“What we have done for ourselves alone, dies with us;
What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal”.
Bro. General Albert Pike
At the beginning of the year
2000, an Israeli Masonic brother and myself set out to examine the feasibility
of a tour of the battlefields in the Holy Land. In the end we wrote a book. (
Being published later this year).
This paper has been prepared
as a result of the enormous significance of one of the events that occurred on
our journey into the past.
The events referred to are
those which involved Freemasons fighting in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force
(NZEF) whilst in The Holy Land during the first world war.
…. And this paper is about
only one of the events in which they were involved, an event which made Masonic
A mystery man of Freemasonry
On the 28th July 1865, at Kamo
in New Zealand, was born a man destined to make Masonic history. What he
achieved was never done before and will never be done again. Yet very few
Freemasons have even heard of him.
This remarkable individual was
not only a hero, one of the most highly decorated soldiers in New Zealand, but
he was also famous nationally for his sporting prowess, representing his
province at both cricket and rugby, as well as being the New Zealand chess
Hugely community minded, he
was the Mayor of Greymouth for 3 years, a prominent attorney, Magistrate of
Greymouth for 11 years, Chairman of the Hunterville Town Board for 4 years, he
even offered his services to the army at the age of 74 and was accepted! He died
at the age of 99.
Yet, as far as Freemasonry is
concerned, he was the Worshipful Master of a lodge that no longer exists and for
one year was the Grand Sword Bearer. This
is the sum total of the Masonic knowledge which two years of extensive and
thorough research has been able to provide
mystery man of Freemasonry.
Thank goodness we have been
able to unearth his considerable Masonic achievements whilst in Palestine during
The Great War and even so, the written records of the NZEF (In Palestine &
Egypt) Masonic Association do indeed provide more questions than answers.
He was Wor. Bro. Brigadier
General William Meldrum CB DSO CMG
KMG 1914-15 Star, Order of the White Eagle with Swords (4th Class) Serbia, VD,
British war medal, Victory Medal, NZ War Service medal, NZ Territorial
Service Medal and others.
Birth in the Desert
Camp had been made at Tel El
Fara on the 28 April 1917 and a welcome break in hostilities had developed. On 6
May, Brigadier General Meldrum ( A Past Master of Lodge Rangatira No. 71 and a
former Grand Lodge Sword Bearer of the GL of New Zealand) chaired an informal
meeting of 8 Freemasons ( including himself) held at Brigade Head Quarters .
According to the Minutes of
that Meeting, the following were present:
Bro. Brig. General W Meldrum
Bro. Lt Col. J N McCarroll—
Auckland Mounted Rifles
W.Bro. Major D Munro: ——-
Auckland Mounted Rifles
Bro. Major Rev. A H Wilkie -
Wellington Mounted Rifles
Sgnt. S B Gibbons ——-
Wellington Mounted Rifles
W.Bro. C B Esther ( A former
Grand Sword Bearer) from Brigade Head Quarters
W.Bro. H S Ingram ———
Canterbury Mounted Rifles
Bro. Farrier Sgnt . L A Pipper—Canterbury Mounted Rifles.
Those present resolved to form
themselves into a provisional committee for the purpose of formulating proposals
for the establishment of a Masonic association ( Not a Military Lodge) from the
Freemasons in the NZEF fighting in the Holy Land.
27 May 1917
The infernal dust-like sand
was everywhere and the warm desert breeze flapped at jackets and trousers. The
meeting of 36 Freemasons, representing 34 lodges., was held in the open air on a
hill slope near to Gaza. They had gathered in response to a word-of-mouth notice
that had been circulating among the men.
It was 2 p.m. so it was
necessary to appoint guards to prevent enemy interruptions.
Here the use of a Tyler was put into serious practice ,with the place of
symbolism being taken by reality and the traditional sword being replaced with
Those present unanimously
agreed to form an association known as the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (In
Palestine & Egypt) Masonic Association and adopted without dissention the
For the record, the Executive
Committee elected was as follows:
W.Bro. W Meldrum ( President)
Bro. J N McCarroll
W.Bro. D Munro
W.Bro. H S Ingram
Bro. L S Pipper
Bro. A H Wilkie
Bro. W Turner
Bro. B Anderson
(N.B.) Bro Pipper and Bro
Hemphill disappear from sight after this meeting and feature in no other meeting
or activity thereafter. Determined research has failed to disclose any further
information on these two brethren. They were not killed in action nor can we
find any reference to a transfer. They simply disappear!
The Master Mind behind this
initiative was undoubtedly Brig. General Meldrum ably assisted by Lt Col J N
McCarroll. Right from the very start, when these two brothers planned the
association, it is clear that they had a personal motivation.
This motivation was
simultaneously Masonic as well as personal and throughout the written records,
both formal and informal, unfolds the clear determination that they intended to
achieve something unique, something never before done in the entire history of
Freemasonry whether such history was 700 or 7000 years old and that the
Association was the vehicle created to achieve this goal.
They wanted to make Masonic
history and this they did!
The journey begins
The journey to Moriah had
begun and was completed 12 months later at King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
The road that was traveled
before the journey was complete is strewn with unsolved puzzles somehow very
reminiscent of Freemasonry itself.
The goal was to assemble in
King Solomon’s Temple and this was a goal promised to every member of the
Association. There are many statements in the records that reveal this promise
to the brethren.
The thought of achieving the
unachievable and becoming a part of Masonic history must have been an enormous
motivation to these men and a brief look at the heroism these Freemasons showed
in the months to come and the lists of military decorations awarded for bravery
and valour is an indication, I believe, of the extent of this motivation.
To hold a Masonic meeting
under serious war conditions was difficult to say the least especially as the
terrein was totally unfamiliar, there were basically no facilities and the
conditions in the desert were both unfriendly and savage.
To convene a meeting in due
form required the group to acquire aprons and
gavels. The most likely source for such items was Jerusalem which was in
enemy hands. Apart from the fact
that the intention was to hold the meeting in King Solomon’s Temple itself
posed additional problems in that according to history the temple had been
destroyed in AD70, the Muslim Mosque –the Dome of the Rock—which had been
built on the site was not only in Turkish hands but strictly forbidden firstly
by the military and secondly by the Muslims who had forbidden entry to
Christians and non-Muslims.
Transport itself was at a very
high premium and assuming that all the other insurmountable problems disappeared
like magic, how would it be possible to get to Jerusalem?
Despite the above
difficulties, all of which seemed to need a miracle to be removed, the
glittering goal conceived by Brother Meldrum and Bro McCarroll dominated the
thoughts and minds of all the Freemasons who had joined the Association.
The GAOTU certainly works in
mysterious ways. Despite the rigours and dangers of war in the desert, the
association lost only two members killed in action and as the hostilities
continued, General Allembie eventually reached Jerusalem, walking in to the Holy
City on the 11 December 1917, signaling the end of four centuries of Turkish
rule. (It is perhaps an interesting coincidence to note that the
9 December when the Turkish troops were leaving the city, was the Jewish
Festival of Hanukah, commemorating the deliverance of the city by Judas
Thus one of the major
difficulties facing the NZEF (In Palestine and Egypt) Masonic Association was
removed. Jerusalem was no longer in
The members of the association
were of course scattered all over Palestine, but towards the end of this journey
to Moriah, on the 4th April 1918, one mile from Jericho at 3 p.m. a quick
meeting was held at which a plan was devised to achieve the objective they had
set for themselves 12 months before.
No doubt using the influence
of Brig. General Meldrum and his close friendship with General Shea, the High
Command lent the group seven motors cars. This
influence must have been extraordinary as motor cars were absolutely impossible
to get hold of, transport being of crucial importance to the war effort at this
point in time.
Who was approached and what
was said is not known, but the outcome was the making available to a group of
Freemasons, of the seven available cars. This was indeed a miracle.
They used white handkerchiefs
for aprons. There are indications that a few had actually taken their aprons
with them to war and those who had done so certainly used them.
The gavels to be used at the
meeting have proven to be something of an enigma. The Minutes of the meetings, supported by subsequent reports
written many years later, show that “a set of three gavels was ordered”.
In keeping with the symbolism in which Freemasonry is steeped, the gavels
ordered were to be made from three different woods, each having a symbolic
significance , namely acacia, olive and cedar wood from the forests of Lebanon.
The research undertaken has
revealed that various members of the group sent these gavels back to their
Mother Lodges as important symbols of the only meeting ever held in King
Solomon’s Temple by Freemasons. The
gavels presented in this way were sent to New Zealand lodges and to a Lodge in
Scotland ( Lodge Cadder Argyle No. 147) and I was able to secure photographs of
them as these gavels still exist today and are kept in Lodge museums/archives.
The gavels have been carved
into a traditional legal shape which creates the first puzzle. If the gavels
were ordered on the Thursday and had to be specially carved into a specific
shape out of special woods, is it likely that they would have been available 1
½ days later on the Saturday? Try and get this done in your home town and see
what length of time you are looking at, but here in a war-torn city, freed from
Turkish rule just a few months before and the business sector still in turmoil
and chaos, surely another miracle was needed?
However, the research further
reveals that the souvenir gavels presented to lodges outnumber the number
actually used. I have located four
sets of gavels still in existence, yet according to the available Minutes and
other written records, only one set was ordered.
One is somehow reminded of
Christ’s miracle of feeding the multitude from a handful of fishes and loaves.
One set of unusual gavels that couldn’t be made in time, suddenly becomes four
This is just another one of
the many mysteries we stumbled across on our journey into the past.
A further puzzle was the set
of gavels sent to Lodge Cadder Argyle in Glasgow which lodge still has two of
these gavels in its possession. The puzzle arises from the fact that a set of
three gavels was sent to the lodge by a brother who played no important part in
the Association in Palestine. He did not serve either on the Executive Committee
or as an officer at the meeting held on 6 April 1918. How was it possible for
him to acquire such a rare and important artifact?
The competition for possession
must have been quite fierce to start with and then the brethren who actually
paid for the gavels would presumably have first choice? No doubt the officers
for that meeting would also be given some form of preference.
of Lodge Cadder Argyle’s meeting
on Saturday 18 May 1918 in Glasgow read:
“ The Secretary in a few
words, on behalf of Bro.Cpl. Archibald McDougall who is serving with the New
Zealand Forces in Palestine. The Secretary hands over to the RWM Three beautiful
mallets sent by Bro. Corpl. McDougall from Jerusalem (Holy City).
The Secretary was instructed to write and thank Bro. McDougall for his
To add further mystery to the
situation, Bro. McDougall, according to the Lodge Sederunt Book, last attended a
lodge meeting on 10 march 1906 — 12 years before! Yet here he was, after an
apparent 12 year gap in Masonic interest, making such a magnanimous gesture! In
addition there is no record of him ever attending another meeting of
his Mother lodge even after his “handsome gift”. In fact further knowledge
of this brother’s activities at the conclusion of hostilities is not recorded
King Solomon’s Temple
As the Temple is closely
associated with our story my Israeli Brother and I invested significant time and
effort in analyzing its construction and collecting various artists’
impressions so this section of our book may prove to be very interesting to the
brethren as it is the result of an intensive study of the various temples that
have occupied this site over the centuries.
King Solomon’s Temple stood
at the northern part of Mount Moriah facing east. It towered over its
surroundings—a monument to the constructive genius of man and a witness to the
omnipotence and omnipresence of God.
However, the reality of the
situation was that it had been destroyed in AD 70.
Zerrubbabel thereafter built
his temple on the site which was also basically destroyed and subsequently
rebuilt by Herod which in turn met the same fate.
Over the Byzantine period, it
may seem horrendous but it is a fact of history that the site became a dumping
ground for waste. This waste was cleared by the Caliph Omar who then built upon
it a small mosque. Even today the site is more commonly known as the Mosque of
Omar, when in fact the official title is The Dome of The Rock. (The Mosque of
Omar is an erroneous title)
The Dome of the Rock, which is
the oldest Muslim building which has survived basically intact in its original
form and which after Mecca is the most important Muslim site in the world, was
built by the Caliph Abd al-Malik and completed in 691 AD
Despite the decision having
been made at Thursday’s meeting to make the trip to Jerusalem, permission to
do so was only given on the following evening.
Although the number of
brethren who made this historic journey varies , depending on which report one
reads, I have in my possession a photograph taken outside the Dome of the Rock (
With this building in the background) of 31 soldiers
, so I believe it is safe to conclude that 31 brethren mustered in
Jericho on that Saturday morning to make the 20 mile trip to Jerusalem.
Apart from the Brigade Ford,
six ( in some reports seven) other cars were put at their disposal by General
Chaytor and General Shea.
The group arrived at mid-day
and had lunch at the new Grand Hotel before making their way on foot through the
narrow streets of the old city to the “Mosque of Omar”.
Nowhere in any of the reports,
papers or correspondence related to this event is it mentioned who was sent to
acquire the handkerchiefs or gavels. These could not be procured before the
Saturday morning as permission to actually make the trip had been received only
late on the previous evening. One
wonders what influence was used enabling purchase orders for these items to be
given to the supplier and again the enigma of how it was at all possible comes
to mind once again.
It cannot surely be conceived
that in this ancient city, still suffering severely from the Turkish rule and
the exigencies of war with business in total disarray, one could simply walk
into the nearest hardware shop and buy the specialized gavels off the shelf?
There certainly appears more
to this mystery than is evident from the records and although these records do
not even mention the subject it is of course possible that the gavels were
ordered from a local artisan some weeks before in anticipation of a miracle.
However, sometime between 2
p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday 6 April 1918, the 31 Freemasons, all members of the
New Zealand Expeditionary Force (In Palestine and Egypt) Masonic Association,
assembled outside the Mosque.
The building encloses a huge
rock located at its centre from which, according to tradition, the Prophet
Muhammed ascended to heaven at the end of his Night Journey.
In the Jewish tradition, this
is the Foundation Stone, the symbolic foundation upon which the world was
created and the place of the Binding of Isaac.
al-Malik marked the end of
the construction with a dedicated inscription which is still visible, which
reads “ This dome was built by the servant of God Abd al-Malik Ibn Marwan,
emir of the faithful, in the year seventy-two” - (Hejira 72 in the Muslim
calendar is 691/692 AD).
The Dome of the Rock is not
built on the exact spot where King Solomon’s Temple stood but it does dominate
the overall site. We must bear in mind
that when Solomon built his temple to God on the same site he also built many
other buildings, palaces, accommodation for guests and servants and so forth.
The Mount Moriah site had to be leveled and built up in order to house all the
buildings and the whole site was shored up with enormous supporting walls ( The
well-known King Solomon’s quarries which were the legendary source of the
stone used in the construction of the Temple and which even today are used
periodically as the venue for Masonic meetings—usually of the Mark
Degree—are to be located in the supporting walls about 400 metres from the
Temple site). This huge site is still covered with buildings, the most prominent
being of course the Dome of the Rock.
This awesome site was the
destination of the group of Freemasons on that history-making day nearly 90
What was left of King
Solomon’s Temple that would enable a meeting to be housed therein?... And
assuming such a mythical place did in fact exist, how would it be possible to
gain access to it in view of the fact that the military had issued express
orders that the site was out of bounds and the Muslim authorities strictly
imposed the rule that non-Muslims were forbidden from coming on to the site?
For such a meeting to happen
required the intervention of TGAOTU and amazingly enough, such a miracle was
about to happen.
As they stood in front of that
great citadel, how did Brig. General Meldrum hope to gain entry?
It is assumed that as one of the most senior officers in the forces he
had obtained permission to make the attempt contrary to the general Order
forbidding visits to the site by members of the military, but having reached his
objective, what miracle was he expecting? What miracle would happen to enable
them to gain entry into this holy place?
Yet, a miracle did in fact
There are many important
aspects of the situation which are not mentioned anywhere in the written
records, but the one fact that emerges is that somehow they were given an
audience with the Imam in charge of the Dome itself.
According to one of the
reports this sheik’s “business card” read “ Grand Sheik of the Mosque of
Omar”, which is a somewhat perplexing statement as this holy place was known
to the Muslims as The Dome of the Rock and not as the Mosque of Omar. In
addition any business card or similar document would probably have been printed
in Arabic, so the report in our files probably refers to what the writer
interpreted the wording to mean.
In any event, discussions were
held with this sheik during which “he proved himself to be on the square”.
There is no doubt that the sheik in charge of the Dome was in fact a Freemason
The photograph in my
possession taken of the brethren who participated in the historic meeting,
includes the sheik also– he was the 32nd brother present at the meeting.
In fact, the sheik also acted
as one of the two outer guards/Tylers for the meeting. This of course makes
sense as such a large meeting of non-Muslims held on forbidden ground must have
attracted a great deal of undesirable attention.
General Meldrum mentions that
“baksheesh” changed hands. Although perhaps unMasonic to accept bribes,
perhaps this “baksheesh” was not so much for the sheik himself, but
necessary to keep the “curious”
onlookers at bay hence the obvious appointment
of the sheik as the Tyler.
What, I wonder, were the odds
of finding a Freemason, and a Muslim at that, in charge of the most holy of
Muslim buildings in Palestine and
the very individual who could permit entrance to the holy site?
Even so, he could I believe
have only done so at some risk to himself.
Where to meet?
The huge rock previously
referred to was , according to all traditional accounts, also part of King
Solomon’s Temple, being in the courtyard before the porch. Underneath this
great stone is a cavern which most accounts indicate formed part of the cellars
beneath the temple and if any spot on the entire site could be considered as
part of the temple, this was definitely the place.
With the help of the sheik,
the brethren entered this cavern. The darkness was lit by candles, also
purchased that morning, and a Lodge meeting was held.
It is important to realise
that the Association was not a lodge and consequently the meeting that was held,
although conducted exactly as a Regular lodge meeting, exactly according to
proper ceremony and ritual, was a meeting of what could perhaps be described as
a St John’s Lodge ( A lodge without a charter).
The officers taking part in
the meeting were as follows:
Wor. Master— Wor. Bro. W
Meldrum ( P.M. Lodge Rangatira No. 71)
S.W — Bro. J N McCarroll
(Lodge Star of the North No. 1647
J.W.—Wor. Bro. G R Lovelock
(P.M. Lodge Otangaki No. 70)
S.D.—Bro. B Anderson ( Lodge
Havelock No. 104)
J.D.—Bro. J Thomson ( Lodge
Karioi No. 165)
I.G.—Bro. G R Mansford (
Lodge Wairau No. 42)
Tyler—Bro. C Tate ( Lodge
Sir Donald Mclean No. 1646 E.C.)
- The Sheik of the
Mosque of Omar
Chaplain– Bro. Rev. J D
Wilson (Lodge Oamaru Kilwinning No.
It is emphasized that this
meeting took place in the cavern below the sacrificial rock which formed part of
King Solomon’s Temple.
There have been meetings
before and meetings to be held in the future in the chambers known as King
Solomon’s quarries but these are situated in the supporting wall of the site
and did not form part of the temple complex itself.
Thus these brethren can
rightfully claim to have been the only Freemasons ever to have actually attended
a Masonic meeting held in King Solomon’s
The “lodge” was opened in
the first degree at 3-15 p.m.. 27 craft lodges were represented.
Brig. Meldrum in his capacity
as Worshipful Master remarked upon the uniqueness of the occasion and “ to the
new page added to Masonic history”, stating that the members of the
Association were honoured to be able to meet in harmony and peace on that spot
“adorned and hallowed by the three Ancient Grand Masters”.
The meeting lasted 15 minutes
only as apparently the Sheik had indicated that longer might create problems.
Thereafter the photograph was
taken outside the Mosque to commemorate this historic event.
The Minutes of the Meeting as
recorded by the Secretary together with a copy of the photograph appear in the
appendix to this paper.
In view of the significance of
this event, I and my Masonic brother in Israel, have spent many arduous months
trying to identify those who participated and although of the 31 brethren we
have identified 21, the identity of the Sheik remains a mystery.
We have unearthed newspaper
and magazine reports on the meeting, both in England and New Zealand; we have
enquired into the archives of the National Geographic Society which carried a
report on the meeting in the October 1918 issue of National Geographic; scrutiny
of local newspapers circulating in Jerusalem at that time reveal mention of the
Sheik on several occasions, but nowhere, absolutely nowhere does his name
appear. Correspondence has been
addressed to the current Grand Imam of the Dome of the Rock and to several
historians specializing in this area of study, but despite all our efforts the
Sheik’s identity remains a mystery.
The National Geographic
Magazine—Issue of October 1918
The Temples in Jerusalem—Rev
Centennial Book of Lodge
Ikaroa - 1998
The 50 Year anniversary Book
of Lodge Ikaroa 1948
The Keystone Magazine (NSW)
A Masonic Peregrination–
Rev. J D Maclennan Wilson
Chronicle of the NZEF (In
Palestine & Egypt) Masonic Association ( A transcript of the Minute Book and
Roll of Members).
The NZEF ( In Palestine &
Egypt) MA—Talk presented by VWor. Bro. G H Robertson ( PG Lecturer) - 30 may
1957—talk given to the United Masters Lodge.
A Peculiar Masonic
Event—paper presented by R.Wor. Bro. W N Ingram, Wor. Master of United Masters
Lodge No. 167.
Supplement to the London
Gazette—3 September 1946
Lodge Minutes and records from
many lodges located in New Zealand and Scotland.