bob patterson2In the last Bulletin which you will have received a few weeks back, I took the opportunity of updating the membership on various matters. The feedback which I have received seems to suggest that this has been beneficial.

Following on from this, there are two main further areas which I would like to highlight in this newsletter. Both of these are pertinent, especially as the AGM is only a matter of a few days away. The areas concerned are some comments of specific parts of the 2013/14 accounts and a look at the results from our first ever major membership e survey in January.

Firstly, focusing on the accounts. Every member, with the last Bulletin, will have received an Annual Report and Accounts 2013-14 document. I personally hope that like me you find this impressive document enlightening and useful. Due to the document's nature and necessary accounting format, the account section does not really allow any degree of variance analysis of this year's figures compared to last year. I think a few of the more obvious variances however should be explained to the membership.

PRC record receipts were down from £6294 to £4580. At its simplest, less visits were made due to other commitments so less income was received (although other non-revenue generating requests for information from third parties such as the CWGC had an effect also). There was a slight backlog of requests outstanding at October however this has been fully cleared. I can also assure you that members’ enquiries were given preference.

The reduction in cards and calendar expenses ie from £5902 to £748 was a timing issue whereby certain related costs were absorbed early into the 2013 accounts. Concerning the magazine the cost of production figures, Stand To costs are up from £40582 to £56172 and for the Bulletin up from £40437 to £51213. As you will be aware 2014 was a special year. The Stand To 100th production was a well-received indeed. It met with universal acclaim. The cost to produce this edition was substantially higher in terms of editing, production and postage. Similarly there were substantial costs in producing the Bulletin Special supplement and similarly incremental costs were incurred in producing the Bulletin November edition. We strongly feel that the quality of these editions well merited the extra expenditure.

AGM costs rose from £5278 to £8574. This is primarily due to a change in accounting procedures whereby in the past some of the AGM expenses had not been allocated to this cost centre. As for advertising, this rose by approximately £5000. The reasons for this are £4000 was spent on filming and £2000 on Media Relations with Sky News/BBC 24. The increase in digital costs can be attributed to the cost of the new centenary website which was agreed by the Executive Committee and the purchase of new computer equipment. As you are aware from the last Bulletin, our Digital Editor David Henderson has decided to stand down after many years sterling service. Again as intimated in the Bulletin apart from recruiting a new Digital editor, a procurement tender exercise will also be carried out for web maintenance.

Moving on, I would like to cover the membership survey. We said we would consult the members and we did. The following is a summary of the responses received as opposed to what action the EC may or may not take. The results of the survey have been circulated to the entire EC for consideration. Every member of the EC has their own area of responsibility so they will be looking at it not only from their perspective but also from the position of the EC as a whole.

May we firstly sincerely thank those who responded? There are some very good ideas and thoughts. A fair bit of thinking has gone into this by those who replied. The survey was issued by email to 5270 from which we received 1361 responses this being 26% of the original number emailed. There were 37 questions.

Of the respondents 89% were male and 11% female. 78% of the respondents were aged 55 or over, 95% were over 45. The bulk of respondents were single members with 87% being based in the UK. In terms of value ‘Value for Money’, 89% said it was good or excellent giving an overall satisfaction average rating of 4.32 out of 5. Similar figures were obtained re ‘happiness ‘with membership which achieved a 4.59 average rating out of 5. These figures are very gratifying.

In respect of the numbers attending branch meetings, the survey indicated that 45% did attend at least one meeting but 55% never attended. The survey revealed however that 83% thought branch talks were good or excellent.

Regarding the Forum and Listening Post, the majority of those who responded voted that if they were restarted that they would not use them.
The quality of the two magazines received average ratings of 4.62 out of 5 for the Stand To and 4.72 for Bulletin with nearly 80% happy at the current frequency of their publication. Although some expressed an interest in having online versions available over 50% of UK respondents were not interested in an electronic version.
In terms of the e newsletter (now TRENCH LINES), 84% thought it good or excellent and as regards the main web site 80% thought it good or excellent. Both of these results are on a par with the satisfaction expressed for magazines. Concerning social media, there were 319 responses of which the vast majority (71%) used Facebook. Twitter users were 30% and Linked in 14% (the total is more than 100% as some used more than one). Others also responded saying they used YouTube and/or Flickr and 66% were in favour of more educational videos being made available.

Regarding goods/commodities, to the question ‘Have you ever purchased Back copies of ST, Trench Maps WFA Apparel’- 509 (37%) answered that they had purchased one or more of the above. In terms of which goods would you like to buy in future, the top 5 in the league table reveals the following items: Polo shirts, Mugs, Ties, T-shirts and Rugby shirts.
The opportunity of ‘free text answers ‘to a few questions was very revealing. The vast bulk of those who replied, as above, were happy at what we are doing and the free text answers back this up. However within this, there were criticisms which of course we will look at. There were also many other good ideas concepts or questions for consideration by the committee. A few such pertinent areas concern the branches, the magazines and the resumption of the sale of branded goods.

I feel that I must point out that our organisation is run by volunteers who put hours of unpaid work and effort into it. The results show that we are getting a lot right indeed. We know that we cannot meet the expectations of every member all the time. I, for example, just do not have the time to trawl various social networking sites so that I can answer views made re the WFA. Such answers may also need a committee answer as opposed to an individual one. Much better in my view that if a member is seriously hacked off with something, just simply let me or anybody on the EC know. I am not saying you will get the answer you want but you will get an answer.

To that extent, we certainly expect criticism and will take any on board. However, when such criticism is directed in a vile manner in anonymous responses towards members of the EC personally, I cannot accept this. A few (only a few) comments crossed the boundaries of plain decency and are seriously disappointing. The survey has been a great exercise and as I said before, there will be more. Again may I say thank you to those who responded. It is much appreciated. The results revealed that we are getting a lot right but there is also room for improvement.

In closing, I am also delighted with the positive feedback we have received regarding the DVD which was included in the last Bulletin. This was a new initiative which we have tried and from the excellent comments which we have received, we will certainly consider repeating this periodically. I am led to believe that a very small number of copies of the DVD may be faulty and do not play correctly. If the copy you received is in this category, please contact Sarah at the WFA office and she will send you a replacement.

Bob Paterson
Chairman

April 2015

 

colin wagstaff22015 promises to be another exciting year for WFA Conferences.

The year starts with a Haig Day at Brasenose College, Oxford on Wednesday, 11 March. The day includes three talks, the rededication of the Great War memorial, and a candle-lit silver service dinner in Brasenose College Hall. Places still available - contact the WFA Office to book - 020 7118 1914.

The Fourth President's Conference on 27 June continues the yearly theme of previous years with an in depth look at 1915.

A "Scotland in the Great War" WFA Conference organised by the Scottish Branches is about to be announced and plans are being made by the Irish Branches for an "Ireland in the Great War" Conference. In addition, several Branches will be holding regional seminars.

On 26/27 September the WFA is collaborating with the Gallipoli Association to run a two- day conference at the Tally Ho! Club in Birmingham to explore the links between Gallipoli and the Western Front. Each talk will have a crossover theme. For example, Rob Thompson will talk about logistics, explaining the difficulties of supplying two fronts with the demands of total war with the added complication of extended supply lines to Gallipoli. The line up is nearly complete and a stellar line up of speakers has already been confirmed - Lar Joye (National Museum of Ireland), Eric Grove, Aimee Fox-Godden, Gary Sheffield, Richard Van Emden, Clive Harris, Peter Doyle, Peter Barton, John Sneddon, Rob Thompson. Full details will be announced shortly.

While on the theme of collaborations can I mention our friends at the great War Forum who are collaborating with the Douglas Haig Fellowship in organising a Conference at the Tally Ho! Club on 28 March with a particularly strong line up. Details at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Keep an eye on the WFA website and Bulletin for further details on all the above events.

Colin Wagstaff

Vice-Chairman and WFA Conferences Co-ordinator

bob patterson2By the time of reading this, the bumper, brilliant copy of Bulletin 100 will have dropped through your letter boxes. It really is something else. A huge well done to Ralph Lomas and everybody else involved for their efforts here.

The highlight of November 2014 by a mile was the Cenotaph events on the 11th. These are excellently covered in the Bulletin so I will not go into detail here. It certainly was amazing the way that the Prime Minister appeared out of mid air as such. An unique day in WFA history indeed.

Apart from the usual Christmas festivities, December will bring the WFA conference at Scarborough on Saturday, 13 December. I'm delighted to be able to attend what promises to be a great event. Tickets are still available so forget the Christmas shopping and, if you can possibly attend, go for it. You can go Christmas shopping next year!

Speaking of Christmas, the hints have been well and truly dropped re WW1 related presents. What Santa will bring, I've no idea but fingers crossed. Guess, I've maybe pushed it a bit much asking for a set of original Official Histories! As I said before, there are a couple of books I would like to add to the existing pile that I have still to read.

My wife and I are going to the Somme for a small break over the New Year. We will have the pleasure of taking our new dog with us who at 14 weeks now has a passport of his own and has had more jabs than a pin cushion. This new, still untrained member of the family should make the break a bit more interesting. We will be visiting Le Touret on New Year's Day to say hello to the lads there including our family relative from Skye who fell at Festubert in May 1915. We thought it fitting to take Henry the Skye terrier especially to Le Touret even though he will remain outside the cemetery walls. When we are away, you of course are more than welcome to attend the parties which no doubt which will be held in our house.

For my December report, I will have to give some thought to what my WW1 New Year's resolutions will be for 2015. We'll then see how long they last! It would be good to hear what some of your New Year WW1 and related resolutions may be. If you get a chance, drop me an email and I will insert a selection in my next update. These could be interesting!

In closing,may I take this opportunity on behalf on the entire WFA Executive Committee to wish you all a very merry Christmas. On a personal basis, may I also thank you all for all your help, assistance and best wishes over the last 6 months. It really is appreciated. I've met some truly amazing folk who will do their utmost for the WFA. It is my pleasure to be associated with what is a truly superb organisation. I look forward to meeting more of you over the next months. Merry Christmas!

Bob

 

bob patterson2After an eternity waiting on its arrival, the year 2014 has come and, indeed, has gone. However I think it fair to say that the year delivered the vast bulk of what we were hoping for. There were various highlights throughout the year with the WFA official commenoration events at Arras and Amiens being right up there along with our 11 November event at the Cenotaph, where the Prime Minister was in attendance. It was a good year; all of our conferences went really well, our websites saw new levels of visitors, our branch programme of talks and events was as robust as ever, and membership continued to increase. Sadly, however, it all cannot be positive news as the WFA's branch coordinator, David Easton, passed away in the autumn. David, who was a strong character and committed supporter of the WFA, is a very hard act to follow.

So what will 2015 bring? On a personal basis, I hope the same level of attention to WW1 in the press and media will continue and that more people will participate in the study of the first World War in some way. In terms of 2015 dates, in my neck of the woods in Scotland, the anniversary of the Battle of Loos next September will be a major event. I certainly know that the EC will continue to give 100% to the running of the WFA and to looking after its member interests. The EC is adapting and will continue to adapt to meet the requirements of what's required to run a modern day organisation, both now in 2015 and in the future. EC abridged minutes were made available for the first time during 2014 and we will continue to communicate and engage with the membership at every opportunity.

So as the New Year approaches as I touched on last month, I've made a few WW1 New Years resolutions. We'll see how many actually happen, all will be revealed as they say

1 In spite of a good few visits to the Western Front, I've never been to Mons. Hopefully 2015 will see that first visit.

2 I promise faithfully to my wife that when I am wandering through some field on the Somme with her, I will not walk 20 yards in front of her.

3 The pile of notes that have been lying in the dining room for years will suddenly turn into a great article for one of the WFA magazines.

4 The pile of unread books will be halved by 31 December 2015..

In closing, may I on behalf of the entire WFA Executive Committee wish every single one of you and your families a Merry Christmas and hope that 2015 brings you all good health, happiness and success. It has been my privilege to have been Chairman of our organization for the last 6 months. I will continue to give the role my total commitment as long as I am in it. I also look forward very much to meeting as many of the members as possible next year.

Merry Christmas!

Bob

cenotaph service 2014

For those of us who have been members of the Western Front Association for many years, it has sometimes seemed as if the Centenary would never arrive. Now it has, the Association must embrace the opportunity – perhaps the best opportunity we will have – to play a central role in the commemorations which mean so much to us.

The Executive Committee and many other members have been working incredibly hard to raise the Association`s profile and to ensure that the unstinting efforts and dedication of so many people over so many years are recognised. This is reflected in the events we have organised, such as the amazing activities around 13 August 2014 remembering the deployment of the British Expeditionary Force, with the RFC, which culminated in the WFA's service at the CWGC cemetery in Arras with the RAF Tornado flypast.

Less obvious to members will have been the Association`s detailed and complex engagement with the Government in the last two years which has included attendance at a number of House of Lords committees responsible for planning the Government`s approach to the Great War remembrance events, and co-ordination with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which is responsible for arranging these national events. From the relationships we have developed, the Association was able to be represented at the services Glasgow Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Mons on 4 August 2014.

For many members however – perhaps inevitably, the most important and public expression of the Association is our work around Armistice Day. This year, we had anticipated the service at the Cenotaph on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 was likely to very well-attended. Starting 9 months ago, the main WFA organisers (John Chester, who is also parade marshal, Colin Wagstaff and Richard Hughes, had been planning the event, making all the necessary arrangements and trying to take account of the hundreds of details that have to be attended to. Anyone who has the privilege of working with John Chester would be amazed to see the complexity of his 11 November planning file!

The one factor that even the Executive Committee cannot control is the weather so we were relieved to see a wet weekend give way to a better spell of sunshine; 11 November was a beautiful Autumn day.

John Chester was, as always, first out on parade and by the time the other organisers arrived, he was already busying himself to make sure that everything would go to plan. By 10.15 am Whitehall was getting busy; by 10.30 am Whitehall was closed to traffic and the anticipation was building as Western Front members and guests met up in King Charles Street. Military uniforms, pipers, best suits, splendid dresses and police uniforms all mixed as we tried to organise the Association`s column. Excited school children were drilled in their roles by Colin Wagstaff and all seemed to be falling into place. That was, until we got the phone call. “Good morning. Prime Minister`s office here. Would it be too late for the Prime Minister to come down and join you…?” Moments later, representatives from Mr Cameron`s office and his protection team were down at the Cenotaph taking notes and making plans, and at 10.50am the Prime Minister emerged from the Foreign and Commonwealth office to take his place between our President, Professor Peter Simkins, our Chairman, Bob Paterson, and our retiring Chairman, Bruce Simpson. The Prime Minister warmly greeted all the VIPs (including Kate Marshall wearing her CWGC hat, Cerys Matthews and ministers Helen Grant, Julian Brazier and Philip Dunne and MPs Dan Jarvis, and John Hayes) and it was time to walk.

It is hard to put into words how fitting and significant it felt to be part of The Western Front Association procession at the Cenotaph,100 years on from 1914, with the Prime Minister in our number. As 11.00 am arrived and the silence was broken by the bugler`s “Last Post”, it was an extraordinary moment for everyone there. And it was also a moment when every member of The Western Front Association – whether or not they could be in London on Tuesday - could be proud of what we have achieved over so many years.

Richard Hughes

Legal Officer

The image above, courtesy Jom Moore, shows Brother Nigel Cave leading the WFA Service at the Cenotaph, 11 November 2014, with members of the Royal Star and Garter homes, the Prime Minister, Bruce Simpson (retiring Chairman), Prof gary Sheffield (Vice President) and other guests in attendance.

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