Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Skipman

Butte de Warlencourt sold?

Recommended Posts

Heid the Ba

Peter 1914, the point is that the Butte is now being returned to the WFA after much expense and sturm und drang.  Nothing concrete has been achieved other than a fracturing of the WFA and the involvement of the Charities Commission.  Whether the interim owner is the best custodian of the Butte is irrelevant since the transfer to a former WFA chairman was essentially for no consideration and done in secret.  Taff Gillingham's thoughts in post #160 are worth reading.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gareth Davies

Yes!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter 1914

It`s not 100% clear to me that the Butte will be sold back? The issue surely is that for the WFA to buy it back, there needs to be an EC decision to do so and, rather like Brexit, I don`t sense from people I speak to that there`s a majority in the House for that. I understood that the WFA asked for people who wanted to reverse the sale to step forward as new trustees (thus assuming all the potential issues and liabilities that go with the Butte) and the total number of willing candidates was, I am told.....zero. If nobody who has been criticizing the EC steps forward, it gives some perspective.

The other thing which is getting lost in all this is that I suspect the trustees were most concerned to protect the WFA, so they were more concerned with laying off contingent liability than they were with price. Whether they got e5k, 10k, 15k or 20k was probably a secondary factor, and their primary responsibility was  - and is - to safeguard the Association. As I said in previous posts, they appear to be a good committee and I think we lost some good people with all this. 

As for the secret sale, if memory serves me, because of the issues with looking after the Butte, the Association had resolved to sell the Butte on two previous occasions (which was known to members), and could not even give it away to the local commune. Presented with a sensible committed buyer in the form of Mr Paterson, it looks like a pretty rational decision.

I`m not sure I would want to be a trustee responsible for the Butte, as owning land comes with real potential liabilities, and i think insurance limits and the availability of insurance was beginning to be an issue. I think the trustees were in a tough place but I guess we will just have to see what the Charity Commission say. . 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
David Filsell

How welcome to this debate - a voice of reason!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Don Regiano

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
keithmroberts

Robust debate is welcome here, personalities achieve nothing and are not in order.

 

I have removed a post and a response to it.

 

Keith Roberts

GWF Team

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gareth Davies

Keith 

 

Some people are paid by the WFA. I think that impacts on their impartiality and thus I think others in the debate should be aware of this very likely conflict of interest. I get nothing from the WFA but I am doing my best to help reform it and take it forward. Others, including someone who is paid by the WFA, seem intent on keeping the status quo.

 

Robust debate. 

 

Gareth

Edited by Gareth Davies

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Muerrisch

I do indeed think it appropriate for contributors on this thread to make a Declaration of Interest regarding WFA membership and, separately, emoluments.

 

I am a WFA member, a contributor of articles, an occasional critic and not in any way a beneficiary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gareth Davies

I am a WFA member as is my wife. I am giving up my time for free to try and get the WFA out of the hole that the EC has created. I haven’t been to a meeting but had I gone I would have been entitled to receive travel expenses but I would not have claimed them, not because I am wealthy but because I think that the WFA can do something more useful with the £40 my train would cost.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bernard_Lewis

I am a member and, from memory, have chipped in my views earlier.

 

Bernard

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gareth Davies

I understand why Grumpy is suggesting closure but I think it should stay open until at least the AGM. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Michelle Young

As the AGM is over a month away, I personally doubt if this can carry on until then given the way it is going. I have tidied up a few posts.    The future of this thread will be discussed with the other members of the moderating team.

 

Michelle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter 1914

I think I have two questions/points for Gareth:

1. Would you be prepared to accept the responsibility of being a trustee of the WFA if it repurchased the Butte, in the knowledge that if anything ever happened to someone on the site, your name, together with the other trustees, would be on the writ?

2. You make an assumption that Mr Filsell’s judgment may be wanting because of his connection with the WFA but you make an unsupported assumption about the validity of your judgment to the effect that the WFA needs “reform” and that you are selflessly helping it “out of a hole”.

if you had been the chairman of the WFA for the last 5 years:

(1) what would you have done differently or added to the cause? Given your views on the Butte, I guess you would have been prepared to continue to own the Butte (thus being the only EC member that would have dissented from the summer 2018 decision to sell, and accepting the inherent liabilities)?

(2) I assume you would also have been able to save and digitalise the WW1 pension records, organise some extraordinary Nov 11 Cenotaph and Guards Chapel services, publish the magazines, organise the 1914-2014 ceremonies in Arras and Amiens (including the RAF flypast), build a better relationship with Government and DCMS than the WFA has ever had, and ensure that members had the chance to participate in the many national centennial everts where the WFA has had a seat at the proverbial table because of the efforts of the EC and Chairman.

What else would you have achieved?

All the above has cost me, as a member during the last 5 years, about £135. As a member, I look at the EC committee, a bunch of enthusiasts, either doing this in retirement or on top of their day jobs, accepting a potential personal liability as trustees that does not attach to the other 6500 members, and I think they have served us pretty well, to say the least. They don’t look as if they are in a “hole” to me.......... and I suspect that view is shared by most members who are content to see the EC carry the weight of running the Association. I am however very sad that this whole episode with the Butte has cost us some great trustees.

Those that can do better, step forwards.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
keithmroberts

I would be reluctant to see this thread close, but Mods do not need to spend time being obliged to referee personal attacks. The handling of the sale or resumption of ownership has been a disaster for the WFA in a year when we have seen the vital pension records saved and also made available to WFA members along with the Medal Index Cards previously saved from destruction.

There will I hope be some constructive debate about the way forward at the AGM, but it will not be helped by personal attacks,and they have no place here.

 

The recent history will be pored over, and whoever sits on the new executive after the AGM surely needs to concentrate on bringing together those who have given so much time, along with some new blood, and in whatever capacity. if it means some further "focus groups" or whatever that would be money well spent. That however is for the elected members of the new executive to address. Here we can exchange ideas that might help in the future, and that can do no harm. The WFA now needs to look forwards, not backwards, and I hope that we too can do that.

 

Feelings do run high, but respect for the integrity of fellow members is not optional here.

 

Keith Roberts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gareth Davies
8 hours ago, Peter 1914 said:

I think I have two questions/points for Gareth:

1. Would you be prepared to accept the responsibility of being a trustee of the WFA if it repurchased the Butte, in the knowledge that if anything ever happened to someone on the site, your name, together with the other trustees, would be on the writ?

2. You make an assumption that Mr Filsell’s judgment may be wanting because of his connection with the WFA but you make an unsupported assumption about the validity of your judgment to the effect that the WFA needs “reform” and that you are selflessly helping it “out of a hole”.

if you had been the chairman of the WFA for the last 5 years:

(1) what would you have done differently or added to the cause? Given your views on the Butte, I guess you would have been prepared to continue to own the Butte (thus being the only EC member that would have dissented from the summer 2018 decision to sell, and accepting the inherent liabilities)?

(2) I assume you would also have been able to save and digitalise the WW1 pension records, organise some extraordinary Nov 11 Cenotaph and Guards Chapel services, publish the magazines, organise the 1914-2014 ceremonies in Arras and Amiens (including the RAF flypast), build a better relationship with Government and DCMS than the WFA has ever had, and ensure that members had the chance to participate in the many national centennial everts where the WFA has had a seat at the proverbial table because of the efforts of the EC and Chairman.

What else would you have achieved?

All the above has cost me, as a member during the last 5 years, about £135. As a member, I look at the EC committee, a bunch of enthusiasts, either doing this in retirement or on top of their day jobs, accepting a potential personal liability as trustees that does not attach to the other 6500 members, and I think they have served us pretty well, to say the least. They don’t look as if they are in a “hole” to me.......... and I suspect that view is shared by most members who are content to see the EC carry the weight of running the Association. I am however very sad that this whole episode with the Butte has cost us some great trustees.

Those that can do better, step forwards.

 

 

Dear Peter1914 (nice anonymous name and empty profile)

 

Where have I said that I oppose the sale of the Butte?  To use your words that's "an unsupported assumption".  As for your suggestion that they don't look as if they are in a hole, I think Keith's words in the post above sum things up nicely.  "The handling of the sale or resumption of ownership has been a disaster for the WFA".  If they weren't in a hole then the working group that I am a member of wouldn't exist.  I have stepped forward.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter 1914

Keith

On behavior of forum members, I agree with you 100%. My recent posts have stood up for the EC, Mr Filsell`s integrity (not that he needs my he;p) and noted my support for great work of the WFA in the last 5 years. The sale of the Butte safeguards the future of the Association by de-risking it at a time when insurance was becoming harder and more expensive to obtain. Indeed, thank goodness the Butte was sold when it was because the it appears the French insurers were about to withdraw cover. That alone could have led to a crisis for the WFA because who would then wish to be a trustee with naked risk?

 

To Gareth, you ducked my 2 questions, but if you are stepping up, and supporting the WFA as it moves forward, good for you - the Association needs volunteers. But if you are suggesting you actually approved of the sale of the Butte, what is your issue with the way it was done? Remember:

- the statements in the Bulletin show that the trustees clearly identified the risk of owning the Butte, either with or without insurance; were facing the prospect of perhaps losing all the trustees;

- the sale price was never going to be high (it had no commercial value, only an unquantifiable contingent liability); and

- as I understand it, no-one had shown more commitment to the Butte than Mt Paterson (who I met a few times and seems like a perfect purchaser).

 

If your issue is the timing of the announcement, the trustees were damned whatever they did. I know from asking that the sale process took ages, so once sold, I suspect the trustees faced a dilemma of announcing it just before 11/11 or just after. Either way, they would get it in the neck, which they did, but that`s why they were good trustees - they did what they thought was for the best. Much of any reputational damage to the WFA was caused by a small group of individuals (I don`t know if they were WFA members or not) who launched an ill-informed social media campaign and drew in the newspapers and the Charity Commission.

As I said in my very first post, I look forward to the results of the Charity Commission`s inquiry which I hope will be before the AGM.

 

Regards, 

Peter 

("nice anonymous name and empty profile"? Just a longstanding member, generally supportive of the EC who have helped me enjoy my WW1 interest over 20 years, and who has been sad to see the viciousness (not you Gareth) of some of the criticism directed at them.)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hedley Malloch

I would like to make three points:

1). I lived in France for 17 years and bought, sold and insured property there. I also organised the erection of WW1 memorials and helped local communes and British regimental associations do the same. The insurance problem was not insurmountable. In fact, looking back through the thread there are some (largely ignored) suggestions as to how these could have been overcome.

2.) The disposal of the BdW and its future is not, repeat not, a legal problem. It has a legal aspect, but the law is not at its heart. It is a heritage management and stewardship problem which has highlighted some serious issues of corporate governance by a management which has never grasped the symbolic importance of the BdW to the membership. If they had, then the problem would have been handled in a totally different way. But once defined solely as a legal issue (and that's what lawyers tend to do), then it was more or less inevitable that its management would descend into an  exercise of the fear-induced waving of potential and possibly imaginary writs.

3.) I have been a member of the WFA for 30 years, but I cannot recall a single contested election for a place on the EC. A certain amount of complacency on the part of the EC towards the membership is therefore understandable. And that is as much down to the membership as it is to the EC. Members pay their annual subscription to the centre. Their main point of contact appears to be branch meetings where they pay again at the door. Branches themselves seem to be financially and organisationally autonomous - and everyone seems to like it that way. The result is that branches, members, and the EC occupy separate universes which are usually parallel but, as the BdW affair demonstrates, this is not always the case. And when these worlds do collide, there is no way of resolving the conflicts.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Peter 1914

Hedley

I think your points are well made, but:

- I think the issue for the trustees was that they were concerned about owning the Butte even if they did have insurance. Unsupervised land, occupier liability, contaminated, and collapsed bunkers that could contain anything. 3 workmen killed in Ypres in 2014 by British handgrenade.

- how would you have dealt with the Butte from a heritage management perspective? I have heard no better practical ideas than selling it to an enthusiast and then working with that individual for the future. 

- I agree with your points on the structure but I don’t sense that the EC is complacent. But there are certainly not enough volunteers offering to serve, so not surprising there are no contested elections! As a result of the Butte furore, I understand the EC needs at least a new finance trustee and a new legal trustee and when I last spoke to the Secretary there had been no new blood coming forward for those slots. After the social media trolling that went on last year, hardly surprising!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bernard_Lewis

Personally, I have no special affection or interest in the BDW. I struggle to see why it very suddenly became a burning issue so much so that the EC saw fit to offload it to one person with no apparent option to try and get the 'market price', whatever that might have been.

 

The individual was obviously aware of the ownership risks but presumably thought they were manageable even if the EC did not.

 

I'm a WFA member and simply expect the Executive to act in a reasonably competent and transparent manner. On this issue, they failed and the lack of transparency and the actions taken made it look (only look, perhaps) that an old boys club was sorting things out to suit themselves rather than getting potentially a better deal for the wider association.

 

Bernard

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...