Charge of a Mason
Richard Williams, a Lancashire Mason, took part in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade, as John Jackson discovered
This year sees the 150th anniversary of one of the most famous incidents in the history of the British army - the Charge of the Light Brigade near Balaclava in the Crimea on 25th October 1854.
Immortalised in the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson it is also seen as one of the most foolhardy ventures in British military history, that led to the Light Brigade wrongly charging the Russian guns.
One of those who took part in the Charge and lived to tell the tale was Troop Sergeant-Major Richard Hall Williams of the 17th Lancers, an ardent Freemason.
During the Charge Williams was suffering from a boil on his face, around which he had wound a muffler. He originated from Bath, where his father was the proprietor of a tailoring business providing finery for the gentry.
His Masonic beginnings have not been discovered, although it is known that he was initiated in Kent into a military Lodge, as was common practice among soldiers at the time.
However, Worsley Lodge No. 1814 in the Province of West Lancashire, of which the old soldier was a founder member, has recently discovered the whereabouts of his ceremonial sword.
The sword is on loan from the Salford Museum to the Museum of Lancashire in Preston. Salford Museum is holding an exhibition of the battle during the year.
The Masonic career of Richard Williams is largely tied up with Worsley Lodge, where he remained a member for 30 years, followed by both his sons to maintain a family connection of 144 years, including all three being Master.
Williams, who left the army on pension in 1867 after 24 years of service, had a colourful military career which saw him involved in many historical events.
He served in Ireland during the potato famine riots, was two years in the Crimea, seeing action at Alma, Inkerman, Sebastopol and Balaclava. He later went to India where he was involved in the Indian Mutiny.
On the long sea journey to India he had made a study of the Hindustani language from books he had purchased, and on arrival was appointed as quartermaster as a result.
When he was discharged, a silver goblet was presented to him by the non-commissioned officers of his regiment. The goblet inscription was later updated by his sons, who added a list of his Masonic achievements.
Sergeant-Major Williams wanted to be discharged in India as he wished to stay in that country, but this request was refused. However, his colonel, the Duke of Cambridge, recommended him to the Earl of Ellesmere for the job of instructor to the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeoman Cavalry, which he commenced, taking up residence in Worsley in October 1867.
In doing so he took over from another army veteran, Sergeant-Major Will Adams, who had fought at the Battle of Waterloo.
Then Williams was offered another job in addition to instructor - that of Worsley postmaster, a role he was to undertake for 36 years, eventually handing over to his youngest son, George.
Retirement was not for Richard Williams, who initiated his youngest son George in December 1903, conducted his ceremony of passing in January 1904 and raised him to a Master Mason at the Installation meeting the following month.
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