'The insidious effect of Freemasonry among the police has to be experienced to be believed.'
With these words, David Thomas, a former head of Monmouthshire CID, created a storm of protest in 1969 and reopened a debate that had started nearly a century before, when a conspiracy involving masonic police and masonic criminals brought about the destruction of the original Detective Department in Scotland Yard.
Since then allegations of masonic corruption within the police have been rife. The Jack the Ripper murders in the East End of London in 1888 were perpetrated according to masonic ritual and a subsequent police cover-up was led by the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, both Freemasons.
There have been allegations of charges being dropped against criminal Masons by police Masons; of unfair promotions on the basis of masonic membership and not merit; of non-Masons being hounded out of the service; of livelihoods ruined; of blackmail and violence; of discipline eroded by a system in which a Chief Superintendent, Commander or even on occasion an Assistant Chief Constable or Chief Constable can be made to kneel in submission before one of his own constables; and, in recent times, of robbery and murder planned between police and criminals at Lodge meetings.
It is almost certainly true that the corruption which led to Operation Countryman, the biggest investigation of police malpractice ever mounted in Britain, would never have arisen had a masonic City of London Police commissioner in the 1970s not turned a blind eye to the activities of several desperately corrupt Freemasons under his command.
And in the purges that took place at New Scotland Yard in the early 1970s, masonic police up to the rank of Commander were found to be involved in corrupt dealings with masonic criminals.
The debate about Freemasonry in the police began in 1877 with the sensational discovery that virtually every member of the Detective Department at Scotland Yard, up to and including the second-in-command, was in the pay of a gang of vicious swindlers. The corruption had started in 1872 when Inspector John Meiklejohn, a Freemason, was introduced at a Lodge meeting in Islington to a criminal called William Kurr. Kurr had then been a Freemason for some years. One night at the Angel, Islington, the two masonic brothers exchanged intimacies. Kurr was operating a bogus 'betting agency' swindle and was sorely in need of an accomplice within the force to warn him as and when the Detective Department had sufficient information against him to move in. Meiklejohn agreed to accept £100, nearly half his annual salary, to supply information.
The Detective Department at Scotland Yard had been set up in 1842. In the 1870s there were only fifteen detectives to cover the entire capital. These were under the command of the legendary Superintendent Frederick Williamson, described by one writer as a man of 'the strictest probity, and of great experience and shrewdness'. Under Williamson, the most senior detectives in London
were Chief Inspector George Clarke, Chief Inspector William Palmer and Chief Detective Inspector Nathaniel Druscovitch - all Freemasons.
The criminal partnership of Inspector Meiklejohn, who, interestingly, was 'Countryman' in various coded messages which passed between the criminals, and William Kurr continued. Eventually Kurr teamed up with Harry Benson, a psychopathic confidence trickster who had scarred and crippled himself for life by setting himself on fire in his bed at Newgate Prison. One by one, Meiklejohn corrupted nearly all the junior officers in the Detective Department, and introduced several of his most senior masonic colleagues in the department to Benson and Kurr, and they too began to accept bribes for information and services rendered.
The enterprises of Kurr and Benson came to the attention of Superintendent Williamson after they had successfully swindled the Comtesse de Goncourt of £10,000. Williamson placed the enquiry in the hands of one of his most respected men, Chief Detective Inspector Nathaniel Druscovitch. But Druscovitch was one of those who had allowed himself to be tempted into the masonic-criminal circle, and was in the pay of the very men he was now detailed to investigate. Clarke, the sixty-year-old senior officer of the department; Palmer; and a masonic solicitor named Edward Frogatt were all drawn into the conspiracy. From there the corruption spread, its full extent lost in the tangled web of deceit woven by those involved. When the men were eventually brought to justice, the Detective Department lay in ruins and the following year, 1878, saw the complete reorganization of plain clothes investigation in the Metropolitan Police with the setting up of the modern Criminal Investigation Department.
By coincidence, it was exactly one hundred years after the arrest of Meiklejohn and his brethren in July 1877 that Scotland Yard detectives were again in the dock on serious corruption charges, when once again an Old Bailey jury heard of collusion between detectives and criminals who belonged to the same masonic Lodges.
But before going on to see how history repeated itself at the Yard (see Chapter 8, below) and the startling events that affected the unique City of London Police, taking it into its darkest period, it is important to take a look at certain episodes in the years between the imprisonment of Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Meiklejohn (Freemason) in 1877 and the imprisonment of Scotland Yard Detective Chief Superintendent Moody (Freemason) in 1977.
In my book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution I demonstrate how the murders of five prostitutes in the East End of London in the late summer and autumn of 1888 were perpetrated not by one person working alone but by three men operating together for a specific purpose. Four of the five women - the man in charge of the operation had been deliberately misled about the identity of the fourth victim - shared, it was later revealed by one of the killers, a dangerous secret. They had to be silenced.
It was a period when England was perilously unstable. Many believed that revolution was just beyond the horizon. The prostitutes had learned first-hand of a secret the most potent forces in the British government had been striving to maintain for nearly four years. The Prime Minister himself believed that if the secret got out, the throne itself would be in peril. In an age of fierce anti-Catholic feeling, Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, grandson of Queen Victoria and Heir Presumptive to the throne, had illegally married and fathered a child by a Roman Catholic commoner.
In the early part of the operation, the wife of the Prince had been bundled off to a lunatic asylum by no less a personage than Sir William Gull, Physician in Ordinary to the Queen. All this, I hasten to add, without the Queen's knowledge. When it was realized that others had to be silenced, Prime Minister Lord Salisbury turned again to Gull, never imagining that the good doctor, who was more than a little unstable, would go to the lengths he did. Gull was a Freemason. He decided that the penal oaths he had taken as a Freemason were more than mere symbolism. Gull concluded that the only safe way to silence the women was to eliminate them. And the proper way to execute them was as traitors to the nation, in which, according to one masonic writer of the period, 'true Freemasonry is about to be more powerful than Royalty'. In other words, they would be mutilated according to the penalties laid out in masonic ritual. That his intention was carried to its conclusion is borne out by the ritualized and specifically masonic nature of the injuries inflicted on the Ripper victims. Contemporary descriptions of the mutilations contained in The Times and the secret Home Office file on the case, to which I had full access during my investigations, compare with the mimed murders in masonic rituals and with an illustration by Hogarth of an actual masonic murder, showing startling parallels.
The importance of the Ripper murders was not so much in the individual tragedies of the five women who died at the hands of a demented Freemason and his two toadies, although those were disturbing enough, but in the national tragedy of what followed: an official cover-up of immense proportions that confirmed that Freemasonry really was the unseen power behind the throne and government alike.
The man actively responsible for concealing the truth behind the Ripper murders was Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and one of the country's most eminent Freemasons. Warren impeded the investigation of the murders at every turn, caused endless confusion and delays, and personally destroyed the only clue the Ripper ever left. This was a scrawled chalk message on a wall inside a tenement block near the site of the fourth murder. Beneath the message was a blood-soaked piece of cloth which Jack the Ripper had recently cut from the apron of his latest victim. The message itself, according to a careful copy made by a conscientious PC who was at the scene early - which had been concealed in the Scotland Yard files on the case for nearly ninety years before I gained access to them - read:
The Juwes are The Men That will not be blamed for nothing
The moment he was told of this, Warren, who had not previously ventured near the East End, rushed to the place before the message could be photographed and washed it away. This has never been explained. The truth was that Warren, who had been exalted to the Royal Arch in 1861, had realized that the writing on the wall was a masonic message.
Much of masonic ritual centres on murder. At the 3rd Degree, the victim is Hiram Abiff, mythical architect in charge of the building of Solomon's temple. The ceremony involves the mimed murder of Hiram by three Apprentice Masons, and his subsequent resurrection. The three Apprentices are named Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum -known collectively as the Juwes. In masonic lore, the Juwes are hunted down and executed, 'by the breast being torn open and the heart and vitals taken out and thrown over the left shoulder', which closely parallels the details of Jack the Ripper's modus operandi.
Warren, a founder of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Masonic Research and by the time of the Ripper murders a Past Grand Sojourner of the Supreme Grand Chapter, knew only too well that the writing on the wall was telling the world, 'The Freemasons are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.'
The City of London Police is unique. Descended from the Watch and Ward which manned the City's walls in case of attack in the thirteenth century, the force belongs to the City and is financed largely by the City. It is controlled by a Commissioner who is equal in rank and standing with the Commissioner of the thirty-times-bigger Metropolitan Police. The Commissioner of the City of London Police is appointed by the Court of Common Council of the City Corporation and he and his force are overseen by a police committee of selected Common Councilmen (elected councillors) and Aldermen. The City of London is steeped in tradition, and it is possibly the ever-present awareness of ancient customs, of the perpetual intrusion by the past into the present, that explains why Freemasonry has been so prevalent among officers in the City of London Police.
Cecil Rolph Hewitt, criminologist, author, journalist and Vice-President of the Howard League for Penal Reform, joined the City of London Police in 1921. Writing as C. H. Rolph in the weekly news magazine Police Review in September 1981, he said:
I saw enough chicanery and favouritism fostering Freemasonry in the police service to satisfy me that it ought to be barred. It wasn't so much that the Masons got actual preferment (though I'm sure some of them did); they believed they would, and the belief devalued their characters in a way that was as odd as it was disturbing.
Hewitt told me later, ‘I was instructing City of London Police recruits from 1931 to about 1940, holding during that time the dizzily rising ranks of Sub-Inspector, Inspector and Chief Inspector. We had a school room at Snow Hill police station, opposite Holborn Viaduct railway terminus. I had to teach them rudimentary criminal law, police practice, and, I suppose, some kind of social ethics - of the kind now greeted as innovatory in the Scarman Report. The recruits often seemed to believe that if in due course they could join a Lodge their careers would be assured. I sometimes found it difficult to disabuse them, and the result was that when their time came to study for promotion, which involves a lot of hard work and is specially hard, in my opinion, on the relatively unlettered types who usually join the police, they just didn't work hard enough and they failed their exams time after time. These pre-conceived notions about the value of Freemasonry as a means to advancement had been inherited, as a rule, from parents or uncles, often policemen themselves.'
Hewitt left the City Police in 1946 and joined the New Statesman as a staff writer the following year. He was the editor of the Society of Authors' journal The Author for four years and between 1947 and 1978 produced nineteen books, mostly on the police, law and crime. The evidence of one of his contemporaries in the City of London Police is particularly valuable in building up a picture of the degree to which the high incidence of Masonry within the force influenced it between the 1920s and the late 1950s. Gilbert Stone, who joined the force in 1927, was a much-respected officer. Although a non-Mason, he is not anti-Mason, and gave a considered and self-evidently balanced account.
‘I retired from the City Police early in 1959 as a 1st Class Superintendent,"* he told me. ‘I served under two Commissioners, Sir Hugh Turnbull and Sir Arthur Young, and I am sure that neither of them were Masons. The Assistant '
*This rank has since been upgraded to Chief Superintendent.
Commissioner in my early days was, I am pretty certain, a Mason. Quite a number of senior officers were Masons and some were not.
'I would imagine that there was a greater proportion of CID officers of all ranks in Masonry than uniformed officers, and I got the general impression without any evidence to substantiate it that Masons had a better chance of getting into the CID than non-Masons. I must say, however, that in my early days or years in the force in the late twenties I did for about a year or so work in the CID at my Divisional Station, doing clerical and admin work, and on several occasions I was invited by several CID men, including a Detective Inspector and several Detective Sergeants who were Masons, to enter the CID, which invitations I always declined. I mention this to show that the CID was not the exclusive preserve of the Masons, but I must add that I often wondered whether, if I did accept the invitations and enter the CID, I would then have been invited to become a Mason.
'A lot of constables were in Masonry, although I would not like to hazard a guess on what proportion. Some belonged when they joined the force. I think it reasonable to assume that quite a lot of them were, or became, Masons because it would confer some advantages, whether by giving them an easier "ride" in the force, or because they thought it would help them with promotion, or perhaps both.
'There is only one case, as far as I can recollect, where a Mason did reap an advantage by being one. He was a man who occasionally got drunk and in that condition often turned violent and assaulted people, including senior officers. On more than one occasion his conduct resulted in a disciplinary charge against him, and on each occasion he virtually got away with it. A small fine, 19s 6d if I remember aright, was imposed and that was that. Often he was not charged. The general view of his colleagues, which included me, was that had he not been a Mason he would have been sacked long ago.
'On one occasion a colleague invited me to think about becoming a Mason and said that if I was interested he would be pleased to propose me, but, as you can gather, I was not interested, and no pressure was brought to bear on me.
'I personally was not affected, so far as I am aware, by not being a Mason. I met and served with some Masons who were delightful colleagues and real gentlemen. I met some Masons who were quite the opposite. And that applies equally to colleagues who were not Masons.'
Ex-Superintendent Stone introduced me to Albert Treves, 'an old colleague and friend who retired as an Inspector in the City, who was a very active Mason and was also a very charming and gentlemanly person'.
Treves told me that during his fifty years' service in and with the police, the subject of Masonry was seldom if ever mentioned to him, and to his knowledge had no influence in any way. His impression was that it was a private matter that concerned only members of the Brotherhood.
I have spoken to nearly seventy former and currently serving officers of the City force, about a third of them Masons. There can be no doubt that whatever part Freemasonry played in the distant past, by the late 1960s it was very hard for non-Masons to obtain promotion above Superintendent in the uniformed branch, and above Sergeant in the CID - even under the non-masonic Commissioner Sir Arthur Young. A masonic sub-structure had grown up, which enabled Freemasons in every department and every division to come together in secret and influence decisions in the force to a remarkable degree. But more of that later.
David Gillespie (a pseudonym) joined Essex Police in 1937 as a PC and retired as Acting Detective Chief Inspector of the same force in 1963. According to several independent statements I have received from men in this force, it has been dominated by Freemasons for generations.
'The application form didn't list Freemasonry under Special Qualifications,' Gillespie told me, 'but in fact from Inspector up to and including Assistant Chief Constable, four out of every five were practising Freemasons, all promoted by one man.'
During his career, Gillespie served at Clacton-on-Sea and the adjoining area around Holland-on-Sea, in the Staff Division CID, at Tilbury Docks, Braintree, and Rochford near Southend-on-Sea. His penultimate job was a £30,000 smuggling run, and he rounded off his career with a successful investigation into murder on the high seas.
The Chief Constable of Essex for much of Gillespie's service was Sir Francis Richard Jonathan Peel, who died in 1979. A direct descendant of Sir Robert Peel, he is remembered in the force as a remote figure who would simply rubber-stamp the decisions of his most senior men. Gillespie liked Peel and reveres his memory, but says that 'he was so intent on creating a vast gulf betwixt his ivory tower and the untouchables that he left promotion to one man'. That man, Assistant Chief Constable John Crockford, was a Freemason.
'Crockford ran the promotion field for twenty years until he retired about 1953. He was a likeable man in many ways who conferred many kindnesses, although many men in the force hated him. Despite his unchallenged power in the service, he saw himself primarily as a Freemason, and one of extremely high rank.
'Of course, not all promotions of Freemasons in my force were disreputable, but many were. The most awful in my time were Walter Stephen Pope, a ridiculous little squirt, to Super, and that of James Peters. Words fail me. They were derided even by their own kidney.
'Both these men were Masons. By police standards Pope was a little man with an inverted inferiority complex, possibly for that reason. He had a high IQ in my opinion, but he was just a police clerk who climbed. He never to my knowledge caught a crook, never saw a blow struck in anger, and never looked in at Tilbury Docks on the night of the sainted Patrick when we were struggling with the Micks and the Molls outside the Presbytery or at the Sign of the Anchor Inn.
'Pope had a hectoring voice and a pompous manner, which in all charity he probably couldn't help. He was a ridiculous figure who upset the troops in every branch he entered. I had him, for my sins, in four divisions. His leadership, of how to get the best out of his men, was pathetic. I sometimes wondered if he were quite sane. Now and then men approached me for a written application in extremis to get them away from him. I complied. Such reports fetched up on ACC Crockford's desk and proved successful. None of this prevented them making Pope a Divisional Superintendent.
'But the case of James Peters is if anything worse, if such were possible. Peters was an amiable half-wit. He was simply one of nature's dunderheads, a twit in any company who made one cringe. And he was a congenital liar. But he had become a Freemason at twenty-one and never missed a Lodge meeting. When he was promoted to station clerk, the resultant shock waves startled even the serried ranks of the Magic Circle, which is saying something. When the promotion was published, a certain high-ranker, another Freemason, threw the relevant Force Order B across the room in a fury. He knew Peters.
'Later, on our sergeants' training course, he confided in me that during a heart-to-heart talk, Crockford had told him his future was assured. It was. His rate of promotion after that was astonishing, and he retired at a rank very very few policemen achieve.'
Detective Superintendent David Thomas, former head of Monmouthshire CID, devoted four pages of his memoirs, Seek Out The Guilty, to an examination of Freemasonry in the police. Before this, criticism of alleged masonic influence in the police forces of Britain had usually come from the lower ranks. Such men as did raise the question were almost invariably dismissed by their masonic colleagues as embittered failures who used Freemasonry as a scapegoat. This was not wholly unfair. Freemasons, like Communists, Jews, Gipsies and Negroes, have frequently been used as scapegoats by those simplistic souls who like to believe all society's ills have one source: a conspiracy of aliens and subversives dedicated to the overturning of the status quo. Hitler spoke of falling into a 'nest of Freemasons', and seems to have loathed them as much as he did the Jews - certainly he persecuted them as ruthlessly. Mussolini, too, hated Freemasons and during his dictatorship many were executed. On a more moderate level, the belief that no one is promoted in the police unless he is a Freemason is frequently held by non-masonic officers who would be unsuitable for promotion anyway. Unable to accept their own failings, they all too easily subscribe to the conspiracy theory and latch on to Freemasonry as a convenient scapegoat.
On the other hand, the belief that Freemasonry often exerts an improper influence is also held by many police officers who are Freemasons - because there is no doubt at all that many Freemasons have been promoted by other Freemasons for no other reason than that they are members of the same secret Brotherhood. The blanket denial that this happens, or that it can happen, issued by the United Grand Lodge, is untruthful.
The significance of David Thomas's words was that they came from a man of unimpeachable integrity and of high standing in the police and the community. Here was no hot-headed PC, freshly rejected for promotion, flinging wild allegations round the 'nick' canteen, but a successful senior officer in retirement making a reasoned statement and calling for a Royal Commission to investigate a situation he regarded as sinister and dangerous.
During my thirty-two years' police service I saw a great deal of
this secret society in action, not only in my own force but also in
the many others I visited as honorary secretary of the detective
conferences of No 8 Police District, which comprises the whole of
Wales, Monmouthshire and Herefordshire.* Sometimes my visits
took me to other areas, but wherever I went the story was the
'Are you on the Square?' or 'Are you on the Level?' are all naive enquiries as to whether or not one is a Mason.
Thomas thought that of the total number of policemen in 1969, probably only a small percentage were Freemasons. 'But that small percentage forms an important and all-powerful group, the majority of whom are senior officers of the rank of Inspector, or above. Their influence on the service is incalculable.'
He assured readers that Masonry often did affect promotion, and that many sergeants and PCs became Masons for this reason. In this way, the system became self-perpetuating. Without implying that Masons will ensure the promotion of their brethren in the service, Thomas was certain that when two men of equal ability came before a promotion board, the dice would be loaded in favour of the
*The reorganization of police forces in the 1970s changed this.
Mason because of the masonic composition of many boards.
The official response to Thomas's call for a Royal Commission was predictable: like the United Grand Lodge, successive governments have adopted an ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away policy on calls to investigate any state of affairs in which Freemasonry is alleged to be playing a questionable role. An unnamed writer in the Sunday Telegraph said this: 'I can confirm that many detectives believe Freemasons exercise an insidious secret influence inside Scotland Yard. But it seems now the suggestion has come into the open the lie may be given to this well-entrenched belief.'
A spokesman for the Police Federation, the police 'trade union' representing all ranks up to Inspector, was quoted as saying that the Federation had never received a complaint from anyone losing promotion or being victimized for not being a Freemason. This was untrue. I have seen copies of statements of just such a nature submitted to the Federation both before and after the date of the Federation's pronouncement. Indeed, only eleven months before the publication of Thomas's book, a Northampton police Sergeant submitted a three-page typed report, every page signed by himself at the bottom and every surname typed in capitals as if it were a formal witness's statement. In it he complained of two incidents:
In March of last year I was told in no uncertain terms by Det Insp Brian JENKINS [pseudonym] that if I did not join the lodge he would personally see to it that I was never promoted above my present rank . . . On December 24 last, just before the Christmas Party, I was called in to see Chief Insp Howard FIELD [pseudonym]. He said that life could be made very uncomfortable for officers who tried to buck the system. I asked him what he meant. He said, 'You are not on the square, are you. I won't say any more than that.'
The complainant told me the Federation never replied. He said, 'Life became intolerable after that. They treated me like a leper. I was either ignored completely by most of them or they kept picking arguments with me. Complaint after complaint was made against me. It was ridiculous. I stuck it for about a year but then I just got out.'
Now a Superintendent in the North East of England, my informant achieved very rapid promotion without joining the Brotherhood.
The Federation spokesman who told the Sunday Telegraph that complaints of this nature had never been received, went on to say: 'Under modern promotion procedures it is difficult to see how it could happen. We have national promotion exams. In London, promotion up to station sergeant is decided by exams. Boards decide other promotions. It would be gross exaggeration to say Freemason members had any undue influence.'
What the spokesman did not point out was that passing a promotion examination did not mean automatic promotion. There are many PCs and Sergeants in the country who have qualified as Inspectors, but because of a dearth of vacancies at the higher ranks, they remain at the bottom. In the 26,000-strong Metropolitan Police there is a much greater chance of early promotion, as there is for an officer prepared to move from force to force; but in country forces it is often a case of dead men's shoes. And even when a vacancy arises, applicants go before promotion boards. In suggesting that examinations eliminated favouritism the Federation was therefore being less than truthful, and the reason is perhaps not hard to find. Until very recently the majority of regional representatives of the Police Federation were Freemasons. Even today, a large proportion of its civilian staff are ardent members of the Brotherhood.
There are two other allegations which have been made so frequently, and by such well-respected officers, two Assistant Chief Constables (one a Mason) included, that they should be mentioned, although it must be said that I have yet to see undeniable evidence. One claim is that masonic officers taking exams will make some kind of mark on their paper to indicate their affiliation to the Brotherhood. The most common, it is alleged, is the age-old masonic code of writing a capital 'A' in the form of the Brotherhood's Square and Compasses symbol, thus:
This will be meaningless to a non-masonic examiner but will be immediately recognized by a fellow Mason. The other allegation, made by scores of officers of all ranks, is that masonic promotion boards sometimes slip masonic references into their conversation when interviewing. If the candidate for promotion responds correctly, it is said, his chances are immediately elevated.
The row about Freemasonry in the police blew up again in May 1972 when Police Review published an article by a thirty-five-year-old Sergeant of Nottinghamshire Combined Constabulary, Peter J. Welling. The article captured the feeling of many non-masonic police officers and provoked fierce opposition and loud agreement which were publicized in the daily press and on television. Welling said that from the beginning of his police career he had been made aware by members of the general public which of his police colleagues were Freemasons. In his early years in the police he thought most masonic officers were in the higher ranks.
This manifested itself in the instructions one would sometimes receive regarding one's attitude to certain members of the public who held prominent positions in public life and who committed infringements, if only minor infringements, of the law. I took this to be a legacy from the old watch committee and standing joint committee days when those governing bodies virtually held the efficiency of the Service by its purse strings. It was therefore extremely important for members of the senior ranks in the Service to have close contact, not only in committee, but also socially, with such persons who were no doubt closely aligned to the Freemasonry movement.*
However, with the progress of time, the conduct and structure of the Police Service has changed, and is continuing to change at a rapid pace. But there is an increasing awareness among junior members of the Service that, after passing the appropriate examinations, a sure way to promotion is through the Freemasonry movement. Thus there is a considerable amount of canvassing to be done which appears to be creating a split in the Service itself.
Sergeant Welling was concerned with the possible long-term effects of this. He thought that if increasing numbers of serving police officers were to join the Brotherhood, 'then a saturation point will be reached when the majority, if not all police officers, will be members'.
What consequences might this have? Welling thought the best way of finding an answer was to examine 'the terms of reference and ethics behind both the Police Service and the Freemasonry movement'. He went on:
It is a fact that when a Police Officer is appointed he takes an oath of allegiance to the Queen and the community to carry out his duties 'without fear or favour, malice or ill will'. It is not commonly known that on enrolment to a Freemasonry Lodge a Freemason also takes an oath. I do not profess to know what form this oath takes or how it is administered, but it is most certainly an oath of allegiance not only to members of his own Lodge but to
'This kind of woolly phrase is misleading. Men are either Freemasons or not Freemasons. No 'close alignment' without membership is possible.
all members of the Freemasonry movement. To assist him to recognize other Freemasons he is taught secret handshakes and other secret signs. This type of association taken throughout the country forms a formidable chain of contact and associates from all walks of life.
It was in this 'formidable chain of contact' that Welling felt the danger of Freemasonry in the police lay. 'When this country has a national police service* criticism may well be levelled by minority groups against the police that the service is not impartial. The question I ask is - how can a Freemasonry Police officer be impartial? No man can serve two masters.'
The Sergeant's suggestion was for the Police Federation and the Home Office to 'join hands' on the subject of Freemasonry and press for legislation to prohibit serving policemen from taking any oath in any secret society, and to compel new recruits to renounce affiliation to any such society 'in the same manner as he would if he was an active member of a political party'.
Two days after the publication of Welling's article, the Sunday Telegraph ran a long story which claimed that the Sergeant's call for a ban on Masonry in the police was 'supported by thousands of policemen'. The reporter, Peter Gladstone Smith, wrote:
Sgt Welling said to me yesterday he had very good friends who were Freemasons and he had nothing against Freemasonry outside the police. He was concerned about disciplinary proceedings when it came to complaints.
'If a person who is a Freemason complains against a police officer and that complaint is investigated by a senior officer who is a Freemason, then that cannot be an impartial enquiry.' His attitude was not 'sour grapes' and he himself was promoted early.
Cdr Ray Anning, head of Scotland Yard's new 60-strong
*Which it still doesn't have, more than eleven years on.
round-the-clock complaints branch, told me that he was not a Freemason. At the same time he believed the suggestion was 'utter nonsense'.
The Daily Telegraph's crime correspondent, ‘I. A. Sandrock, wrote a similar story the following day, which ended with this observation:
I have discussed this subject myself during many years' association with policemen, asking on hundreds of occasions if they would be restricted as Freemasons in investigations into a criminal act if the suspect was also a Freemason. Invariably their answer has been that they would continue to do their duty as police officers.
Can this distinguished journalist have imagined that if any masonic officers did feel restricted in this way, they would openly have admitted it? It was nonsense to intimate such a thing.
On the next day, Tuesday 9 May, Welling was interviewed on BBC Television's Nationwide programme. Also in the studio was Brian Bailey, a local government officer and former Freemason.
Presenter Michael Barratt asked Bailey, 'What do you say to these charges that a sure way to promotion in the police force is through the Freemasonry movement?'
The ex-Mason replied, 'I don't think there's any substance in this. I lapsed my membership of the masonic movement for various reasons, but it seems to me that you might as well say that if the Chief Constable is a keen Rugby enthusiast and you play a good game of Rugby, you are on the inside track.'
And then he added a comment which seems to run counter to his main argument. 'I think one gets all sorts of ideas that there are ways of getting preferment. I think that Freemasonry is just one of them. I doubt very much these days if there is any real substance in it.' (My italics.)
The admission that Freemasonry did have an undesirable influence 'up to about ten years ago', 'until only recently', 'not since the last war', 'up until a year or so ago', 'around five years back' has been made to me by scores of Freemasons and former Freemasons. Most are prepared to say it had an influence 'then' - never now. It is interesting to note that in a period when, according to many of my masonic informants, Masonry was exercising undue influence in the police, there were those who even then were denying its existence except in the past.
The 'Rugby enthusiast' point of view was taken up by Welling, who replied: 'If Freemasons were as open as a member of a Rugby club would be, then I would have no objections. It's the secrecy that surrounds the whole movement which I object to.'
Bailey did not like the secrecy either. 'One of the things I disliked in the Craft was its secrecy. I think it's bound to give rise to suspicion. It doesn't follow that this suspicion is well founded, however.'
The controversy arising from Welling's article continued in the correspondence columns of Police Review for the next three months.
Chief Superintendent ‘I. W. A. Lucas, who became a Freemason after achieving senior rank in the police, said that nothing would influence him to show favour to anyone. 'Neither do I hope to seek such favour, and, while obviously I cannot speak for all, those of senior rank whom I know in many forces hold the same views.' He said:
Everyone who enters Freemasonry is, at the outset, strictly forbidden to countenance any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; he must pay due obedience to the law of any state in which he resides or which may afford him protection, and he must never be remiss in the allegiance due to the Sovereign of his native land. At no time in his capacity as a Freemason is he permitted to discuss or to advance views on theological or political questions.*
A PC from Neath in Glamorgan wrote to say that he had been a Freemason since 1955. He had qualified for promotion in 1963 but was still at the lowest rank. Further evidence that the police service was not totally the domain of Freemasons came from John Williamson, CBE, QPM, President of the Christian Police Association in Northampton. He said Welling's article 'moved me strangely', and continued:
After 45 years in the service I have found that being a Christian -that other brotherhood - stood me in better stead when it came to promotion interviews, particularly in the old days. On one occasion I was able to quote a verse from the 75th Psalm: 'Promotion cometh from neither the east nor the west but from the Lord'. I have always believed that it is the worker bees that keep the hive working and strong. I do not think that Freemasonry was that powerful for I made my way through the ranks to become Chief Constable of Northampton at 33. Never was I approached by anyone to become a Mason ... I went into the service in 1910 fearing God and the Sergeant, and came out in 1955 fearing God.
A Freemason who signed himself ‘I. M. ‘I. described Welling's article as 'a load of rubbish ... on a subject he obviously knows nothing about'. There were many letters in a similar vein. 'Freemasons,' declared ‘I. M. ‘I., 'are the backbone of the community. They are the most public spirited and charitable people he [Welling] will find. That is if he cares to look. Why has he picked on Freemasons when there are other "secret societies" he could expose?'
One of those phrases admitting that the Brotherhood
*lt is perfectly true that the Brotherhood forbids its members to discuss business, politics or religion, but there is ample evidence from present and past Masons that this is rarely obeyed.
had influence but only in the past reared its head in a letter from C. P. Cheshire. This time it was: 'Since Edwardian days Freemasonry has not had the influence ascribed to it.' The majority of Freemasons who know anything about the police admit that the Brotherhood has until some point in the past - remote or recent, depending on the individuals -exerted influence within the police forces of this country. None of them has been able to answer satisfactorily why, at the particular moment in history they have chosen, the Brotherhood's influence either dwindled appreciably or ceased altogether.
In this connection the view of Police Review, or at least its then editor Brian Clark, is worthy of note:
In pre-war days [my italics] it was a power to be reckoned with in the Police Service and in many Forces, membership of the 'square' was virtually a qualification for promotion. The falling off of the influence of the movement is related to the 'liberalization' of the Police Service and the Freemasons who remain tend to be found in the senior ranks of the Service - particularly those with pre-war service. Young men are not interested in the pseudo religiosity of Freemasonry and all its secret ritual.
Even if this decline in interest among young policemen was apparent in 1972, and I have found no evidence of it, it is most certainly untrue today. Freemasonry in the police is as high today as ever. And while a great number of senior officers are members of the Brotherhood, so too are many Constables and Sergeants. Back to Clark's assessment of the situation a decade ago:
Nepotism, through Freemasonry, may still be a factor in promotion, albeit to a decreasing degree, but what is still a serious matter is that Freemasons (and come to that Rotarians, Lions, Roundtablers) tend to expect favours from fellow members who are police officers. A few policemen have been so embarrassed by what is expected of them that they have been obliged to dissociate themselves from Freemasonry.
A former Sergeant of the City of London Police, Frederick E. Moore, a non-Mason, had this to say:
As a young Constable, despite my keeping an open mind on the subject, it became increasingly evident that the suspicion, not without foundation, was right: membership of one of these fraternities [i.e. secret societies] was an advantage especially for those seeking promotion, for defaulters in disciplinary cases, and when top brass belonged to your Lodge, who could go wrong?
Freemason PC Robert Glencross of Fife replied thus to Sergeant Welling's criticisms:
There are Freemasons in every trade and not only the Police and there could be those who have reached high ranks in those fields. If junior members of the service feel that the road to success is paved with handshakes they are in for a big disappointment. Among any group of people some will take advantage of whatever benefits are going but there are others who further the aim of the group itself, and one seldom hears from them.
While I am not at liberty to divulge the form of oath taken by Freemasons it in no way conflicts with an officer's duty . . . Freemasonry is not so secret that it is impossible to find out who its members are. Its secrets are there for anyone to learn who wants to join.
This last comment holds true for the Mafia and the Ku Klux Klan, of course, so does not answer Welling's point about the secrecy of Masonry breeding suspicion among the uninitiated. And as for finding out who its members are, a non-Mason has only to ask for help at United Grand Lodge to be told, 'It is not our policy to make membership lists of our Lodges available to enquirers.' (See Epilogue, page 307.)
But one point made by PC Glencross, and by a multitude of Masons before and since, is true up to a point: the oaths, or obligations to use the masonic term, if properly interpreted, should not create the kind of dual allegiance most 'profane' policemen are concerned about. (See Appendix 3.)
Eight weeks after the publication of the original article, a letter appeared from a former police officer, a non-Mason of Malvern Link, Worcestershire. 'The letters on Freemasonry in the service filled me with remorse,' began ex-Detective Chief Inspector Ralph Jones ironically.
When I joined a large force before the war three-quarters of divisional Superintendents and above belonged to the Craft, a position that still obtains. I see now that most of their appointments only appeared bizarre, but were really based on merit.
The tradesmen who whispered down the years, 'Met your Super last night. Don't you want your stripes?' were having me on .. . What shamed me was the revelation that all those old mates who climbed like blue meteors from PC to the top in quick time justhappened to belong to the Craft but were in fact devoted to Christianity and charitable works. They could have fooled me.
As a practising Christian with a son an Anglican priest, I doubt if I have quite got the moral fibre to qualify. But now I realize that the parcelling out of promotions and the dispensing of rough justice on delinquents behind closed doors is merely benevolent paternalism. Long may it reign.
The fact that the Police Federation was dominated by Freemasons did not inhibit the editor of the Federation's journal Police from publishing this complaint from Metropolitan Police Sergeant Robin Kirby in 1977:
All my service, I have been aware that it is a distinct advantage to be a Freemason. Doors are opened, rank structures are broken down and men normally destined to perform shiftwork all their service are spirited on to 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. jobs, often never to return to the mundane vulgarity of early, late and nights.
The following issue of Police contained one of the most serious allegations about Freemasonry in the police to have appeared in print up to that time. Blair Watt, a Thames Valley PC for sixteen years, wrote:
I speak from personal experience of no less than three occasions on which I have been approached, and even threatened, by more senior officers who sought to influence my dealing with fellow Freemasons and relatives of fellow Freemasons, with regard to offences committed by them.
Watt said later, Tm either very brave or an idiot. I was approached by senior officers on quite serious offences. But it must be said that nothing came of their pressure.'
He was not prepared to name the individuals involved, he said, for fear of repercussions. Depending chiefly on whether they are Masons or non-Masons, people have said that Watt's reluctance to give full details was quite understandable, given the power of Masonry in the police, or that it indicated he was inventing the story. Watt himself died shortly afterwards, of natural causes, so a conclusive investigation of his claim is impossible.