The Freemasons have signed the Armed Forces Covenant during a ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden on 20 October led by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent.
The partnership aims to support members of the Armed Forces community and ensure they have the same access to government as well as commercial services and products as any other citizen.
By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) will be able to demonstrate its support to members of the Armed Forces in a number of areas, including education, family wellbeing, getting a home, starting a new career, access to healthcare, financial assistance and discounted services.
UGLE has a strong Armed Forces background through its military Lodges. This partnership therefore represents an important step in further supporting both active and retired military personnel. Important Armed Forces personnel such as Admiral Sir Peter Parker, Francis Rawden-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, General Viscount Kitchener of Khartoum, Lieutenant Elias Henry Jones, Marshal of the Royal Air Force Cyril Louis Norton Newall, Commodore Wilfred Henderson and Thomas William Gould VC were all well-known Freemasons.
UGLE's Grand Master, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, has a longstanding relationship with the military. In 1955, The Duke of Kent graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as a Second Lieutenant. That was only the beginning of a military career that lasted more than 20 years.
He was promoted to Captain in 1961 and after having served in Hong Kong, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent was promoted again to Major in 1967. Three years later, he commanded a squadron of his regiment serving in the British Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus. In 1970, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, also served in Northern Ireland, before being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 30 June 1973.
The Duke retired from active service on 15 April 1976. He was subsequently promoted to Major General on 11 June 1983 and to Field Marshal on 11 June 1993.
His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent, said: “It is my great pleasure to sign the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the United Grand Lodge of England. This document represents part of our ongoing commitment to support active and retired military personnel. We are proud of our long-standing relationship with the Armed Forces and we will continue to promote their welfare, support, and respect amongst all our members.”
By signing the Armed Forces Covenant, UGLE demonstrates its intention to support the Armed Forces community which, in turn, allows UGLE to be recognised by the UK government’s Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS). An ERS award shows that the recipient is delivering tangible support for the Armed Forces community.
Major General Simon Graham, Director Reserves Army, signing of behalf of the Military of Defence, said: “The Armed Forces Covenant is a commitment to support those who have served and their families. The support of employers and making a public pledge of support to the Armed Forces community that they are valued by society is vital. This year we celebrate the Armed Forces Covenant's 10th anniversary, and for centuries the United Grand Lodge of England has a solid connection to the Armed Forces, and it makes perfect sense for us to have the Freemasons signing up to Armed Forces Covenant this year. I'd like to thank the United Grand Lodge of England for supporting the Armed Forces community.”
Dr David Staples, UGLE's Chief Executive, said: “It is a great honour to be able to sign the Armed Forces Covenant. From its earliest foundations, Freemasonry has always had a strong relationship with the Armed Forces. Today, we want to thank those brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our country and the people who live here. They deserve all our thanks, our respect and this is one of many steps we aim to take in helping both active and retired members of the Armed Forces and their families.”
On the same day that the UGLE signed the covenant at Freemasons’ Hall, heads of Freemasonry in the Isle of Man, Cheshire, East Lancashire, West Lancashire and North Wales also made their commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant. This is in addition to Staffordshire and Yorkshire North and East Riding regions. In total 24 Provinces have either signed or will sign the Covenant. The Masonic Charitable Foundation and the RMBI will also sign the covenant in December 2021 at their AGM.