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The War Years

THE WAR YEARS (1939-1945)


Following the outbreak of War on 3rd. September 1939, Grand Lodge decided to suspend all Masonic meetings, and in consequence the October meeting of Chatterton Lodge was cancelled. Towards the end of the month however, after due deliberation, the following directive was received from Grand Lodge.


“No one can lose sight of the fact that Freemasonry enters into the lives of so many that the interruption of meetings would not only cause personal hardship, but a loss of inspiration to a considerable part of our nation. Indeed, it is particularly in times of national emergency and stress that we most appreciate the opportunities which Freemasonry affords for the fraternal gatherings and companionship from which we derive so much of our moral support and comfort.”


It went on to recommend that:-


“Meetings should not be transferred to Sundays. Morning Dress or Uniform should be accepted to replace the usual Evening Dress at Lodge meetings. Meetings should be arranged to commence earlier in the day than hitherto with brief and simple after-meetings.”


In cases where difficulties arose as a direct consequence of war service, Lodges were authorised to excuse payment of subscriptions.


In consequence of the directive Chatterton Lodge resumed meetings in November 1939 and continued on the normal meeting night until June 1940, but commencing at 6.00pm instead of the then normal 7.15pm.


It was decided in June that in order to allow more time and in anticipation of possible enemy action, future meetings should be held on Saturday afternoons.


To add to the difficulties caused by the loss of numbers due to the call up for military service of members of the Lodge, the Lodge was saddened in the early months of 1940 by the deaths of two more of its Founders in the persons of W.Bro.J.B.Burnell, the first Master of the Lodge and W.Bro. B.C.Eveleigh, who had been the Lodge Treasurer since its consecration. Both of these distinguished Brethren had contributed so much to the launching of Chatterton Lodge and the progress it had made.


On Sunday 24th. November the Luftwaffe carried out an air raid on the centre of Bristol, during which Freemasons Hall was reduced to a smouldering ruin, a disaster which shook the Province to its very roots.


All meetings had to be suspended immediately, until, in true Masonic spirit, the Brethren of Downend came to the rescue with an offer to use their Hall and facilities until other arrangements could be made. Chatterton Lodge met their in May, June, July and August of 1941. (It is recorded that in 1983 Chatterton Lodge still had a member who had been initiated at the Downend Masonic Lodge. Ed.).


If members of Chatterton Lodge ever visit the Downend Masonic Hall they can see a suitably worded Commemoration Board in the assembly area acknowledging our use of the facilities during that most difficult period.

(A special demonstration of the Bristol working was carried out at the Downend Masonic Hall on 26th November 2007 to commemorate their kindness in accommodating Bristol Lodges during the War years and our then current Master. W.Bro.Beresford Parker took the Office of Junior Warden - Ed).


During the time at Downend alternative accommodation was being actively sought and, on 23rd. April 1942, Chatterton Lodge held its first meeting at the Constitutional Club in St. Stephen’s Street, Bristol. Although lacking in facilities it was to be the home of Bristol Masons for the next five years.


In addition to the many problems resulting from war conditions the Lodge suffered a series of unforeseen difficulties over the next few years.


At the September 1942 meeting, after referring to the death on active service of the M.W. the Grand Master, H.R.H. The Duke of Kent, the Lodge was informed of the death of the Worshipfull Master, Bro. Charles Read, another founder member of the Lodge.


In November 1943, it was necessary to summon an Emergency meeting of the Lodge (held by special Dispensation), for the purpose of electing a Master for the ensuing year, the Master Elect, Bro. A.E.Salmon having died suddenly since his election at the previous meeting.


The Senior Warden was leaving Bristol and unable to step up so it was decided to elect W.Bro. L.W.Burnett, a Past Master of Canynges Lodge, a Founder Member of Chatterton and Director of Ceremonies since its inception.


In March 1944 another Founder Member, W.Bro. R.E.Green died. W.Bro. Green had been Master of the Lodge in 1940, and has resumed the Chair on a number of occasions the following year during the illness and subsequent death of W.Bro. Read.


Following W.Bro. Burnett’s year in the Chair it was confidently anticipated that he would resume his duties as Director of Ceremonies. Unfortunately in April 1945 he was knocked down by a bus, sustaining injuries from which he died. So passed tragically another Founder and Pillar of the Lodge.


During the War, a special prayer for our Brethren in the Forces was offered at every meeting of the Lodge, and any Brother on leave and able to attend was given a most cordial welcome and shared with the Brethren such modest hospitality as the stringent prevailing conditions would allow.


At the end of the war in 1945, Chatterton Lodge was able to rejoice in the safe return of all its serving Brethren and it was with the sincerest feelings of relief and gratitude that the Lodge supported a special Provincial Service of Thanksgiving held in Bristol Cathedral on 13th October of that year.