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    RAOB medal from Iraq

    Garth Thompson

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    I recently aquired this RAOB cased medal. I wouldn't normally pick up Masonic items but the IRAQ banner intrigued me. Can any member give me any information on this piece; time frame, etc or the individual H.H.SALES whose name is on the reverse. The case lid has the name of CASMORE & CO. Birmingham.



    Edited by Garth Thompson
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    Nobody has any comment??

    Hi Garth

    Can't tell you much about the Buffaloes, although I can say that they aren't Freemasons (or therefore, 'Masonic'), albeit they are a fraternal organisation with similar charitable aims etc.

    However, there were at least four Masonic lodges in Iraq [names and numbers: Baghdad 4022, Iraq 4471, Mesopotamia 3820, Babylonia 4326) during the 'British Mandate of Mesopotamia' (for further details see an outline of the history here) - I'm not a historian by any means, so cannot comment on the accuracy of that article, but it does explain broadly why the British were there. Just as in India and other areas of the globe that saw a great influx of the British (military and civil) populations, it follows that they will bring various influences with them, including their social structures, organisations and interests.

    Just as there were some Masonic lodges there in that time, I am sure that there would also have been other organisations, such as the Buffaloes, Oddfellows, Foresters etc etc.

    I know the lodges were working until 1963, but understand them to have ceased working since then, due to the religious/political changes that have occurred in the country since then. I assume it's the same for other orgaisations, too.

    Hope that helps,

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    Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes In Iraq

    The History of the R.A.O.B. in Iraq 1919 to 1953


    This very brief history has been compiled from information supplied by Brother

    Anthony Armstrong, R.O.H., to whom the author is deeply indebted for assistance

    given, and pays tribute to "Tony's" remarkable memory for names and details of

    happenings of years ago.


    The Rt. Hon. Sir Anthony Armstrong, or "Tony" as he is known to the many

    hundreds of members of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes who have

    attended Lodges in Iraq, was initiated in the Earl of Derby Lodge in 1906, and

    was raised to the Second Degree in that Lodge in 1915. He was enrolled a Knight

    Order of Merit In the Garden of Eden Lodge in 1925, and was exalted to the Roll

    of Honour by the Royal Baghdad Lodge in 1943.

    Whilst serving in the Army during the First World War, Tony arrived in the

    country then known as "Mespot", and since renamed Iraq, in 1916, and, except for

    two years spent in India in the twenties, has been in the country ever since.

    He was a founder of the Royal Baghdad Lodge, and assisted in the opening of the

    first Lodge, the Star of Babylon, ever to operate in Iraq, and in the formation

    of the Baghdad and District Provincial Grand Lodge, which opened in 1921.

    Elected to the office of Deputy Provincial Grand Primo at the opening meeting,

    Sir Tony carried out the duties of Provincial Grand Primo for the best part of

    1922 in the absence of Knight Sir W. G. Martin.

    He is a Past President of the Mosul and Dhibban Examining Councils, and today

    fills the office of Vice President of the Dhibban Sub Certifying Council, which

    operates at Habbiniya.

    President of the R.A.O.B. Institute committee, Sir Tony can, without fear of

    contradiction, be called the "Father" of Buffaloism in this country. He has kept

    the flag flying through the years in the face of many difficulties, and it is

    due to his unfailing efforts that we "visitors" to Iraq are able to enjoy our

    Lodge nights and participate in the activities of this great Order of ours.

    To "Tony" I dedicate this brief history of the R.A.O.B. in Iraq, which in the

    main is a story of his own great work in the cause of Buffaloism.


    Habbaniya September, 1953.


    "Will anyone interested in opening a R.A.O.B. Lodge in Baghdad please

    communicate with W. G. Martin at the Railway Mess".

    This advertisement which appeared in the "Times of Mesopotamia" early in 1919,

    heralded the birth of Buffaloism in the country now know as Iraq, for as a

    result of the meeting of gentlemen who answered the call, the first lodge, the

    "Star of Babylon", was opened in November of this year. The founders were Bros.

    W. G. Martin, K.O.M., and J. West and Keene, both the latter being Primos. The

    lodge met at first in the Askinsian School, Baghdad, but later was forced to

    move from place to place. At one time it held its meetings in a bedroom at the

    Imperial Hotel. At last, however, a permanent home was found in a disused stable

    which was converted into a lodge room. The roof of this building was covered

    only by matting, and when the wet weather arrived the City Constable had to

    carry out his duties under the protection of an umbrella!


    Buffaloism flourished in Iraq, and early in 1920 the "Garden of Eden" Lodge was

    opened at Basra, and later in the same year another Lodge, named the "Sir W. G.

    Martin" after the founder of the Order in this country, was opened at the Royal

    Air Force station at Hiniadi, near Baghdad.

    Towards the end of this year a further lodge, founded by Knight Martin and Primo

    Armstrong and named the "Royal Baghdad", was opened, with headquarters in the

    capital city.


    With four lodges operating in the country, which in those days was the minimum

    number required to form a Provincial Grand Lodge, application was made to the

    Grand Lodge of England for a warrant to open a Governing Authority. This was

    granted and in November of this year the Baghdad and District Provincial Grand

    Lodge was duly constituted.

    The first Provincial Grand Primo was, very fittingly, Brother Sir W. G. Martin,

    who was installed as such by Primo Tony Armstrong, who was himself elected as

    Deputy Provincial Grand Primo. Unfortunately, the P.G.P. was prevented from

    occupying the "top chair" after the first meeting, and Brother Tony carried out

    his duties of P.G.P. until his departure for India in the middle of 1922 after

    handing over the reins of office to Brother Scott, K.O.M., who was the P.G.P.

    for 1923.


    This might be considered a bad year for the brethren in Iraq, as, owing to the

    scarcity of brothers of the higher degrees, the Provincial Grand Lodge was

    forced to close down. Knight Scott had returned to England in August, and his

    place had been taken by Brother Harper, K.O.M., whose melancholy duty it was to

    bring to an end the brief life of the only Governing Authority to function in

    this country. Ever since this year the lodges have been under the direct control

    of the Grand Lodge of England.

    However, the four lodges continued to operate, and in the main flourished.


    During this year Brother Tony returned from India, and became a member of the

    Garden of Eden Lodge in which lodge he was raised to the Third Degree in 1925.


    It was in this year that the Garden of Eden Lodge moved from the town of Basra

    to the Royal Air Force station at Shaibah.


    In this year the original lodge, the Star of Babylon, sailed into stormy waters

    and was eventually amalgamated with the Royal Baghdad. This setback was offset

    by the opening, in Baghdad, of the "Civic" Lodge, and the Order continued as

    strong as ever.

    It was in this year that the news was first spread abroad that the Royal Air

    Force, the sole representative of Britain's armed forces in the country, was to

    move to a new camp which was to be built at Habbaniya. The brethren of the

    R.A.0.B., looking far ahead, began to collect funds with which to build an

    institute to be used by the lodges when the move was completed.

    During this year a tragic fate overtook a member of the Order. Brother Elliott,

    who was acting as engineer to Sir Alan Cobham during a flight round the world,

    was killed by a stray shot from the rifle of a wandering Arab whilst flying from

    Basra to Nazaria. Brother Elliott was accorded the last Buffalo rites at his

    funeral, and in his memory a brother of the Garden of Eden Lodge designed the

    Iraq jewel.

    The original drawing of this jewel has been preserved, and it now occupies a

    place of honour in the Institute at Habbaniya. The jewel which resulted from

    this splendid drawing is now worn with pride by many of our Order who are

    members of the lodges which have operated in this country.


    A further step forward in this year, was the opening of the "Palm Tree" Lodge at

    the Royal Air Force station at Mosul. This lodge is still operating today, and

    occupies the Institute at Habbaniya, in company with the Royal Baghdad Lodge.

    However, a setback occurred in that, the Civic Lodge, opened two years earlier,

    fell into disrepute and a number of the brethren from Hinaidi were forced to

    take possession of the dispensation and return it to Grand Lodge with a

    recommendation that the lodge be closed. Grand Lodge acted upon the

    recommendation and the Civic Lodge disappeared from the directory of lodges of

    the G.L.E.

    Nothing of outstanding interest happened until


    Early in this year the Garden of Eden Lodge, the second one to be opened in

    Iraq, was forced, through lack of support, to close down.

    It was in 1937 that the move of Royal Air Force units to Habbaniya was started,

    and about the middle of the year the Palm Tree Lodge was removed from Mosul to

    the new camp and occupied a temporary lodge room pending the opening of the

    institute, which was then in course of construction.


    This was a red-letter year for the R.A.0.B. in Iraq, for it saw the completion

    of the splendid institute at Habbaniya.

    The cost of building the institute was £2,000, and the whole of this sum, with

    the exception of a grant of £100 from the Grand Lodge of England, had been

    subscribed by the members of the lodges in the country in only ten years.

    In January the Sir W. G. Martin and Royal Baghdad Lodges moved in from Hinaidi

    and Baghdad respectively, but one month later fate struck a cruel blow, for

    during a particularly violent storm the roof of the institute was blown off. The

    cost of replacement was £80, and again the money was found by the members of the

    lodges. There appears to be no limit to a Buff's capacity to give!

    The Order was further strengthened in the country when Primo Driver, a brother

    from Habbaniya, was posted to the R.A.F. at Shaibah. and finding no lodge in the

    neighbourhood, decided to rectify matters. As the result of his efforts the

    Shatt El Arab lodge was opened at Margil.


    War had come to the world and the Royal Air Force had reopened its station at

    Mosul, so to cater for the needs of brethren in that district the Palm Tree

    lodge moved back to its original home.

    Unfortunately, during this year an epidemic of cholera struck the town of Basra

    and the nearby R.A.F. camp at Shaibah was barred to civilians from the town. The

    outcome of this was that the attendances at the Shatt El Arab lodge dwindled and

    finally the lodge was closed.


    The Second World War, which had been raging since 1939, hit Habbaniya in this

    year. Raschid Ali, a rabid Iraqi Nationalist who was aided by the Germans,

    attacked the station and held it in siege for some months. The institute was

    loaned to the R.A.F., who used it as an operations room, and for about three

    months no lodges were able to meet. After that period of time the brothers were

    given the use of a room in the Education Centre, and they held their meetings

    there for about fifteen months.

    During this time the furniture of the institute was held in safe storage by the

    N.A.A.F.I. and as the bank was unable to function, the funds of the lodges were

    placed in the N.A.A.F.I. strong room for safe custody.

    Sad to relate, Knight Bishop, one of the leading brothers of the day, was killed

    during Raschid Ali's attack when a shell exploded on the doorstep of his room in

    the Station Sergeants' Mess.

    Whilst I have not attempted to give any details of the many acts of benevolence

    performed by the lodges in Iraq but have devoted myself to "history", at this

    stage I would like to digress and tell of one of the numberless good works done

    by the brethren during the 34 years that lodges of our Order have been operating

    in this country.

    It came to the notice of the brothers that Knight Bishop had a daughter who was

    studying for a degree at one of the English universities and, through lack of

    funds after the death of her father would have to give up her studies. This,

    decided the Buffs, was not to be allowed, and a gift of £100 was immediately

    sent to Mrs. Bishop to enable her to pay for the remainder of her daughter's

    stay at the university.

    There is a happy sequel to this sad story, for a few months later the brethren

    heard from Miss Bishop that she had passed the examinations for her degree and

    was all set for a brilliant career in her chosen profession.


    In this year the Institute having been thoroughly redecorated by the Royal Air

    Force, was returned to the brethren, having played its part in the war effort,

    and the Royal Baghdad and Sir W. G. Martin Lodges moved back into their old

    meeting place which they have occupied ever since.


    "Tony's" long and sustained efforts on behalf of Buffaloism were recognised

    during this year for he was exalted to the Fourth Degree by the Royal Baghdad

    Lodge, of which he was a founder. His exaltation had been approved by Grand

    Lodge two years earlier, but, owing to there being no brother of the necessary

    degree in the country to carry out the ceremony, he had to wait until this year

    before receiving the honour he had so richly deserved.

    Life flowed on, and brethren came and went, but the lodges kept going until


    This year saw the demise of the Sir W. G. Martin Lodge, the lodge which had

    brought Buffaloism to life in Iraq.

    It was found that even so large a camp as Habbaniya could not sustain three

    lodges, and the Sir W. G. Martin was amalgamated with the Palm Tree Lodge which,

    earlier in the year, had returned to Habbaniya from Mosul and occupied the

    Institute with the Royal Baghdad Lodge.

    These were the only two lodges operating in Iraq until in


    The Order was further advanced by the opening, at the R.A.F. station at Shaibah,

    of a new lodge which took its name from that of the station. This was the first

    lodge to operate in that area since the Shatt El Arab closed in 1940 and has

    proved to be a lusty and thriving child.


    So we come to the present year, and it finds the three lodges, the Royal

    Baghdad, the Palm Tree, and the Shaibah, still keeping the flag of Buffaloism

    flying in Iraq.

    All are flourishing, and despite many difficulties such as having very few

    brothers of the higher degrees to occupy the Royal Chair, continue to bring many

    hours of pleasure to those members of our brotherhood who are called upon to

    serve so far from the Mother Country.

    Perhaps, in some distant year, some brother will continue this history from

    where I have left off, for I am sure that there will be things to write of then,

    and so long as Britishers live in Iraq there will be found the R.A.O.B.

    For any omissions or errors in the foregoing I most humbly apologise, and would

    say to my critics


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    • 3 weeks later...
    • 2 years later...


    It is a Lodge jewel.

    many lodges have a personal Lodge medal (Jewel). The person named was at one time a member of the lodge and as such was awarded ti for being a member.

    Paul Richardson


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