The Orange Order in World War I In 1914, the Grand Lodge of England annual sessions took place in early July. That would have been a few days after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28th June. The United Kingdom did not enter the War until 4th August 1914.
By the time the Grand Lodge met again, on 7th and 8th July 1915, at the Grand Hotel in Bristol, the War had been in progress for almost a year.
The Grand Lodge Report describes how the meeting was opened with a hymn specially written for the Men at the Front, to the tune of “Melita”, “Eternal Father, strong to save”.
In the Grand Secretary’s Report, RW Bro Louis A Ewart wrote, “Our ranks have been depleted owing to the large number of brethren on war service, and we have endeavoured to keep all lodges going, to prevent the warrants being returned as dormant.” He also reported that, I organised the officers and men of the Canadian Contingent into a large lodge on Salisbury Plain and I had the privilege of receiving several Indian Orangemen. These brave men hold their lodge meetings under our Warrants today in Flanders.
I have been asked to meet the 9th Canadian Rifles on their arrival in England and form them into a lodge under the temporary authority of the Grand Lodge of England. Monsieur L Valat, Secretary of the Belgian Bible Society, has joined the Order with a view to opening Orange Lodges in Belgium and Holland.
I have arranged to form a lodge in Togo Land, that part of the world which, until recently, was known as the German Protectorate, West Africa; but now, Germany having been driven out and the British flag planted, it is known as British West Africa. Our lodge will be opened at Lome on the Gold Coast. It is extraordinary that, immediately the British flag is unfurled on the Slave Coast, the natives should ask for a Warrant from the Orange Institution. This Grand Lodge wishes them God speed and every success.
In “Correspondence”, Louis Ewart said, -
Our Military Lodges in India, Arabia, and other parts have been in the fighting line since the commencement of the war, as also our many lodges on British battleships; but, alas, we have to record that many “nobly fighting, nobly fell.” Other foreign lodges are doing splendidly.
In the section “Literature” he said, -
I was anxious that the Institution should do something for the brave fellows who were going out to fight for the Motherland. People were sending cigarettes and various comforts for the soldiers; what could we do ? Nothing could be done without funds. As we are a religious Institution, it was thought best to send that which would exalt our principles, and the Christ who died to cleanse men from sin, so we made an appeal and sent out the Word of God. Over eleven hundredweight of scriptures have been sent to the troops. We are very grateful to the Trinitarian Bible Society and the Calvinistic Protestant Union for free grants.
In the section “The War”, Ewart said, -
Many of our members have distinguished themselves on the field of battle. Bro Private Abraham Acton of Whitehaven has won the Victoria Cross, and Bro Sergeant J H Raynor of Oldham has won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. All honour to them and those heroes who are fighting so valiantly at the front !
(It was announced at the meeting that Bro Acton, VC, has been killed in action.)
Woolwich District No 64 had traditionally been the home of overseas and military lodges. In the Grand Lodge Report for 1915 the following lodges are shown under Woolwich District, -