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The History of the Pilgrims of Great Britain

On 16 July 1902 an informal meeting took place at the Carlton Hotel in London, at which the decision was taken to establish The Pilgrims of Great Britain. Those present included General Joseph Wheeler, the famous cavalry leader of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War; Colonel (later General Sir) Bryan Mahon, who had commanded the troops relieving Mafeking in 1900; the Hon Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce fame and a notable aviation pioneer, and Harry, later Sir Harry, Brittain. The title of the Pilgrims, not to be confused with the Pilgrim Trust, had nothing whatever to do with the Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers of 1620, but was chosen as a short and concise name which would express the idea of members of the English-speaking world travelling from one country to another. The main objective of the Pilgrims was, as it still remains, the encouragement of Anglo-American good fellowship.

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Pictured above: Left, Sir Harry Brittain; Centre top, Bryan Mahon;
Centre bottom, The Hon Charles Rolls; Right, General Joseph Wheeler.

The Centennial year of 2002 saw a series of memorable events, including a reception at St James's Palace in the presence of our Patron Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and a Thanksgiving dinner at the Mansion House by courtesy of the Lord Mayor of London. Her Majesty has allowed the Pilgrims to hold receptions at St James's Palace on four occasions.

2002 also saw the publication of The Pilgrims of Great Britain - A Centennial History by Anne Baker, an account of the Pilgrims' activities and achievements over ten decades, with some well-chosen photographs and other illustrations. Anne Baker went on to equal her achievement by producing in 2003 The Pilgrims of the United States - A Centennial History.

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Mark Twain.

Over the years the roll-call of distinguished guest speakers at Pilgrims' events has been most impressive - Lord Curzon, Mark Twain, Admiral Peary, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), Stanley Baldwin, Ramsey Macdonald, George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Anthony Eden, Archbishop Fisher, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry Kissinger, Caspar Weinberger, HRH The Princess Royal and General Lord Dannatt - to name but a few.

The Pilgrims' archives are lodged with London Metropolitan Archives. Please see http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/london-metropolitan-archives/the-collections/Pages/pilgrims-of-great-britain.aspx for an LMA article on the Pilgrims' archives, and please contact ask.lma@cityoflondon.gov.uk for further information regarding access.