Col Arthur James Vavasor Durell CB was the third Worshipful Deputy Master and the Founding Senior Deacon of the Lodge.
He was elected after the Senior Warden Major Pidcock-Henzell deferred the opportunity on account of imminent service overseas. Dispensation was required as Durell was the ruling master of the Lodge of Twelve Brothers in Southampton.
He was born in Cambridgeshire on 25 June 1871 to John Vavasor Durell and Ellen Annie née Carlyon. He was one of twelve siblings, suitably enough. His father was the Rector of Fulbourne, Cambridgeshire from 1868 to 1917. The Durrell family were actually an Oxford family, associated with the Oxford Canal Company, and the family home is now St Peter’s College.
An OW from the Blucher, Durell had been commissioned into the Royal Norfolks, before transferring to the Army Pay Dept when the call went out for skilled officers to staff this new service. Durrell was one of 30 members of the Lodge to have served in the South African War. He was Mentioned in Despatches and decorated with the Queen’s and King’s medals both with three clasps. He went on to be promoted to full Colonel and to serve as Chief Paymaster at the War Office and Officer in Charge of Records in 1916. He was made a CB in 1917.
He distinguished himself in this new branch of the Army, where pay, unlike that of Fellowcrafts, had been a less ordered and regular affair. He clearly thrived and even went on to write a seminal work on Parliamentary Accounts.
His masonry echoes his military career: he was initiated in to St Georges Lodge No 2537 which met in Pinelands in southern Africa, and later joined Prince Alfred Lodge No 956 in Natal (a lodge he shared with William Dalgety, the first WDM). He later joined St Marks Lodge No 857 in London, and then the Lodge of Twelve Brothers No 785 in Southampton.
Durell presided over a well attended meeting at College in July 1912 at which he initiated two new members. The first of these was Alfred Stanfield, an OW and Assistant Master at College, appropriately enough for the Wellington meeting . The second was His Highness Prince Maurice of Battenberg, the fortieth and youngest grandson of Queen Victoria, aged just 20, initiated by special dispensation due to his being under 21. Battenburg went on to join the Lodge of Twelve Brothers in Southampton, and also became its Master, perhaps on the recommendation of the man that initiated him?
As a tragic postscript to Durell’s year and a indication of the brutal cost of the coming war in Europe, three of the new members of the Lodge from his year alone would lay down their lives for King and Country: Battenberg, Stanfield and Stephenson.
Durrell died on 1 July 1945 at his home in Cambridge.