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A Day of Charity, Camaraderie, and Inspiration

Natasha Ward of the Masonic Charitable Foundation with Essex Freemasons


On Saturday, 16th March 2024, more than 100 members and guests travelled from all over Essex and beyond to the St Giles Masonic Centre in Colchester for a meeting of the Richard Clowes Lodge. After the Lodge meeting, guest speaker Natasha Ward gave the non-members an insider's view of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, where she has worked for nearly 20 years, explaining how Freemasonry's national charity has made a difference to so many lives.  

Over £12.8 million in 2023 was given to help give relief with a range of support for the education of children, access to medical treatment, financial support to families and the provision of a range of care options for the elderly. In addition, local and national charities receive, on average, £5.5 million each year. 

Natasha said:

"One of the things that I find even more amazing about this support is that the work is entirely funded through the generous donations of Freemasons, their families and friends."

Everyone then listened to a talk entitled ''For Valour - The Story of the Victoria Cross'' given by Mark Smith, the BBC's Antiques Roadshow's Arms and Militaria specialist and an Essex Assistant Provincial Grand Master. Mark, a former curator of the Royal Artillery Museum, started collecting medals when he was six years old. In his superb presentation about the history of the Victoria Cross, Mark dispelled many myths and vividly described the heroic deeds and actions of some of the recipients.

Listening in the Junior Warden's Chair was serving Warrant Officer Class 2, Johnson Beharry VC, the next Master of Richard Clowes Lodge.

Twenty years ago, in May and June 2004, as the driver of a Warrior tracked armoured vehicle in the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, Johnson carried out two acts of outstanding heroism, which saved the lives of thirty of his companions. As the V.C. is the highest award in the British honours system, its award takes precedence at investitures even before knighthoods, so in 2005, Johnson received his V.C. before General Mike Jackson received his knighthood and became the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross for nearly 40 years.

Mark Smith and Johnson Beharry VC in a Freemasons Lodge wearing regalia


Among the guests, a warm welcome was given to Jeremy Forrester, who recruited Johnson when he walked into an Army Careers Recruiting Office in 2001. Both are from Grenada and have become close friends. Jeremy is considering joining Freemasonry, and so came with Johnson to find out more about the Lodge, which he knows will soon have a Master who can lead and inspire as well as make sure everyone fully enjoys his year in the Chair.

Jeremy will also be joining a continuing flow of new candidates coming into Freemasonry, finding friendship, sharing in its traditions and history, and serving the community. There are many serving and former members of H.M. Armed Forces in Essex Freemasonry, and the Provincial Communications Team is in the process of making a short video specifically aimed at veterans. The filming will be at Rochford Masonic Hall.

Over £1,040 was raised for charitable causes at the meeting and the lunch afterwards. 

The Lodge Treasurer and Provincial Grand Almoner for Essex Freemasons, Gary Hostler said: 

"It is a magnificent sum of money. Thank you to everyone who donated and also Natasha Ward and Mark Smith for their outstanding presentations.

We all feel highly honoured as we look forward to Johnson Beharry VC being our next Worshipful Master. He is such a kind person who never stops thinking about how he can help other people. It makes us all proud not only to be Freemasons but also as members of the Province of Essex as it prepares for its 250th Anniversary in 2026."

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