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New research reveals that a large number of Freemasons were awarded Britain’s highest honour. Joe Shute reports

April 25th 1915, saw one of the bravest actions of the First World War. The Galipoli campaign was only a few months old, when a battalion of Lancashire Fusiliers was tasked with capturing a sandy cove nicknamed W Beach on the Turkish peninsula.

Just 350 yards long and overlooked by machine gun and sniper nests, it was deemed impregnable. At 6am the Fusiliers landed – most were cut down before reaching the shore. A small number pressed forward, cutting through the barbed wire and storming onto the cliffs that overlooked the beach. Against all odds, success was theirs.

The Lancashire Fusiliers started the day with 27 officers and 1,002 rank and file. Twenty-four hours later, 16 officers and 304 men survived. Six were awarded the Victoria Cross and secured their place in history as the “six before breakfast” heroes. But what is far less well known is that three of them – Captain Richard Willis, Major Cuthbert Bromley and Lance Corporal John Grimshaw – were Freemasons.

They are among 64 of the 628 recipients of the Victoria Cross during the First World War who, according to new research, were part of this secretive group.

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