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WWII The Turbulent Forties

  • February 3, 2020

World War 2 introduced a new chapter to Joppa's history. Thousands of Canadians left their families and homes to fight overseas. 

The Turbulent Forties

World War II brought a whole new episode in the History of Joppa Lodge.

Continental Europe was being exposed to the new Germany’s war machine and the evolution of the Blitzkrieg concept. This would herald another need for Canadians to serve their country and the Commonwealth during this time of crisis. With the rise of Nazi Germany and its Blitzkrieg, Fascist Italy with it’s war maneuvers and Japan’s Pacific aspirations - many members of the Craft answered the call to arms. The early forties saw many of the members of Freemasonry (and Joppa Lodge in particular) answer the call to arms and volunteer their services.

This in turn caused a serious drain on the membership, both on a temporary and permanent basis. Many left never to return, while others moved away - and didn’t return. This exodus not only seriously depleted the ranks of the membership, but also caused untold other hardships for the remaining members . It goes unsaid that many lives were permanently affected in a heartfelt manner.

Now to the continuing saga of this young Masonic Lodge of British Columbia.

Grand Lodge of Freemasonry in British Columbia records indicate the period of 1940 - 1945 was indeed a disturbing time for the Craft. To put this period in perspective the last constituted Lodge in 1940 was Mount Garibaldi No. 127 in Squamish, B.C. and was constituted July 3, 1940.

After the War, the first constituted Lodge was Landmark Lodge No. 128 BCR, Vancouver, B.C. on September 21, 1946.

Freemasonry in B.C. during 1940 - 1946 was a period of total war. The beginning of which coincided with the Grand Lodge of B.C. celebrating it’s 70th Birthday. However, because of the war no celebration was held for this very young Grand Lodge.

The deliberations of Grand Lodge were greatly influenced by the wanton destruction of modern warfare, whereby women, children, the helpless aged were found to be as vulnerable in some instances as were the men of the fighting forces.

Enlistments had been heavy, and Lodge attendance during the war years was reflected by the resulting decline in attendance and the more senior age of the members attending most of the Lodges in British Columbia.

The stewardship of the Lodges had been unavoidably placed in the hands of the elderly Freemasons thrown into the breach to carry on Masonic traditions. These Masonic pioneers were the backbone of the Craft in many jurisdictions. Applicants for Lodge membership were few, and by default the guiding hands of Freemasonry were left to the most senior members of the Craft, willing to accept the challenge.

This return to the past, which was dictated by reasons beyond the control of the Craft, probably led to a resulting situation from which Freemasonry has had a difficult time recovering - if in fact it ever did. This is not to degrade the efforts of the older members, to keep the "ship afloat", had they not assumed the cloak of responsibility and stepped up to the plate - Freemasonry (as we know it) could have floundered in disarray endlessly.

June 19, 1946 an Emergent Communication of Grand Lodge of British Columbia celebrated it’s 75th Anniversary with special attention being paid to the "50 year Brethren" of whom, 41 of the 108 then living members, were present.

In 1946, the end of the wear marked a progressive period of growth and prosperity - not the usual depression and recession for which war’s end was normally noted. In conjunction with the growing economy, the fortunes of Freemasonry enjoyed a revival as well. New members from among the returning veterans brought the newcomer ranks to unthinkable heights and encouraged new members to join. Whether this unexpected growth was too fast and good for the Craft has been questioned by many and remains unanswered.

However, a decline in Freemasonry membership was apparently affected by the rising standard of living. Freemasonry, in looking at itself, realized that new ideas were necessary based on the essentials of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

During the decade 1941 to 1950, membership rolls grew from 13,439 to 18,997 (as at December 31, 1950). The Lodges grew accordingly from 119 to 131 during the same period. In 1943 the lowest number of members since 1923 stood at 13, 305.

This kind of growth brought the natural questions of quantity and quality. It was recognized by many that neither the Lodges, nor the membership had the wherewithal to take in such numbers. It was impossible to provide the proper Masonic instruction due these newcomers. In retrospect it seems this phenomenon was universal in nature - this assumption has been based on the widespread fall in membership, which was not a result of death.

During the War years, the Regular Communications of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia were limited to three main coast cities of Victoria, New Westminster and Vancouver. From 1946 to 1950, following the cessation of hostilities eleven new Lodges were warranted and added to the roll of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia. At the end of 1950 there were 129 Lodges working under charter in the Province, with another five operating UD.