64 ‘Brothers in Arms’ to be honoured with new memorial
* All 64 were Freemasons and members of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE)
* Their medals represent one in 10 of all VCs awarded during World War One
* The memorial at Freemasons’ Hall in London will be unveiled by HRH The Duke of Kent as part of UGLE’s Tercentenary celebrations
Tuesday 25 April 2017: The 64 Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) during The Great War1 (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 64 being recognised include:
Arthur Herbert Procter, born Bootle 1890 (died 1973) a Member of Cholmondeley Lodge, Cheshire
He was born in 1890, son of Arthur Richard Procter and his wife Ellen Cumpsty. He was educated at schools in Port Sunlight. Beginning employment at Liverpool Corn Exchange, he was a clerk in the provision trade from 1904 until 1914, when in November he enlisted in the King’s Liverpool Regiment after the outbreak of the First World War. In 1917, Procter married Hilda Codd in Birkenhead. The couple had three sons.
He was 25 years old, and a private in the 1/5th Battalion, the King’s Regiment (Liverpool), British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 4 June 1916 near Ficheux, France, Private Procter noticed some movement on the part of two wounded men who were lying in full view of the enemy about 15 yards in front of the trenches. He at once went out on his own initiative and, although heavily fired at, ran and crawled to the two men, got them under cover of a small bank dressed their wounds and promised that they would be rescued after dark. He left them with warm clothing and then returned to the trenches, again being heavily fired at. The men were rescued at dusk.
Procter was the first British soldier to be decorated with the VC on the battlefield.
After demobilisation in 1918, he returned to the provision trade where he worked as a salesman until 1926, when he took up full-time study for Church of England ministry at St Aidan’s College, Birkenhead.
He was ordained a deacon in 1927 and priest in 1928, while serving a curacy at St Mary’s, Prescot, Lancashire. From 1931 to 1933 he was Vicar of Bosley, and of St Stephen’s, Flowery Field, Hyde, (both then in Cheshire) from 1933 to 1944.
In the Second World War, he served as a chaplain in the Royal Air Force from 1941 to 1946.
After the war, he was successively Rector of St Mary, Droylsden, Manchester, from 1946 to 1951; Vicar of Claybrooke with Wibtoft, Leicestershire from 1951 to 1963, and of Bradworthy, Devon from 1963 to 1964. After retiring from full-time ministry, he lived in the later 1960s at Shrewsbury, Shropshire, where he was chaplain to the town’s British Legion branch and in 1966 he was one of seven winners of the VC who were invited by the Minister of Defence to attend the 50th anniversary Battle of the Somme celebrations in France. He later moved to Sheffield.
He died on 27 January 1973, aged 82, in Sheffield. He was cremated at Sheffield Crematorium in City Road and his ashes buried in All Saints Chapel at Sheffield Cathedral.
Blue Plaques have been erected to him by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council at St Mary’s Church, Droylsden, and St Stephen’s Church, Hyde.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Museum of the King’s Regiment, Liverpool, England.
Wilfred Wood, born Stockport 1897 (died Stockport 1982) a Member of Garrick Lodge , Cheshire
He was only 21 years old, and a private in the 10th Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers, British Army during the First World War when the following deed took place at the battle of Vittorio Veneto for which he was awarded the VC.
For most conspicuous bravery and initiative on 28 October 1918, near Casa Van, Italy, when a unit on the right flank having been held up by hostile machine guns and snipers, Pte. Wood, on his own initiative, worked forward with his Lewis gun, enfiladed the enemy machine-gun nest, and caused 140 enemy to surrender.
The advance was continued till a hidden machine gun opened fire at point blank range. Without a moment’s hesitation Pte. Wood charged the machine gun, firing his Lewis gun from the hip at the same time. He killed the machine-gun crew, and without further orders pushed on and enfiladed a ditch from which three officers and 160 men subsequently surrendered.
The conspicuous valour and initiative of this gallant soldier in the face of intense rifle and machine-gun fire was beyond all praise.
After the war, he returned to his pre-war job on the railways, first as a Fireman, then as an engine driver. He retired in 1960 as a supervisor.
A LNWR Claughton Class locomotive was named after him in 1922. When this type was withdrawn from service, a London, Midland and Scottish Railway Patriot Class steam locomotive was named after him, from which the nameplate resided inside Norbury Primary School in Hazel Grove until it was donated to the Northumberland Fusiliers Museum.
The JD Wetherspoon pub in Hazel Grove, Stockport is named after him.