Suffolk Freemasons signed the Armed Forces Covenant in October 2022 at their Almoners Conference, which covered various topics under the theme ‘Not Forgetting the Forgotten’.
Through its Grand Almoner Jamie Gwatkin, the Province established a relationship with The Not Forgotten charity in London, which provides support to any serving man or woman who is wounded, injured or sick, and any veteran with a disability, illness, or infirmity, whatever the cause and whenever it arose.
Discussions with the charity Chairman David Cowley identified that they could not hold an event for Suffolk veterans because they were unable to secure an appropriate venue. Various requests were sent out by Freemasons to stately homes in the county and events were arranged at Euston Hall in 2023, and in 2024 at Helmingham Hall and Blenheim Palace.
The idea for the event came during lockdown when the Not Forgotten’s patron Anne, Princess Royal, suggested a drive-in style garden party at Gatcombe Park. It was so successful that the charity wanted to roll out the scheme across the country.
The Military Veterans’ Day in Suffolk was held in September at Euston Hall. Around 220 veterans, helpers and family members attended what was their largest event in 2023. Suffolk Freemasons provided a team of 27 volunteers from Suffolk Provincial Grand Stewards Lodge, Suffolk Group Almoner Team, Suffolk Provincial Executive and Suffolk Masonic military veterans. The invitees enjoyed musical entertainment, plus a hog roast from event caterers the Travelling Pig.
The initiative has gained Suffolk Freemasons recognition within the community and from the military organisations within the region, and given the volunteering team a huge sense of pride that they made a difference to people’s lives.