In one of several events which are coinciding with the Tri-Centennial celebration of the United Grand Lodge of England, Freemasons who received the Victoria Cross will be honored in an upcoming ceremony, conducted by HRH The Duke of Kent in a ceremony this coming April 25.
Of the Victoria Cross recipients (64 total are honored at the new Memorial), 5 hailed from Surrey. Those 5 were among those who were a part of the famous 6 VC’s before breakfast, which occurred in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.
The Victoria Cross is the United Kingdom’s highest military honor, and recognizes “conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy” and can be awarded to anyone serving in the Armed Forces, with no distinction of rank or class”.
The First World War was a monumental turning point for the world, but especially for England, which tested the mettle and courage of the Country’s men in uniform to defeat threats from abroad and occurred at a conspicuous time in English and World history- a point of transition into what we now know as the modern age.
The beginning of the Great War (July 28, 1914 thru November 11, 1918) was commemorated in 2014, and the 100 year observance of the Armistice will occur in 2018.
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“Victoria Cross heroes to be honoured in new Freemasons First World War memorial
One of the men to receive the highest military award for bravery was among the famous ‘six before breakfast’ recipients
Some of Surrey’s most highly decorated First World War heroes are to be honoured in a new memorial.
Five men from the county who were awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest military honour for bravery, are among 64 VC recipients whose names are included in the memorial at the Freemasons’ Hall in London.
All were members of the Freemasons, which commissioned the memorial to mark this year’s 300th anniversary of The United Grand Lodge of England and the centenary of the end of the Great War in 2018.
Commemorative stones bearing their names have been laid outside the hall in Covent Garden. They will be unveiled by the Duke of Kent in a ceremony on Tuesday April 25.
The building itself is one of the largest peace memorials, built in honour of every Freemason who fell during the war.
The VC recognises “conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy” and can be awarded to anyone serving in the Armed Forces, with no distinction of rank or class.
The medals awarded to the 64 Freemasons represent one in 10 of all VCs awarded during the First World War.”
“One of the local men to be honoured is Major Richard Raymond Willis from Woking.
Major Willis was a recipient of one of the famous “six VCs before breakfast” earnt during one morning of fighting in the doomed Gallipoli campaign in 1915.
Born in Woking in 1876, he was educated at Harrow School and the Royal Military College (now the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst).
He was commissioned in 1897, joined the 2nd Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers in India and was posted with them to the Sudan for the Mahdist War.
He was 38 years old and a captain in the 1st Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers when he performed the actions for which he was awarded the VC.
His citation records that, on April 25, Capt Willis was among three companies of the battalion that landed on “W Beach”, a strategically vital site west of Cape Helles in Gallipoli, Turkey.
They were “met by a very deadly fire from hidden machine-guns which caused a large number of casualties”, the citation reads.
“The survivors, however, rushed up and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy.
“After overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained.”
Capt Willis was one of six members of the regiment elected for the VC.
The others were Cuthbert Bromley, John Elisha Grimshaw, William Kenealy, Alfred Joseph Richards and Frank Edward Stubbs.
He later achieved the rank of major before retiring from the army. Major Willis died in Gloucestershire in 1966.
His VC medal is displayed at the Fusilier Museum in Bury, Lancashire.”