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Surgical Instruments: Battle of Trafalgar

Surgical Instruments: Battle of Trafalgar

Following the outbreak of war several committees were formed to raise funds for the war effort. The members of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of New Zealand formed a fundraising committee.  The Freemasons were initially a guild set up as a way for professional stonemasons to protect trade secrets and ensure that the secrets were only passed on to worthy apprentices.

The need for stonemasons declined in the seventeenth century when people stopped building large stone castles and cathedrals. As a result, the Freemasons shifted their focus towards fraternity and charity work; opening up membership to non-stonemasons. The movement grew in popularity after the opening of the first Grand Lodge in 1717 and spread from England across the globe, reaching New Zealand in the early nineteenth century. In early 1916 the Freemasons established the Masonic War Fund with a goal of collecting ₤10,000 which was intended to help wounded soldiers and the families of service men killed in action. After hearing about the fund, Dr Redman of Picton, New Zealand offered the Freemasons a set of nineteenth century surgical instruments for auction.

The tools had once belonged to Dr W C Morris of Newton on Trent, England and saw their first battle in 1805 on board a war ship involved in the Battle of Trafalgar. The kit went on to be used until 1834 and saw service in over 100 battles. Dr Morris passed them on to an acquaintance for safekeeping in 1834. Details of the kit’s path between 1834 and 1916 are unknown, but sometime in this period Dr Redman inherited the set. The Grand Lodge auctioned the set off through the Art Union raising ₤558 towards the Masonic War Fund. Raffled items typically went to the highest bidder but Dr Redman had stipulated that the instruments were to be donated to Canterbury Museum after the money was raised. It seems fitting that tools originally used to help those wounded in battle were able to help another generation of war wounded men over a century later.


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