof, indicates that Masonry flourished amongst the brethren incarcerated there. He notes that a number of "lodges" were formed which met and practised regularly.

From Salzburg, Wallwork was sent to Warburg, but it seems the brethren were unable to engage in any Masonic activity during the three months he was there. His next move was to Spangenburg, near Kassel. Here, a number of brethren discovered each other and a "lodge" was formed. Meetings were held on Sunday afternoons in a room known as the School room. The building itself was a small Schloss, and Wallwork used the dry, disused moat surrounding it for rehearsing to himself the various parts of the ritual allotted to him. He brethren followed the usual practice of filling the offices progressively, the meetings being under the direction of an expert brother. Working tools were fashioned from pieces of wood.

After a short absence, Wallwork returned to Spangenburg, where he was able to continue his studies until November, 1944, when he and a number of others were moved to Nordhausen, where a few brethren were able to have occasional practices together. It was not long, however, before another move was made, but Wallwork, fearing keener searches ahead, left his book of ritual at Nordhausen in the care of a British officer. Happily, soon after his return to England at the end of the war it was returned to him, and it now lies in the Grand Lodge Museum. It bears a number of signatures of his fellow Masonic prisoners and is a unique relic of a Freemason's determination to make a daily advancement.

In addition to the Stalags at Warburg and Spangenburg, Oflags were also established at each. Selby-Boothroyd, mentioned earlier, was sent to the former, but it was some time before he discovered, because of another casual remark, that a fellow prisoner in an adjacent bunk to his was a Freemason. One other in the same room was also identified, who was engaged on the task of drafting the opening and closing in the three degrees. The three of them hoped to start working together, but Selby-Boothroyd's companions were moved to the Oflag at Spangenburg, where they met intermittently and did a little work.


In the spring of 1942 a number of brethren in Stalag 18A at Wolfsburg made themselves known to each other. By arrangement they first met together at the gate of the British compound, where, on arrival, each contributed one cigarette to a common "fund". The cigarettes collected, about 40, were then used to bribe one of the guards at the point to allow them to meet in one of some new huts in course of erection. In the hut they elected four of their number, representing England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand, to form a committee to prove and test everyone present. This was done. After a discussion on the possibility of forming a Masonic group in the camp they dispersed, having achieved their purpose and becoming known to one another as members of the Craft. The next meeting was held in a medical inspection room by arrangement with a British doctor, a Freemason. It was then agreed to attempt the compilation of a book of ritual to cover the first degree and then to conduct meetings as a "lodge of instruction", but sitting round a table because of the impossibility of blacking out windows in daytime. After five or six meetings the camp was split up and transferred to other camps, thus putting an end to the group.

The bulk of the members were, fortunately, kept together, and towards the end of 1942 were sent to Stalag 383 at Hohenfels. Here they re-formed, calling themselves the International Group, consisting ultimately of 23 brethren of the English Constitution, two Irish, 29 Scottish, 24 from four Australian Constitutions and four others. Only one was a Past Master. Meetings, at which there was an average attendance of 60, were held monthly on Saturday evenings in a former stable, then converted into a library and study room. To ensure as much warning and delay as possible in surprise visits by the guards, the I.G. placed his chair against the door, and so enabled the brethren to appear to be doing something quite different. At meetings the V.S.L. was opened, minutes were kept and read, and "accounts" presented. Subscriptions were paid in cigarettes, and the "accounts" were records of their receipt and of disbursement, which included the purchase of cups of tea provided at each meeting - the "cups" consisted mainly of odd pots and corned-beef tins. Hot water being available at certain times, a bugle was sounded and the Stewards of the "lodge" then retired to draw it for tea-making. Surplus cigarettes were placed in a "Charity Fund" administered by two Charity Representatives, who undertook welfare work, including visiting the sick in hospital. The minute book covers the period 28th October, 1943, to the 23rd March, 1945, and records 16 meetings, but the group first met in about March, 1943. This book, together with the account books and other relics, were carefully preserved by Bro. J. E. Mallory, Secretary of the group from March, 1944, and they are now deposited in the Grand Lodge Library. Bro. Payne, a member of the group both in Stalag 18B and Stalag 383, has also compiled notes on its formation and work, so that its activities are well recorded.

In addition to rehearsals, which were not minuted, talks were given on various topics of general interest. At refreshment after meetings, during which the normal toasts were drunk in tea, the brethren took turns at providing entertainment. At the Christmas, 1943, meeting, Dickens' "Christmas Carol" was produced, followed by musical entertainment; a copy of the programme is in Grand Lodge. The summons for this meeting included an appeal for contributions to "Christmas Stockings" for members in hospital. The list of contributions reveals an amazing variety of items which must have been regarded as treasures by the donors - razor blades a mouth organ, a vest, socks, toothbrushes, cigarettes and many other items. The following Christmas entertainment included Dorothy Sayers' Nativity play, "Kings in Judaea".

The activities of the group ended with the dispersal of the camp in April, 1945.


An Oflag (No. VB) was established in the town of Biberach, and it is known that brethren amongst the prisoners were able to hold regular meetings, but apart from the fact that one of them possessed a printed ritual, few details of their activities are available. (6) One correspondent does, however, recall that some English, Australian and New Zealand brethren met on one occasion in an unoccupied room. An English Past Master occupied the chair and, after ensuring the security of the meeting, a discussion took place on the ceremony of the first degree as performed by the different Constitutions represented by the brethren present. Although the experiment does not seem to have been repeated, the meeting, in the words of the correspondent, "afterwards proved to be responsible for an improvement in morale, as each one knew there was somebody to whom he could go and discuss the various problems that did crop up during our prison life".


There is some evidence that brethren imprisoned in Italian camps were able to identify one another and to meet from time to time. An informant, Bro. B. H. Gordon, recalled that at Viano there was an active group of Freemasons of about 20 who were able to hold a certain number of meetings in the library of a building formerly used as a Priests' rest house. One of the brethren fashioned the regalia and tools, which, when not in use, were hidden in a cavity behind an overmantel; they may be still hidden there. This hiding place was easily accessible for disposal regalia, etc., in case of an alarm, when, as was usual in prisoners' camps, the occupants of the room would be found merely reading or engaged on some quite innocuous pursuit. This was a drill rehearsed many times until it was perfected.

The flourishing Lodge of Improvement at Brunswick, to which reference has already been made, had its beginnings firstly in Italy and later at Mahrisch Trubau. The brethren concerned, numbering about 40, had originally met in Chieti, Italy, whence they were transferred after the fall of Mussolini. (7) At the time of their removal from Italy they had been rehearsing the opening and closing ceremonies and the initiation, indicating that the time spent in Italy had been well used.

Bro. Brown recounts that at Eichstatt, after D-Day, the brethren were unable to concentrate on memorizing the ritual, so that lectures were given instead, one of which, he recalls, was devoted to Masonic work carried on in prisoner of war camps in Italy, given by a brother who had been imprisoned there. He told them that "supervision by the enemy authorities had been less severe and proper working tools had been made, and most meetings had finished up with a festive board, if it could be so called". Nothing else is recorded of these activities.

The strictness of supervision in Italian camps must have varied considerably. The lecturer referred to by Bro. Brown mentioned that it was "less severe", but at Viano there were constant searches of officers' personal belongings. Searches were very thorough and were made at all times.

So ends the summary of Masonic activity among brethren prisoners of war in German and Italian hands from 1940 to 1945. It is necessarily an incomplete record and does not do justice to the courage of these men.


(1) Selby-Boothroyd, C.B., Unpublished notes on Freemasonry in Prisoner of War Camps (Europe) in the Second World War. 

(2) Brown, Sidney, "A Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge-Germany, 1940-45", Trans., Lo. of Research, Leicester, 1946-47, pp. 110-7. 

(3) Iggulden, D.P., Unpublished notes on Freemasonry in Oftag 79. 

(4) Payne, F.S., Unpublished notes on Freemasonry in Stalag 18A and Stalag 383. 

(5) Wallwork, H., " Freemasonry in Captivity " (Notes of an informal talk), Trans., Bolton Mas. Res. and Study Soc., xiv, 1955-56, pp. 15-8. 

(6) Brown, op. cit. 

(7) Selby-Boothroyd, op. cit.






What of our brethren in the Far East imprisoned or interned by the Japanese from 1942 onwards? Fortunately, the Masonic activities of some of these brethren in captivity are fairly well documented. A number of accounts have been written, (1-6) but some of the periodicals in which they appear, particularly The Pentagram, are not widely available, and I propose, therefore, to quote them fairly freely.

At the fall of Singapore many brethren were among those interned as civilian or captured as members of the Armed Forces. Both categories were imprisoned in the notorious Changi Prison Camp, which was spread over a large area and which included the Changi gaol. Civilians were interned in the gaol, whilst Service prisoners were incarcerated in the surrounding camp, itself divided into a number of separate camps. Communication between the gaol and the camp and between the separate areas therein was difficult and at most times impossible. It is known that the internees numbered some 3,000 persons, of whom approximately 250 were Freemasons.(4) Service personnel number 55,000. In this account I propose to mention the activities of the civilian brethren first and the Service brethren afterwards.


Amongst the internees was W.Bro. Baldwyn Lowick, Deputy District G.M., Eastern Archipelago, to whom the District Grand Master had handed full authority because of his own illness. One of Bro. Lowick's first activities was to obtain accounts of the last regular meetings of each Lodge before internment, so as to preserve some record of continuity of the District Grand Lodge and its constituent Lodges. So far as possible accounts were written from memory, not, of course, always reliable, and the Deputy D.G.M. spent much time in checking the information. (4)

Early in the days of internment Bro. Lowick intimated that, so far as conditions permitted, Lodges should continue to hold meetings, it being his intention to maintain the spirit of Freemasonry and the continuity of lodge history. Meetings were to be for the transaction of business; no one was to be initiated during internment. It was found that lodges were so well represented numerically that he issued dispensations for them to meet as lodges in the camp. Altogether he granted no less than 42 dispensations to hold regular meetings, and to hold them without regalia, exhibited warrants or lodge furniture. The texts of the dispensations and a list of those issued are set out in The Pentagram of 1947 (p. 7). "Lodges met with fair regularity", the record tells us, "in order to carry out essential business as the confirmation of minutes, consideration of approximate statement of accounts, whereabouts of Lodge furniture, regalia and such-like matters; looking forward always to the day of release in the unknown future and the resumption of normal Masonic activities in the world of freedom. Some Lodges were in a position to elect Masters in the accepted succession. Of these, Lodge St. George, Singapore, the strongest Lodge numerically of the camp, was the most fortunate and was able to hand on the succession of the Chair in regular order. But in the case of a number of Lodges, this was impossible by reason of inadequate representation in the camp." Brief accounts of their proceedings are also included in the same volume (ibid., pp. 14-19). Wherever possible, minutes were typewritten on foolscap paper. One of the Lodge Secretaries (W.Bro. R.W. Stainforth) recalls that, after typing, the sheets were torn carefully across and stuck on a nail to resemble scrap or toilet paper. After liberation he repaired the sheets and pasted them in his Lodge minute book.

Secrecy was the main problem. A committee of brethren met to consider the matter, and it was decided to hold meetings in a dispensary, a room about the size of the prison cells. The Pentagram, 1947, reports: "Here, in a lodge room, surrounded by shelves bearing drugs, medical books, balances and all the evidence of the medical art, the first meetings of the Lodges were held. Ventilation was adequate for two or three persons; most inadequate for 20 Lodge members. All familiar signs were lacking, except, of course, the V.S.L. Lodge furniture there was none, regalia there was none. Voices were hushed. Outside the door stood a tyler more vigilant than ever before, and supported by a string of assistant tylers picketed at intervals . . . each in possession of a preconcerted signal to give warning of Japanese Cowans and intruders." Subsequent meetings were held in another dispensary and later in the camp library. One meeting was held in a cell measuring 13ft. by 7ft. Meetings continued fairly regularly until the "ill-omened Double Tenth", 1943. (7) After that date the camp languished under a harsh and vigilant Gestapo-type supervision for many months and it was impossible to risk the holding of meetings. Freemasonry then went underground, but, to quote The Pentagram (8) "it lived on in the hearts of the members of the Craft". At this time Bro. Lowick, looking to the future, checked the whereabouts of Masonic documents in the camp, keeping many himself and ready to assume responsibility in the event of trouble. "When the camp was moved from Changi Prison to Sime Road, the Gestapo supervision was relaxed. But the open nature of the site of the camp, the crowd of internees, now increased in number to something like 5,000, and the impossibility of finding any privacy in the huts made it extremely difficult to hold regular meetings; a scanty score of rituals passed surreptitiously from hand to hand." (9) One brother conducted a small but efficient Lodge of Instruction in front of a hut every Tuesday night, and similar study groups were organized in various parts of the camp. Incredible though it may seem, "a shadow headquarters" was established and, at Bro. Lowick's instigation, a "convocation" of the District Grand Lodge was held, at which a Masonic policy to be followed on deliverance was determined.

To assist in the identification of brethren, typewritten certificates were issued reading:

"Bro ... having lost or destroyed his Grand Lodge Certificate during the enemy occupation of Malaya, is hereby certified to be a qualified member of Lodge .. No. .. on the Roll of the United Grand Lodge of England." They were signed by the Master, Wardens and Secretary of the Lodge and by the member concerned, and countersigned. as "Confirmed, B. Lowick, D.G.L.E.A." Looking back, it would seem that the possession of such a document might have proved a great danger to the holder should it have been discovered by the Japanese authorities.

In addition to meetings of Craft Lodges, five R.A. Chapters and three Mark Lodges held meetings from time to time. A list of dispensations issued and a brief account of their proceedings is also to be found in The Pentagram of 1947. (10)


In the military area of Changi a meeting of imprisoned brethren was held as early as June 8th, 1942, at which 45 were present, and which was presided over by W.Bro. H. W. Wylie, P.G.D. of England and a Past Assistant District Grand Master, who, ever since the arrival of prisoners in Changi, had had in mind the desirability of holding Masonic meetings of some kind. Anxious not to bring the Craft into disrepute, he, with two other officers of the District Grand Lodge, approached the British Commandant, Lieut.-General A. E. Percival, on the matter. The General, though not a Mason, was most sympathetic and helpful, and promised to consult area commanders in the camp and the Japanese authorities. Assurances were given to the General that meetings would be confined strictly to Masonic business among existing Freemasons, and that no attempt would be made to initiate candidates, etc. Area Commanders agreed, but the Japanese stated that the matter must be referred to higher authority and, finally, to Tokyo. No answer was received from the Japanese, and the General, in the absence of a direct negative, decided that the brethren might carry on in a discreet manner. (11) General Percival's ready encouragement is evident from a letter written by Bro. Wylie to another Masonic organization (12) (to which reference will be made later). He quotes the General as saying that the project "supplied yet another means of preventing the deterioration of character and morale which began to show itself in some parts of the large camp, at any rate, in the early stages", and "anything which will assist in the preservation of the discipline for which, I believe, your Craft is universally noted, will undoubtedly prove valuable to me in the enormous difficulties I see already arising". When the General was later sent to Japan, his successor, Bro. Lt.- Col. E. Holmes, gave equal encouragement to the brethren, duly acknowledged by the Grand Secretary, who, after the war, sent him a letter of thanks.

At this first meeting, Bro. Wylie, anxious not to contravene the Constitution, decided that, under the Patent of his office, he was prepared to grant authority for meetings for the purpose of practising ritual and lectures. There were two Preceptors of the Lodge of Instruction attached to Lodge St. George, No. 1152, Singapore, as well as several members of the Lodge, among the prisoners. To these two brethren, Bro. Wylie issued a Dispensation under which the place of meeting was changed to Changi, (13) and meetings were arranged accordingly. Nights were specially set aside for various separate Lodges of Instruction to meet, at which Preceptors were provided and records kept by the Past Masters of Lodge St. George. Meetings were held in a room, in a building used for educational purposes, containing a number of desks and benches which were used to represent seating in a regular lodge. (14) When it was later placed out of bounds, meetings were held in the Church of England Chapel, a much larger building. R.W.Bro. E. G. Holiday records (14) that "lights were successfully represented by candles and that the working tools were obtained from school boxes of mathematical instruments. Later on these were replaced by excellent pieces of craftsmanship in aluminium by brethren who were skilled artificers in metal. Suitably mounted wands were also constructed for the Deacons; tracing boards were skilfully designed so that, but for the absence of Masonic clothing, the Lodge could be considered to be reasonably furnished".

Weekly meetings were held and degrees were practised in English, Scottish and Irish workings. At first the only lighting was provided by rags in cigarette tins containing oil surreptitiously obtained from Japanese lorries, etc. Preparations were always made to convert the meetings into something of a different nature in case of surprise. Tylers were placed at strategic points, and Bro. Wylie tells us that on one occasion there were four rings of six each, i.e., 24 tylers for one meeting! Attendances rose from about 50 to over 100 and parties from the "Australian area" of the camp also joined in. Towards the end of 1942, large parties of prisoners in this particular area of the camp were being moved to Siam to work on the infamous railway and it was realized that meetings would have to end. Minute books and working tools were buried in a tin box by Bro. Holiday, but, unfortunately, they were never regained, as by chance the building near which the tin was buried was levelled off and a new structure erected on the site. The Grand Lodge possesses a certified copy of the minutes of the first meeting of these brethren, including Bro. Wylie's Dispensation, and some copies of his correspondence and other papers. (15) One letter, the original, is to the Lodge of St. George Lodge of Instruction and is indicative of his concern for the preservation of the niceties of the Craft. News of the death of the M.W. Grand Master, H.R.H. the Duke of Kent, in August, 1942, having reached him, he forthwith directed that members of the Lodge should observe Masonic mourning for three months.

With the functioning of this Lodge of Instruction a curious state of affairs existed. In the civilian gaol the Lodge itself was working under the authority of Bro. Lowick, the Dep.D.G.M. In the military area of the camp its Lodge of Instruction was working under the authority of Bro. Wylie, a P.A.D.G.M., each unaware of the other's activities.

Soon after the meetings held under the auspices of the Lodge of St. George came to an end, some British and Australian brethren in another part of the camp called a meeting, held on December 18th, 1942, in an Officers' Mess lecture-room in the Roberts Hospital, Changi. The Chair was taken by Bro. F.C. Stuart (No. 392, Victoria Const.), and the meeting commenced with an address by Bro. L.J. Kingston (No. 1118, E.C.), who outlined proposals for the formation of an Association. As a result, the Prisoners of War Masonic Association was formed, Bro. Stuart being elected Chairman, and Bro. Kingston, Secretary. A Treasurer and an Executive Committee of four brethren from the Victoria, Queensland and English Constitutions were also appointed. (16) W.Bro. Lt.-Col. H. S. Ling took a prominent part in the formation of the Association and its activities, of which he has written an account. (17)

Subsequent meetings are described as meetings of the Association, but they were conducted as Lodges, with a Worshipful Master and Officers. There was no "official" sanction for these meetings, as was obtained in the case of the Lodge of St. George Lodge of Instruction activities, which were approved by Bro. Wylie in his capacity as an Officer of both the United Grand Lodge of England and the District Grand Lodge. It was not long, however, before the Association teamed of his presence in the camp, and the Executive Committee took immediate steps to communicate with him by letter, dated February 15th, 1943, (18) in which he was informed of the Association's formation. The letter concluded: "As the English Constitution has always been recognized as having paramount power throughout Malaya, and in the absence of the District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago, his Deputy or Assistant, in this camp, it is our desire as a matter of courtesy to inform you of our action; and we hope that you will approve thereof, and that both you and all Brothers of your Constitution will support the Association and join in its assemblies." Bro. Wylie replied: "I have felt all along the necessity, and indeed moral obligation, to avoid contravention of those excellent rules governing the Craft as much as possible and endeavour to restrict such error to the absolute minimum. This object has, I feel, been attained and, with a perfectly clear conscience, am in a position to approve my brethren embracing such opportunities as your Association offers to any extent that you are prepared to allow them." (19) Thus did the meetings receive some official sanction.

Meetings were held with the full knowledge and approval of the Commander, and were subject to the following conditions: -

1. That there should be no discussion of political or military matters.

2. That all discussion of the conditions of prisoners of war in the camp were prohibited.

3. That reasonable precautions usually observed by Freemasons should be adopted and maintained, to prevent surprise interruption of a meeting.

4. That the President of the Association or other authorized officer should be responsible to the Commander for the fulfilment of these conditions. (18)

Although the United Grand Lodge of England was recognized as the paramount Masonic authority in Malaya, it was intended that the Association should be organized under the Constitution of Victoria, Australia. (18) It had been agreed that regular meetings should be held at which Masonic ritual would be carried out in an exemplary style, with correctness in detail, and that rituals of the various Constitutions (represented by members of the Association) would, if circumstances permitted, be worked in turn. In June, 1943, the Association asked Bro. Wylie for a "testimonial" upon the standard of its labours. (20) Bro. Wylie was, naturally, diffident in expressing an opinion on the work carried out by teams using rituals of Constitutions of which he had had little or no experience, but "as far as I have been able to judge", he replied, "those conversant with these rituals have been quite satisfied with the renderings of them, and to me the earnestness with which the work has been performed is a sure sign that no effort has been spared to make the meetings compare very favourably with the usual ceremonies of their kind. All the English workings have been of a high standard, in fact excellent, especially when one takes into consideration the lack of rituals and experienced Preceptors". (21)

The inaugural meeting was attended by 47 brethren from 11 Constitutions. Membership rapidly increased and later meetings saw attendances of members and visitors numbering 116, 149, 169 and 133. On two occasions elections to membership numbered no fewer than 30. Meetings were generally held in the Garrison Church, but, with the various changes in camp accommodation, other places were found. One building used was a former petrol station with open sides. These the brethren filled in with screens of palm leaves and attap fronds. Although it was fairly isolated, Bro. Wylie felt that it was not secure enough for the practise of ritual and decreed that only lectures and talks should be given during the time they used it. The brethren met fairly regularly, but one meeting "had to be cancelled owing to the uncertain circumstances then prevailing" -- one can imagine the reason as expressed was something of an understatement!

Bro. Ling records: (22) "Great care was taken to prove each unknown Mason. The brethren drifted in to the meeting in ones and twos without attracting too much attention. Just inside the entrance an Assistant D.C., who was deputed on each separate occasion to obtain on a list the signatures and names of the Lodges of the brethren attending. Before attending the first meeting, those of us who had formed the society proved each other; then as each new member came along he would be proved by a P.M. of the Constitution to which he belonged, and his name then added to the list. By this arrangement no one was admitted without being proved unless his name was already on the list, and we were able thus to ensure that no unauthorized person gained admission."

Punctiliousness in behaviour and obedience to the Constitutions was always observed and, on one occasion, amply demonstrated when it was discovered that a visitor to a meeting had been "initiated" by a foreign "field lodge" in the camp. The matter was considered by the Executive Committee and it was decided that the facts should be reported to Bro. Wylie. It was found that the brethren of this other jurisdiction had held a meeting within the camp area at which an "initiation" had been performed without informing Bro. Wylie - a fact which they considered distinctly discourteous, irrespective of the validity of the proceedings. The Committee felt that in dealing with a matter concerning a Grand Lodge in amity with the United Grand Lodge of England, "vision of a wide scope was needed". Bro. Wylie, after consultation with a legal brother, offered his guidance to the Committee. As a result, the Committee informed the gentleman concerned that, pending the regularization of his initiation, he must consider himself debarred from attendance at meetings of the Association. (23)

The three degrees were regularly demonstrated in accordance with the several Constitutions represented, or else lectures on a variety of Masonic and other subjects were delivered, or the T.B.s were explained. Officers were changed at each meeting, so that members of the different Constitutions each took their turn.

Minutes were first prepared in duplicate, one copy being intended for Grand Lodge. Later it is recorded that "in order to safeguard the records . . . from possible mishap or adventure, due to matters international . . . two further copies . . . would, as a precautionary measure, be deposited with certain of the brethren for safe custody ".

The subscription was provisionally fixed at 10 cents per month (later reduced to 5 cents) and the Treasurer regularly reported on the state of the funds. On one occasion it was decided that no subscriptions should be payable by brethren for periods of stay in hospital or "up country" - the implication of this expression leaves little to the imagination! On another occasion the members stood in silence to the memory of those who did not return from "up country".

Charity was not forgotten. Cigarettes were regularly purchased out of the prisoners' all-too-meagre cash allowance for distribution to those in hospital, such gifts being particularly welcome to the troops who, when sick and unable to work, received no pay from the Japanese. When the supply of drugs gave out, the suffering of those in hospital went unrelieved and the brethren did as much as possible for them all, Masons and non-Masons alike. Many of the patients were without friends or were the only remaining members of their regiments, or were otherwise in need of what Bro. Wylie describes as "mental strength". Even when cigarettes were no longer available and other gifts impossible, regular visits to the hospital continued to the end. In December, 1943, a donation to the Christmas Toy Fund for Children interned in the gaol was made.

Candlesticks were salvaged from the ruins of a bombed church; two ashlars were fashioned working tools improvised; and deacons' wands were made, each being surmounted by the appropriate emblems made from aluminium taken from a wrecked aircraft. A first degree T.B. was "artistically prepared and presented by Capt. C. Pickersgill, No. 1230, E.C., now, unfortunately, up country ". Mention is made elsewhere of a second T.B. drawn and painted by a skilful artist who later lost his life on the railway.

Meetings opened and closed with the usual odes, and occasionally some light refreshment was provided, which must have been " light " indeed. Bro. Ling records: " It was possible at certain times . . . to bring coffee from the Japanese-run canteens, and from the small subscriptions which were collected . . . it was decided to hold one festive evening. So with black coffee and rice biscuits we made merry, gave toasts and made speeches." (24) On the 18th December, 1943, an anniversary meeting was held, when 122 members and visiting brethren attended. It was followed by refreshments, for which the brethren had previously been asked to bring small cups. The usual toasts were drunk and a musical interlude, consisting of songs, was arranged. Any surplus food left over from the "banquet" was sent to the brethren in hospital.

It is of interest to mention here that, occasionally, books were sent into the camp by the Red Cross, amongst which were some on ancient Freemasonry and King Solomon's Temple. They had been looted from Freemasons' Hall, Singapore, and sent to the general library from which the Red Cross were permitted to take books for prisoners. By this extraordinary chance did a few Masonic works reach the brethren.

In May, 1944, the tide was turning against the enemy, and life in Changi was, in consequence, made increasingly difficult for the prisoners. The minute of the last meeting of the Association mentions the reorganization of the camp and the consequent move and segregation of officers and men and of the hospital, resulting in the suspension of regular meetings. In any case, to have continued would have involved too great a risk, as discovery would certainly have meant unnecessary suffering and, perhaps, the sacrifice of lives.

Bro. Wylie records (25) that, towards the end of 1943, a brother was brought into the Camp Hospital in a most dreadful condition. He had been sentenced to four years' imprisonment in the infamous Outram Road Gaol, Singapore. At the time of his arrest a Masonic ritual was found amongst his effects, which resulted in terrible beatings and other cruelties. Bro. Wylie stood at his bedside and caught a whispered warning advising immediate cessation of Masonic activities, for "they" are starting an intensive investigation. Bro. Wylie interviewed the senior officers of the British and Australian troops, both Freemasons, and received official sanction and approval to issue an order to the Association to close down immediately.

In a letter of thanks to Lt.-Col. Holmes, dated 17th August, 1945, Bro. Wylie said: "Possibly more so than most others, I appreciate very deeply the very real personal responsibility and risk attached to our activities which you assumed on our behalf when Lt.-Gen. Percival left for Taiwan. That the risk was real was evident on the return to the camp of Major S. [probably the brother mentioned above] when we both realized the extreme hate and suspicion with which our 'hosts' regarded us and his experiences, which resulted in your unqualified approval of my request to suspend Masonic activities of any kind indefinitely."

Over a period of 17 months, 21 meetings of the Association were held, the last being on the 4th May, 1944. The minutes of this meeting record that: " There being no further business, the closing Prayer was given and the Lodge closed. The brethren departing in Harmony at 6 p.m. - being sorrowful at the thought that they had, perhaps, attended the last Regular Meeting of the Association; yet mindful of the blessing of the G.A.U. Who had allowed us to have, during this period of stress, strain and anxiety, so many happy evenings together, reviving the Spirit of the Craft, and sharing mutually in the benefits and joys of its message."

This is, perhaps, a fitting epitaph for so noble an endeavour, but a further testimony of the great part which Freemasonry played in sustaining the brethren was written by Bro. Wylie:- (26)

"The peace and tranquility of those meetings", he says, "stood out in great contrast against the turmoil and irritations of the day. Although it was very hot, and most of the time all of us were in rags, ill, hungry, tired and dirty, yet it was possible during these meetings almost completely to forget the normal conditions of our lives as prisoners of war. To sit quietly among proven friends and listen to the Ceremonies took one's thought very far from a prison camp and lifted the mind above the reach of petty annoyances, restored one's balance and demonstrated the possibility of the victory of mind over matter, a very important factor at such a time.

Little help could come to us from outside; many died from malaria and dysentery: many were sick from beri-beri, and as drugs were not available it was important than mental strength was maintained, and in that sense a great work was done. Indeed, the Craft fully justified its existence thereby, and many who survived owed it to the love and care of some Brother, and without discrimination, whether he was a Mason or not."

There was at least one other organized gathering of brethren in Changi - the Southern Area Masonic Group, about which little is recorded. In fact, the only information available is the occasional reference to the Group in the minutes of the P.O.W. Masonic Association. On the 22nd February, 1943, the hope was expressed that additional meetings might be arranged to give Masons in the Southern Area the opportunity of participating in Masonic work. Arrangements were, in fact, made for the Group to attend a meeting on the 12th April, when its team gave a practice rendering of the initiation ceremony in accordance with the Revised Ritual. Finally, at the last meeting of the Association, reference is made to the "funds" of the late Southern Area Masonic Group, to which the Association had succeeded on the winding up of the former body.

According to a short note on the Changi activities in a Bulletin of the A.I.F. Memorial Lodge, "daughter" associations of the main P.O.W. Association sprung up in other parts of the camp, working on the same lines under a controlling body known as " Headquarters (H.Q.)", consisting of five Australian and five British brethren. In addition, there were a number of unofficial gatherings of brethren in Changi which caused Bro. Wylie grave anxiety. Many brethren, keen to continue some kind of Masonic activity, gave little thought to the dangers. Copies of the ritual were being made, but the mere possession of a ritual involved the risk of death. Wylie, with his wide knowledge of Far Eastern affairs and of Masonry in that part of the world, together with certain experiences in the Volunteer Forces, knew the dangers, not only to those inside the camp, but to the Asian brethren outside.

The striking of a commemorative medallion was considered by the Association and a design submitted by Bro. Ling was approved, the intention being to seek approval of the United Grand Lodge of England and of the 12 Grand Lodges and 400 Lodges whose members took part in the proceedings of the Association. (27) The medallion was to consist of a blue enamel circle bearing the words "Changi P.O.W. Masonic Association", with a replica of the Changi tree in the centre and the motto, "Dissectus non Mortuus", to symbolize that, during the time of captivity, the members were broken but not dead. It should be explained that in the centre of the Changi area was a hill, on the top of which grew a large, isolated tree. The top of the tree had been blown off in battle. Bro. Ling describes the immense trunk as resembling a large artificial pillar. It dominated the camp and became known as the "Changi tree", and was a focal point of the early meetings of the Association. It is not known how far the project proceeded.


Another small body about which little is known was the River Valley Road (Singapore) P.O.W. Masonic Club. (28) It was formed by 25 zealous Master Masons to continue and promote the tenets of Freemasonry during the period at River Valley Road Camp. It was named a "club" because none of the members had any power to grant a Dispensation to enable it to function in any other way. It met once a week, when lectures were given and the ceremonies practised. A roll of members, prepared by Bro. Pickersgill, survived and is preserved in the Masonic Temple, Singapore. A photographic copy of the roll (supplied by the Grand Lodge of Scotland) is in the Grand Lodge Library. It bears the names of fourteen brethren of the English Constitution, five Irish, one Scottish and five Australian. It is sadly reported that the majority of the members died whilst working on the infamous Burma/Siam railway.

Memorial Service., September, 1945.

The Masonic activities of the Singapore prisoners finally terminated with a memorial service at St. David's Church, Sime Road Internment Camp, on the 2nd September, 1945, in memory of those who died between February, 1942, and August, 1945. During the service their names were read. An account of the service, which was attended by 180 brethren, is given in The Pentagram, 1947 (pp. 32-35).


Mention has been made above to the ending of activities by Lodge St. George (working under Bro. Wylie's Dispensation) because of the removal of prisoners from Changi to Siam to work on the notorious railway. Bro. Holiday recorded (29) something of the activities of the brethren in Siam, where they were dispersed in small groups. It was not until 1944, the railway having been completed, that they were formed into large concentrations, but overcrowding was so great, and Japanese objections to meetings and lectures so pronounced, that it was only possible for the brethren to hold talks in small groups in the open. At Tamung, however, on New Year's Day, 1945, some 60 to 70 brethren were able to meet, and were afterwards served with rice cakes and coffee, in which they drank the Loyal toast. On August 22nd, after the Japanese surrender, an untyled meeting was held at Nekom Chai, attended by some 50 brethren from a number of Constitutions. All were in rags and the only Masonic ornament was the V.S.L.


Some information concerning the brethren interned in Sumatra is recorded by Bro. Hasselhuhn in The Pentagram, 1958, (30) who recounts that, after the fall of Singapore, about 1,000 evacuees from Malaya were herded together at Muntok, on Banka Island, Sumatra. In the camp a number of Masonic friends met and agreed that it might be of future interest to prepare a list of them. Two lists were made, one containing names and the other their ranks and the Lodges to which they belonged, so that if they were discovered one list would appear to have no connection with the other. The brethren agreed that it would not be proper to carry on Masonic activity without authority, there being no one among them of sufficiently high rank to give any Dispensation to hold meetings. "Nevertheless", it is noted, "the principles of the Craft, as much as possible, were practised outside the lodge." The number of brethren signifying their wish to be recorded on the list reached 57 out of a total of only 197 British internees. Out of this figure of 57, only 16 (together with five Dutch brethren) remained alive at the end of their ordeal.


There is evidence of some activity amongst brethren of the Hong Kong and South China Lodges whilst prisoners in the Stanley Internment Camp and the military camp at Shamshuipo, Hong Kong. The District Grand Secretary, reporting to Grand Lodge in 1948. (31) mentioned that Minutes of Lodges which were rehabilitated soon after the end of the war contain references to "unofficial meetings held in Stanley by the different Lodges". (These Lodge minutes are not accessible to me in London.) He also reported that:-

"Being the Officer Commanding the Hongkong Volunteer Defence Corps, I was a prisoner in a military camp at Shamshuipo, so none of those who were mobilized could take part in these meetings in the strictly civilian camp of Stanley. I was, however, able to hold a Lodge of Instruction, as a Preceptor, for the first four months of our captivity. After that we were separated from our men and put into a punishment camp, where we had no room to move, and absolutely no privacy or possibility of conducting meetings."

More precise information concerning one Lodge - Zetland, No. 525 - is on record. (31) In the Stanley camp a meeting of members of the Lodge was held on December 1st, 1942, with 28 present. A year later, on December 7th, 1943, another meeting was held (in the open, because of the danger of assembling in a room), when 10 were present. Another year elapsed before the next meeting, on December 5th, 1944, when only five members could be mustered because, at that time, few of the brethren were fit enough to walk the comparatively Ion distance to the place of meeting.

In the Shanghai theatre, two camps for civilian prisoners were set up - one in Haiphong Road, Shanghai, and another, Fengtai, about four miles outside Pekin. There was also a Services' prison camp just outside Shanghai. Bro. Dr. S. D. Sturton records (32) that there were a number of brethren of his Lodge, Tuscan, No. 1027 (now the Shanghai Tuscan Lodge), imprisoned in the Haiphong Road camp, but it proved impossible for them to arrange any organized Masonic activity. He recollects that there were altogether about 110 Freemasons of various jurisdictions - English, Irish, Scottish, Massachusetts and the Philippines - and a few Masonic gatherings were arranged. Brethren included District Grand Officers of the five Constitutions represented. Sturton was present on one occasion when the Philippine brethren "entertained" the District Grand Officers of other jurisdictions in celebration of the liberation of Manila.

Although supervision was strict in the Shanghai camps, the brethren were left alone and were not, with two known exceptions, subjected to torture. Unhappily, two brethren were tortured, however, during questioning in the Gendarmerie, the Japanese "Gestapo" headquarters. Interrogation of brethren was most searching, and was conducted, oddly enough, in the presence of a Japanese woman who had a most intimate knowledge of Freemasonry.

No more is known of activities of the brethren imprisoned in these theatres of war.


(1) Frisby, A. W., "English Freemasonry in Malaya and Borneo, 1765-1956 ", The Pentagram, 1958, vol. 43, ch. 9, pp. 83-92. [This account includes extracts from earlier volumes.] 

(2) Wylie, H. W., An unpublished account of Freemasonry in Singapore Prisoner of War Camp, 1949. Short accounts also appeared in the Trans., Essex Masters' Lo., 1949-54, and in The Pentagram, 1954, vol. 39, pp. 15-17. 

(3) Ling, H. S., "Masonry as a Prisoner of War", The Ashlar, October, 1948, pp. 4-9 ; The Pentagram, 1954, vol. 39, pp. 19-25. 

(4) The Pentagram, 1947, vol. 32. [An issue intended mainly to record Masonic activities of imprisoned brethren, 1941- 45.] 

(5) Frisby, A. W., " District Grand Lodge (of the Eastern Archipelago] under Japanese Occupation The Masonic Record, 1961, January-April. Based on material previously published in The Pentagram. 

(6) A paper by W.A.G. Edwards, entitled "The Broken Column: Some Thoughts on Masonry in the Far East, 1940- 45", was written for delivery, but not published - a copy is deposited in the Grand Lodge Library. 

(7) Presumably the 10th October, 1943. It was about this date that a number of Chinese prisoners were massacred. 

(8) The Pentagram, 1947, vol. 32, p. 7.

(9) Ibid. 

(10) Ibid., pp. 13, 19-21. 

(11) Minutes, 8th June, 1942. 

(12) Wylie to Sec., P.O.W. Masonic Assoc., 23rd June, 1943. 

(13) Bro. Wylie's action was later approved and confirmed by the Grand Secretary. 

(14) Holiday, E.G., "Masonry in Prisoner of War Camps", The Pentagram, 1947, vol. 32, pp. 3". 

(15) Prisoner of War Masonic Assoc., Changi. Correspondence and copies of Correspondence in possession of Grand Lodge. 

(16) Prisoner of War Masonic Assoc., Changi, Singapore. (a) Minutes, 18th December, 1942, to 4th May, 1944 ; (b) Attendance Registers. 

(17) See footnote 4, p. 89. 

(18) From Assoc. to Wylie, 15th February, 1943 (Grand Lodge); also recorded in Minute book. 

(19) Wylie to Assoc., 25th February, 1943 (Minute book). 

(20) Minutes, 12th June, 1943. 

(21) Wylie to Assoc., 23rd June, 1943 (copy in G.L.); Minute book. 

(22) See footnote 4, p. 89. 

(23) Correspondence between Assoc. and Wylie, and Minutes, 18th December, 1943. 

(24) See footnote 4, p. 89. 

(25) Wylie, The Pentagram, 1954. 

(26) Wylie, Trans., Essex Masters' Lodge, 1949-54, pp. 15- 17. 

(27) See footnote 4, P. 89. 

(28) Molesworth, W., "River Valley P.O.W. Masonic Club", The Pentagram, 1950, vol. 35, p. 2. 

(29) See footnote 2, p. 91. 

(30) Hasselhuhn, E. T. [Notes on brethren interned in Sumatra], The Pentagram, 1958, vol. 43, pp. 88-9. 

(31) Grand Lodge files. (32) Personal correspondence.

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