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Amongst the treasures to be found in the masonic museum at the Knole, Bournemouth is a unique founders’ jewel for Hope Royal Arch Chapter which now meets at Horndean.
It is unique because it belonged to a true hero of the First World War, Sergeant Norman Augustus Finch VC. He won his VC during the Battle of Zeebrugge on 22/23 April 1918. Aged 27, he was serving in the Royal Marines Artillery and was second in command of a Lewis gun and pom-poms on HMS Vindictive, which was positioned close to the docks to give covering fire to the troops attacking the port. At one point, the Vindictive was being hit by enemy fire every few seconds, chiefly on the upper works, causing many casualties. However, Sergeant Finch and his marines were able to maintain continuous fire which severely restricted the enemy’s attack on British troops. Unfortunately two heavy artillery shells made
direct hits on his position, completely exposing him to enemy fire. All his immediate comrades were either killed or disabled but Sergeant Finch, despite being severely wounded himself, remained at his post and firing his Lewis gun before another artillery shell finally put it out of action.
Unusually and perhaps unnecessarily, a ballot was held subsequently
amongst the survivors of the Zeebrugge raid and Sergeant Finch was one
of six men selected to receive the Victoria Cross for outstanding gallantry. He was again honoured at the Interment of the Unknown Warrior when he led the procession of almost 100 holders of the VC into Westminster Abbey on 11th November 1920.
Norman Finch retired in 1929 as Quarter Master Sergeant but in 1939 was recalled to service in the RM Training Group until finally retiring in 1945. In 1964 he was made Divisional Sergeant Major of HM Bodyguard of the Yeoman of the Guard. He died at Portsmouth on 15 March 1966 aged 75. As a freemason, he was initiated into Hope Lodge at Cosham in September 1918 and became a founding member and MEZ of Hope Chapter, which was consecrated in May 1921. He was also a founder of Royal Marine Portsmouth Lodge and was WM in 1948.
Spurred on by the 100th Anniversary of the start of the first World War, a party of members, wives and partners from Wessex Lodge visited the WW1 battlefields and cemeteries around Ypres in Belgium. In addition to organising and leading the expedition, the Master Clayton Jones, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable WW1 historian, vividly explained the significance of the various sites and the horror of trench warfare. The highlight of the visit weekend was without doubt the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate, during which the Lodge was privileged to be allowed to lay a wreath in memory of the countless freemasons who made the ultimate sacrifice on the fields of Flanders. This moving ceremony was made all the more poignant by the singing of an Australian school choir, the ages of some of the members being little different to those seen on the graves visited earlier that day.
The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the area surrounding Ypres and whose graves are unknown. Amazingly in the period 1914 to 1918, of the 300,000 soldiers killed, 90,000 have no known graves. In its large Hall of Memory are carved the names of 54,896 soldiers and because, on completion of the memorial, it was discovered that it was too small to contain all the names, the names of 34,984 UK soldiers reported missing presumed dead are inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial instead.
To commemorate the outbreak of the First World War and to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice, the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Dame Mary Fagan unveiled a plaque at Fratton Park in Portsmouth in August. Also in attendance was the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Steven Wylie and the Mayor of Havant, Cllr Marjorie Smallcorn. The Province was represented by Assistant Provincial Grand Master, Mark Mills-Goodlet and Bill Thomas of Cathedral Lodge, Portsmouth.
The plaque commemorates the Pompey Pals who died while fighting for King and Country. During WW1 it is well known that most Northern towns and cities had Pals battalions, however there was also a group from Portsmouth who set up a Pals Battalion and went to France with the 14th and 15th Battalions of the Hampshire Regiment. They recruited their ranks from men entering Frogmore Road on their way to watch Portsmouth Football Club play at their Fratton Road Stadium. Losses were high and 1425 of the Pompey Pals were killed, 644 from the 14th and 781 men from the 15th Battalions, some of whom were Portsmouth area freemasons.
Brian Phillips
Mike Drayton
Photo: Mark Mills-Goodlet, APGM; Dame Mary Fagan, Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire; and Councillor Steven Wylie, Lord Mayor of Portsmouth
Insight • Issue 8 8

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