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, -
Rising Star of the East True Blues LOL 108A, “On War Service”.
WM: George Thompson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Sec: William Nelson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
This lodge was attached to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and had previously met in Cairo and Dublin.
Ulster Purple Star LOL 833, “On War Service”.
WM: Rev Jas Shaw, The Manse, Presbyterian Church, Quetta, Baluchistan, India.
Sec: Private Norman McGowan, B Company, 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers.
There were Naval Lodges also. In District 72, Plymouth, there is listed, -
Ulster Purple Heroes LOL 842, “With the Fleet”.
WM: F. J. Willmer.
Sec: A. H. Cosway.
In District 94, Devonport, the following lodges are shown, -
Ulster Scot LOL 287, “On War Service with the Fleet”.
WM: Charles Alexander.
Sec: John C Matthews.
Carnarvon LOL 827, “On War Service with the Fleet”.
WM: J A Britten.
Sec: Brother Moorhouse.
This lodge had already existed before the War on HMS Carnarvon.
The Lodge Directory finishes with a list of “Isolated Lodges”, many of which were military, -
Rising Sons of India LOL 703, “Moveable, British Expeditionary Force”.
WM: William Windrum, D Company, 1st Royal Irish Rifles.
Sec: Samuel Mullen, Signallers, 1st Royal Irish Rifles.
(This lodge was in existence before the War, and had been stationed in India and Burma.)
Pride of Armagh LOL 839, “Moveable, British Expeditionary Force”.
WM: Sergeant David Wilson.
Sec: Sergeant G A Williams.
This lodge was in the Royal Irish Rifles.
4thCanadian, East Belfast Volunteers LOL 859, “Moveable, British Expeditionary Force”.
WM: Lieutenant Bennett, Canadian Contingent.
Sec: Private W J Mountain, Canadian Contingent.
This lodge has a surprising name, seeming to be composed of Canadian soldiers, yet also incorporating “East Belfast Volunteers.” There may be a story here that would merit research, or it may be merely a mis-print. The following year the lodge was shown to be in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
“By arrangement” LOL 860, “Moveable, British Expeditionary Force”.
WM: Lieutenant J T O’Neill, Ulster Division.
Sec: Rifleman I Browne, A Company, 8th Battalion, Irish Rs
South Antrim Volunteers, By Arrangement, LOL 863, “Moveable, British Expeditionary Force”.
WM: D H Gourley, Ulster Division.
Sec: Captain A P Jenkins, 11th (S) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.
North Belfast Volunteers, By Arrangement, LOL 864, “Moveable, British Expeditionary Force”.
WM: W J O’Neill, 15th Royal Irish Rifles, Ulster Division.
Sec: Wm Finlay, 15th Royal Irish Rifles, Ulster Division.
Down Volunteers, By Arrangement, LOL 865, “Moveable, British Expeditionary Force”.
WM: Sergeant J W Gordon, 16th Royal Irish Rifles, Ulster Division.
Sec: Sergeant M Cunningham, 16th Royal Irish Rifles, Ulster Division.
At the back of the book is the “Roll of Honour”, described as “Being a list of the members of the Loyal Orange Institution of England, on War Service in the World’s Greatest War.”
There is a note that “Our list is by no means exhausted. Many lodges have failed to send in the names of their members on War Service, and many names have been received too late for publication. A large number of Brethren have joined the Ulster Division, which are not reported here.”
Hearts of Oak LOL 1 (Liverpool)
William Tart, Liverpool “Pals”
Joseph Murphy, Liverpool “Pals”
T Watts, 8th King’s Liverpool Regiment
G Clague, ASC
W Cooke, Ulster Division
E Birkett, Ulster Division
B McDonald, Ulster Division
W Hemphill, Ulster Division
The Rising Sons of William LOL 2 (Liverpool)