Date :



The Province of Durham, located in the North East of England has a rich historical connection to the armed forces. Throughout history, the region has played a significant role in various military activities and conflicts. This dates back to the 11th century when Durham Castle was originally built as a stronghold to defend against the Scottish raids and served as a strategic position during periods of regional conflicts. Additionally, the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) has deep roots in the province. The DLI was an infantry regiment with a history spanning some 200 years and its origins can be traced back to the 18th century. The DLI fought with distinction in numerous conflicts including both World War I and World War II and the connection with the County continues today through the Light Infantry. The Armed Forces continues to recruit heavily for all three services from across the County and the Province of Durham has a large number of freemasons who continue to serve or are veterans of the armed forces, within its ranks.

Recognising this the Provincial Grand Master set up an Armed Forces Committee (AFC) to look at ways of fostering this relationship. The AFC developed a strategic framework with specific aims and an initial plan to enable this.

Armed Forces Committee Strategic Aims and Objectives.

During the first year the Province of Durham renewed its commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant and set about engaging with local business forums to encourage other organisations to sign up to the Covenant. In addition, it supported many local events such as Remembrance Parades and fund raisers for various Armed Forces Charities. The AFC has built ties with several Breakfast Clubs and has worked with Poppy Appeal Coordinators across the Province.

Phase two sees the setting up of an Armed Forces Network (AFN) from across the Province of Durham initially focussed on serving and veteran freemasons but likely to expand to include freemasons with a special interest in supporting the Armed Forces. The AFN will aim to build a strong network and be mutually supporting of each other as individuals, of each other’s Lodges and Companion Orders, of the Province as a whole and perhaps most importantly, of the armed forces community.

To launch the Durham AFN, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham hosted the inaugural Armed Forces Network Dinner at Durham Masonic Hall on Thursday 20 Jul 23. The event was well attended by Freemasons from all three services from across the province and Northumberland and was ran along Mess Dinner lines with a Presiding Member, President of the Mess Committee and Mr Vice.  The event was attended by the ProvGM for the Province of Durham, Rt WBro John Paul Thompson, and the Deputy ProvGM VWBro Michael Graham and the honoured guest was WBro Gilbert Thompson, a World War II veteran and a Mason with over 50 years exemplary masonic service.

WBro Thompson, who is 97 years old, served with the 2nd Bn of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry who were part of the 6th Airlanding Brigade of 6th Airborne Division. Members of 2nd Battalion were the first British troops to land on D-Day. They were dropped by Horsa glider in the early hours of the morning to secure road bridges across the River Orne and the Caen Canal. Elements of the Battalion formed a Coup de Main force, tasked with an attack on the bridges over the River Orne and adjacent Canal in Normandy (subsequently known as the attack on Pegasus Bridge).  The Battalion’s involvement in the successful Coup de Main action at Pegasus Bridge, proved one of the most remarkable British Airborne actions during the Second World War. The 2nd Battalion itself would continue to see Airborne action however, serving as part of the 6th Airborne deployment to the Ardennes and the Rhine Crossing in early spring 1945.

At the conclusion of the war Gilbert deployed with the 2nd Battalion to Palestine where he was wounded by gunfire on two separate occasions, remarkably on both occasions he was shot in the same place in the neck. WBro Thompson was honoured as the guest of honour and received a standing ovation from the audience stretching over eight minutes in gratitude and admiration for his service and the sacrifice of so many of his generation. In honour of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country, a moving tribute in the form of an empty table was set for four and placed before the memorial which sits in Durham Masonic Hall.

The air buzzed with friendly chatter and the inevitable military banter, a band played military marches from all three services and a piper filled the air with the stirring sound of the bagpipes.

The Provincial Grand Master, RWBro John Paul Thompson, paid tribute to WBro Gilbert Thompson and all past and present members of the armed forces for their selfless dedication to the service of the country. He also praised the work of the Armed Forces Committee and expanded on the aims of the Armed Forces Network, emphasising that the network was a testament to the strong bond that exists between Freemasonry and the military, and he hoped to see it would grow and flourish in the future.

The inaugural Armed Forces Network Dinner was a resounding success and a memorable occasion for all who attended. It showcased the diversity and camaraderie of Freemasonry in Durham, as well as its commitment to honouring its heroes and serving its community.

The Armed Forces Committee are now looking at future events to foster that esprit to corps within the AFN which was so in evidence at the dinner, and which is so synonymous with both the armed forces and freemasonry. Future events under consideration include a trip to the National Arboretum, a sponsored walk to raise for funds for Durham benevolence to support Armed Forces charities, a Battlefield tour to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings and a Christmas Ball to enjoy with partners and guests. Concurrently the AFC continues to look for opportunities to support the armed forces community within the Province of Durham.

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Armed Forces Network, please get in touch with the Secretary of the Armed Forces Committee, WBro Mark Arram BEM

Stronger Together

<< Back to search results

Date :

Durham Freemasons support wounded Veterans

The Armed Forces Network (AFN) coupled with our membership team and the Teddies (TLC) team spent the day at the Croft racing circuit in Darlington in August to support Mission Sport, providing valuable volunteering time and using the opportunity to highlight our organisation.

Mission Sport was launched at Thruxton Motor Circuit on 1st March 2012 in order to help those affected by military operations by engagement through sport, the charity recognised from the outset the astonishing inspirational and healing potential of sport.  Motorsport is unique in that the disabled compete against the able bodied on a level playing field – there is no separate category for disability.  Engineering allows us to adapt the vehicle, not the sport, and that leveller is a strong draw that the charity harnesses to help those who may be hard to reach – connecting them with excellent opportunities for second careers, beyond the military.

ProvGM John Thompson and our Armed Forces Committee chairman Richard Tucker met up with their CEO James Cameron to discuss how Freemasons here in Durham can support future events.

James having served 17 years in the Royal Tank Regiment, he returned from his last tour of Afghanistan in 2011 determined to help those whose lives he had seen impacted by military service. A Grade A race instructor, his enthusiasm and vision – to harness the power of sport for the wider good – drives the organisation to this day. His determination to put duty of care for those in need first, sets the tone for everything that the charity does. He embodies Post Traumatic Growth and works hard to promote the same in others.

The weather was kind on the day and many veterans and their family members took to the track and were driven at high speed by expert racing drivers in a range of high performance cars
John thanked everyone for giving their time to support such a wonderful organisation and to those veterans who have given so much for their country.

Stronger Together

<< Back to search results

Date :

Armed Forces Inaugural Dinner

At Durham Masonic Hall we celebrated the start of something special in the Masonic Province of Durham, with the founding of the Armed Forces Network with a full blown mess dinner.

AFC chairman Richard H Tucker MBE, along with the President for the evening John Henry, Vice President Paul Fryer along with Richard Vipond, Frank White, Mark Aram and Lee Whitworth came together to put on a wonderful military dinner experience to bring together the veterans and those who serve in our province.

The team were also joined by members from our neighbouring Province representatives of their “Northumberland Armed Forces Lodge”

The  honoured guest for the evening was 97 year old Gilbert Thompson a veteran of the Airborne Regiment who was twice shot and who flew gliders landing in occupied territory.

The room remembered absent friends  with the silhouette of fallen comrades sitting at their table .

The room was buzzing with friendly military banter between the services and with the accompanying music from the “Prize Winning” Cockerton Brass Band , lee Whitworth and the amazing piper, the atmosphere is fantastic.

In his speech our Provincial Grand Master John Thompson thanked the team for an exceptional evening and for the work the AFC had completed in a busy 12 months and for now launching the Network, he hopes those attending will see what the group are accomplishing and hopefully will be willing to join in. It’s important as an organisation that Freemasons support our armed forces both serving and our veterans.

If you want to support our armoured forces network please contact the secretary Mark Aram:

Stronger Together

<< Back to search results

Date :

Armed Forces Covenant

Armed Forces Covenant

Signing the Armed Forces Covenant

In October 2021 The Masonic Province of Durham along with the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) signed the Armed Forces Covenant. The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise from the nation that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly.  The covenant is a national responsibility involving government, businesses, local authorities, charities and the public.

The UGLE signing of the partnership took place during a ceremony at Freemasons’ Hall led by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Kent at Freemasons Hall.

Since signing the Armed Forces Covenant, UGLE has demonstrated its support to members through education, family wellbeing, finding a home, starting a new career, access to healthcare, financial assistance and discounted services.

“It is my great pleasure to sign the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the United Grand Lodge of England. 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.”

The Duke of Kent

UGLE has a strong Armed Forces background through its military Lodges and the partnership represents an important step in further supporting both active and retired military personnel.

The UK government’s Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) recognises UGLE as delivering tangible support for the Armed Forces community since signing the Armed Forces Covenant.

Here in the Province of Durham we are proud to work alongside our Armed Forces and Veterans and look forward to supporting them in the future.

For more information on our activities or to enquire about signing the Covenant please contact our Armed Forces Committee by emailing

<< Back to search results