Birmingham World War One Victoria Cross recipient amongst 63 ‘Brothers in Arms’ to be honoured with new memorial
- All 63 were Freemasons and members of the United Grand Lodge of England(UGLE)
- Their medals represent one in 10 of all VCs awardedduring World War One
- The memorial at Freemasons’ Hall in London will be unveiled by HRH The Duke of Kent as part of UGLE’sTercentenary celebrations
Tuesday 25 April 2017: The 63 Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) during The Great War (WW1) will be honoured with special commemorative stones bearing their names to be laid outside the iconic Freemasons’ Hall building in Covent Garden, London. The building is one of the largest peace memorials of our time and was built in honour of every Freemason who fell in WWI.
The ceremony is not only part of the celebrations to mark this year's 300th anniversary of The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), but also looks ahead to the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 in 2018.
The Victoria Cross is the highest award within the UK honours system that recognises ‘conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy’. It can be awarded to anyone serving with the Armed Forces with no distinction of rank or class, a value shared by Freemasons who come from all backgrounds and walks of life. The 63 being recognised include:
Alfred Wilcox, born Birmingham 1884 (died Birmingham 1954)
Alfred WilcoxUntil 2006, Alfred was the only recipient of the Victoria Cross whose exact resting place was unknown.
He was 33 years old, and a lance-corporal in the 2/4th Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 12 September 1918 near Laventie, France, when his company was held up by enemy machine-gun fire at short range, Lance-Corporal Wilcox rushed to the nearest enemy gun, bombing it and killing the gunner. Being then attacked by an enemy bombing party, the corporal picked up enemy stick bombs and led his company against the next gun, finally capturing and destroying it. Then, left with only one man he continued bombing and captured a third gun. Going up the trench, bombing as he went, he captured a fourth gun and then returned to his platoon.
In 2006 his nephew John Wilcox, who had attended his Uncle's funeral in 1954, helped historian Chris Sutton in locating his grave in Aston Church. A service was held, and a memorial unveiled on 12 September 2006, 88 years to the day after he captured the guns.
During the Tercentenary year, the memorial will act as a further reminder of the founding principles of Freemasonry: Brotherly Love, Truth and Relief - UGLE is one of the largest contributors to charitable causes in the UK after the National Lottery. These principles were demonstrated in great abundance by the 63 'Brothers in Arms', Freemasons from all four corners of the globe.
The Freemasons being recognised represent an astonishing 1 in 10 of all VCs awarded during The Great War, and that figure becomes 1 in 6 when including those awarded to Freemasons who were members of other Grand Lodges globally. Remarkably, these include three of the famous ‘Six VCs Before Breakfast’ awarded to members of the 1st Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers during their capture of ‘W’ Beach at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.
HRH The Duke of Kent, Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, will be officially unveiling the commemorative stones as part of its Tercentenary celebrations, marking the 300-year anniversary of four London lodges coming together to form the first Grand Lodge in 1717.
HRHThe Duke of Kent attended RMA Sandhurst, was commissioned intoThe Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons) and subsequently served in Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Hong Kong. He retired from the Army in 1976 and was promoted to Field Marshall in 1993. He has been a Freemason for 53 years and in June will celebrate his 50th anniversary as Grand Master of UGLE.
The laying of the memorial stones is part of the Victoria Cross commemorative paving stones programme – a nationwide initiative led by the Department of Communities and Local Government in which every one of the VC recipients of the First World War is commemorated. The initiative aims to honour their bravery, provide a lasting legacy of local heroes within communities and to enable residents and visitors to understand how a community contributed to The Great War effort.
Brigadier Willie Shackell, Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, said:
“To be awarded the Victoria Cross is the highest honour for bravery and we are immensely proud and inspired to remember our 63 brethren who exemplify the best in men.
“It is also appropriate that this event is taking place during our Tercentenary year when much of the activity is about highlighting the values of Freemasonry that we all hold dear – fraternity, charity and integrity. Camaraderie, new friendships and support are some of the main reasons people join Freemasonry, and numerous servicemen have been Masons since our founding 300 years ago.”
Peter Norton GC, Chairman of The VC and GC Association, said:
“That so many recipients of the Victoria Cross from the First World War are being honoured today is a remarkable achievement. These men, from all walks of life, were part of an extraordinary group of people recognised for their outstanding bravery. I am proud to represent them."