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Skipman

Butte de Warlencourt sold?

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stiletto_33853
20 minutes ago, David Filsell said:

Mr S

What do you suggest the price of a hill containing - almost certainly - unexploded ordnance and gas which requires expensive maintenance and insurance every year to be be worth on the free market? I suggest very little.

On another note, at another time far from the 11th, and all its events, the decision to sell would have passed cppletely unmaked by the media and all who sail in her. Fickle old thing the finger of publicity fate 

David 

 

No arguments with you there David and the very reason I was against the purchase in the first place. I believe the WFA purchased it originally for something just over the 600 mark. Always thought, for the very reason you have mentioned, that it would be a financial burden.

Fickle indeed, or some people a little upset over the errrrrmmmm handling of this episode in the way it has been and alerted people, even the Charity Commission is seemingly involved now. No idea regarding that, but once it has been picked up on, well you know how that goes, but very bad timing.

 

Andy 

Edited by stiletto_33853

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Steven Broomfield
15 minutes ago, David Filsell said:

Mr S

What do you suggest the price of a hill containing - almost certainly - unexploded ordnance and gas which requires expensive maintenance and insurance every year to be be worth on the free market? I suggest very little.

 

David 

 

 

It's not about the free market (indeed, in this case - like Wembley - I would be very much against the free market). My point, ham-fistedly, was about the mechanics of the sale, the apparent decision-making process, a lack of awareness of how the membership would react and the utterly appalling way that the whole thing was announced and subsequently handled. Disposal of such a possession needed careful handling and very careful news-breaking. I'm not even saying that the membership needed consulting (though some consultation with the grey beards who've been there for ever and who are obviously extremely influential would have been sensible): what was needed was a full and clear explanation of process, of reasons and of outcomes.

 

As it is, the whole thing looks incredibly amateurish.

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Heid the Ba
21 minutes ago, stiletto_33853 said:

, even the Charity Commission is seemingly involved now. No idea regarding that, but once it has been picked up on, well you know how that goes, but very bad timing.

If someone has complained, and let's face it someone will have, then they have little option but to investigate.

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mva
17 minutes ago, Heid the Ba said:

I was wondering the same thing, would it not be possible to have the site checked to see what if anything is there?  This would surely reduce the insurance premiums.

 

I wonder what the insurance premium is based on (but guess - sorry - that the insurance company (French or British ?) earns much money there ...

The 'service du déminage' (English ??? those who come when a bomb is found in a field) could do that, I think ; BUT : I am not sure if they come to investigate (& who pays then !). However, the local officials must know !

I am in the Somme, not in Pas de Calais (where the Butte is), but finding old 'souvenirs' is very frequent !

 

 

 

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Heid the Ba

The insurance premium will be based on risk, at the moment that is unknown as it is assumed there are shells and chemicals there.  Ascertaining what is there would quantify the risk.  Bomb Disposal teams (service du déminage) could do this but I have no idea if they would carry out a pre-emptive search or if they only wait until something was found.

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Gunner Bailey

Is this a disaster because a number of WFA members might have liked to buy it? 

 

The point about unexploded shells is valid but what about bodies? 

 

Maybe other issues here..... 

Edited by Gunner Bailey

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David Filsell

The complexities raised in this thread just indicate how easy it is for Trustees with very best of intentions to get things wrong in the public eye, and how unforgiving of people giving up their time for nothing is amongst the members and then public. The difficulties they face in making decisions are many and various (There are some things that we know etc.etc). Just as an example, as an ex journo and media relations hack, it was pretty obvious to me when I first read about it on the forum that, with centennial fever around, the mejaaa would pick the story up and run with it. The Trustees apparently - and to me unsurprisingly - apparently did not.

 

I have no idea if the WFA has worthwhile media relations expert. It seems not. Such an individual would/should have spotted the danger of the coincidence in the decision and the memorial period - as well as the important need to manage the news and timing better by simply holding the decision until later and perhaps by seeking members views - which is never a simpler thing as Ron has pointed out on the thread. 

 

However if you favour the retention of the BdV - which I do not,  being happy with what I consider a sound business decision by the trustees, it seems the very rapid back-track, and the WFA's about turn, has been fast in the face of criticism - as it needed to be to manage/limit the damage.

 

Anyway, given time, the pages covering the story will end up in a chippie and we will have all have learned a little about how difficult and many  are the complexities facing small charities and organisations in communicating to its public as news spread, speed and quantity grows in this (enlightened?) time. As it turns out only those who regarded the initial purchase of the site as foolish largely vanity project have, sadly,  lost out and an organisations reputation has slightly tarnished - something it will get over I am pretty sure.

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nigelcave
23 hours ago, Heid the Ba said:

The insurance premium will be based on risk, at the moment that is unknown as it is assumed there are shells and chemicals there.  Ascertaining what is there would quantify the risk.  Bomb Disposal teams (service du déminage) could do this but I have no idea if they would carry out a pre-emptive search or if they only wait until something was found.

 

 

It will almost certainly have ordnance in it somewhere or the other. I seem to recall that some years back one or more people involved in clearing the undergrowth were affected by gas. Other risks are more mundane, e.g. tripping over/slipping on stairs leading to the memorial(s). I must say that in this regard I wonder how the Lochnagar Crater is managed.

 

The deminuers (civilian ones - such jobs are done by civilian contractors in France) will certainly cost you and quite a bit (I have some knowledge of this elsewhere on the WF); possibly quite a bit more because of public access. The key question would be how far down they were expected to check, complicated by the fact that it is a 'butte' and ?possibly a site of archaeological interest. 

 

At the end of the day the WFA is left with the big problem of how to manage the site within its means.  The solution seemed reasonable in the circumstances (i.e. public access, plus maintenance, plus insurance for a number of years). I rather fear that the outcome might well end up with it being fenced off (e.g. a la Triple Tambour, most of the Vimy site, the Hohenzollern Redoubt etc), the various memorial(s) shifted to easily accessible hard standing and it reverts to its pre WFA 'left to nature' status, with occasional, agreed, access by hunters to keep the local farmers happy.

 

I suspect that what will now follow is a statement of the situation as understood by the EC and - if insurance is a major issue - it will just have to be 'closed', even if only by 'forbidden access' signs in the first instance (fencing it off will cost an arm and a leg). Certainly if I were a trustee I would not want to be personally liable without adequate insurance cover. I cannot see anyone willing to take this on except they have very large pockets or by some branch of the state or by the creation of a French association (which I suppose would have to be separate from the WFA).

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mva
1 hour ago, nigelcave said:

creation of a French association

I don't know what is the difference between what you call (I believe) a charity in UK & what we call 'association loi 1901'

see : https://www.associationmodeemploi.fr/article/gerer-une-association-loi-1901.60573

Could the Souvenir Français be involved as a 'partner' (but they are not rich at all !!!)

How was the former situation, ie WFA owner ?

1 hour ago, nigelcave said:

I must say that in this regard I wonder how the Lochnagar Crater is managed.

It is private British property, isn't it ? Interesting question ! who knows more ?

kind regards from the Somme

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chaz

when we bought ours we had chemical searches done as part of the search,gasses and contaminents but after buying I googled V1 launch sites as the next village had one, our house was built in 1955, the village appeared on maps in the 1800's, we are on Grand Rue, the main street. there is an overlay that shows the bomb caters from creeping back bombing that the RAF and USAF carried out in WW2. cant say I saw any mention of that in the report.

the red arrow , is the road along which the V1 site is, the green arrow approx our house. white spots bomb craters, the craters started near the red arrow and crept back past the house. it was a fact that bombing crept back as bombloads were dropped before the target came up.

 

bombing.jpg

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nigelcave

The point is that it would be a French association - Les amis de la Butte de Warlencourt or whatever. This at least takes the foreign, complicating element out of the equation and makes things relatively easier as regards the law and, just possibly, insurance (though I doubt it).

 

Sadly, I see the outcome as being a closed site (although they could always shove the memorials on the car park hard standing) if, as I conjecture, insurance is the issue. No one except a real enthusiast is going to take on board all the risks for a site which, whilst of great significance, has even worse access than Lochnagar Crater had when it was purchased and with less of a 'wow' factor, as well as being just that little bit further from the main 'Somme in a day' route.

 

Like Gibraltar, the poorly presented remnants of the village (semi) detruit of Fay and the trenches at Soyecourt, I suspect that this will end up in the hands of the Historial - if it is kept accessible at all. I rather think that this is likely to be the destination of Lochnagar. For what it is worth I think that the solution (tho' not the timing) was probably right: hand over all the responsibilities but assist the new owner in presenting this free to visit and most important site in the most informative way practicable for a guaranteed period of time.

 

I think people need to understand how precarious the situation is for numerous sites on the WF. As an example, I recommend a visit to Ferme du Navarin in the eastern Marne/Champagne, a most important site (and ossuary) in the French sector. People do their best. A single stalwart volunteers to open the place on a Sunday afternoon (probably closed in the winter). It is fascinating inside the ossuary structure. The viewing platform on the memorial is closed to the public, one of its great attributes, for health and safety reasons. The exterior part of the building is crumbling. The neighbouring traces of the trench system have disappeared, more or less, into the shrubbery. A good deal of work has been done inside the ossuary to keep up standards and there is helpful information signage. But it is open half a day a week for, I think, part of the year only; and whilst the interior might have been improved, there will be (expensive) trouble ahead for the outside. The Butte is merely a sign of the problems for numerous owners of small, public sites of great significance in a society that has demanded far higher regulatory standards.

Edited by nigelcave

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Neil Mackenzie
On 01/11/2018 at 16:06, Blincodave said:

Three NEC members have already done the right and honourable thing and resigned – some of them pointing out that they never supported the sale in the first place.

To those remaining members of the Western Front Association National Executive Committee I now say, go. Your position is completely untenable and nothing will enable the Association to move forward and regain its dignity and respect until you have all stood down.

So who is going to stand in their place? Who would want that poisoned chalice?

 

Presumably the more vociferous complainers will be standing for election to the various posts that will be vacated - I won't be holding my breath though.

 

All the people on the EC are volunteers giving up their spare time to run the WFA and whilst I think the sale has been mishandled I don't see risking the closure of the whole organisation as being a very constructive way forward.

 

The Butte was no doubt purchased with the best of intentions but owning parts of the former battlefield doesn't really fit with the WFA's charitable objects as an educational body. As several people have mentioned the Butte was a standing item on every EC agenda and must have taken up hours and hours of time - so I personally agree with getting rid of it.

 

Neil
 

 

 

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Neil Mackenzie

The other issue for trustees of the WFA is that whilst it is a charity it has not, as far as I can tell, been incorporated into a Limited Company. This means they are more at risk of being personally liable if something goes wrong (https://www.ft.com/content/46313936-d11d-11e7-b781-794ce08b24dc) .

 

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johnboy

What were the objectives and plans for it when WFA originally bought it?

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Heid the Ba
4 hours ago, mva said:

It is private British property, isn't it ? Interesting question ! who knows more ?

kind regards from the Somme

It’s owner is a private citizen (as far as I am aware) but it is a French property.  The nationality of the owner doesn’t matter.

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ss002d6252
17 minutes ago, Neil Mackenzie said:

The other issue for trustees of the WFA is that whilst it is a charity it has not, as far as I can tell, been incorporated into a Limited Company. This means they are more at risk of being personally liable if something goes wrong (https://www.ft.com/content/46313936-d11d-11e7-b781-794ce08b24dc) .

 

As I understand it, with it being a charity the limited company status doesn't apply but there is a charitable equivalent. It depends on how the charitable side is structured as to what exposure the trustees have - https://www.gov.uk/setting-up-charity/structures

 

Craig

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Neil Mackenzie

Most UK charities of any size are both Charities and Limited Companies (usually limited by guarantee). This means they have to register with both the Charity Commission and Companies House and their accounts have to satisfy both. There is a new structure, 'Charitable Incorporated Organisation' (CIO), which allows charities to get the benefits of incorporation without having to register with Companies House. If I was thinking of becoming a trustee of the WFA I would want the structure changed to a CIO asap.

 

Neil

Edited by Neil Mackenzie

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Chris_Baker

Neil, this is the sort of thing I had in mind when I recently said on Facebook that "It needs more than replacing one set of trustees with another. A lot more. There’s an opportunity and an unprecedented need to look afresh at WFAs whole purpose, structure, methods, technology and its relationship with the wider world."

 

I look forward to positive developments emerging.

 

Edited by Chris_Baker
Detail removed

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Neil Mackenzie

Chris

 

I agree with you 100% on everything - except for the part about resigning membership! You have obviously put a lot more into the WFA than I have - and, of course, it is entirely your decision - but the organisation needs supporters and friends now more than ever before.

 

=============================================================================================================================

 

Obviously the matter has been handled poorly especially as the process seemingly ignored the contribution that members and branches made when the site was first acquired. But there has been a load of nonsense (from 1 or 2 people on Facebook) questioning the integrity of the EC and Mr Paterson - people are deluded if they think the latter was going to make money out of the acquisition.

 

I personally think handing over the Butte to a local, suitably set up, organisation would be a very good step. I am not so sure that selling it to an individual, however committed to the site as Bob undoubtedly is, was ever a good idea (not just for the WFA but also for Bob as well).

 

Neil

 

 

Edited by Neil Mackenzie

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keithmroberts

I have to agree with Neil. The handling of this has done great damage.  I do believe however that all concerned actually intended  to do what they believed to be right. Like Neil, I regret that you have resigned,  and hope that you will at some point in the future rejoin the WFA which will need all the help it can get to restore trust and confidence.

 

On a separate issue - the calling of an EGM requires that 28 days notice be given to all members by post.  I suggest that the earliest sensible date for such a meeting would now be mid-January, by which time the deadline for nominations for the AGM will be imminent. I don't have solutions, just pointing this out.

 

Keith

 

Edited typo

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pierssc

I'm not a WFA member, but have been following this thread with interest.

 

I hope the Trustees complied with the law

 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/charity-land-and-property

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John W
16 hours ago, Neil Mackenzie said:

The other issue for trustees of the WFA is that whilst it is a charity it has not, as far as I can tell, been incorporated into a Limited Company. This means they are more at risk of being personally liable if something goes wrong (https://www.ft.com/content/46313936-d11d-11e7-b781-794ce08b24dc) .

 

Neil actually its not the Trustees who are liable but the membership as a whole te legal term is jointly and severally

 

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Neil Mackenzie

John

 

I think it depends.

 

Whilst the overall membership may be liable in some cases it is far more likely that any action would be directed at committee members as they are the ones who will have entered into contracts etc. The link below is several years old now (but my Googling did not bring up any more recent ones).

https://www.icaew.com/archive/library/subject-gateways/law/contract-law/legal-alert/case-law-personal-liability-of-club-committee-members-highlighted

 

I would definately want the WFA to be an incorporated organisation of some sort though - such as the  'Charitable Incorporated Organisation' (CIO) option mentioned above.

 

Neil

Edited by Neil Mackenzie

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caulkheader
2 hours ago, Neil Mackenzie said:

Chris

 

I agree with you 100% on everything - except for the part about resigning membership! You have obviously put a lot more into the WFA than I have - and, of course, it is entirely your decision - but the organisation needs supporters and friends now more than ever before.

 

Neil

 

 

Other associations are available . . . . . .

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Terry_Reeves

This was always going to be contentious, however it required some finesse. I will make a few points.

 

1. The WFA is "owned" by its membership and supported by their financial contributions. Whilst I accept that those at the NEC level are volunteers, that  goes across the whole spectrum of the WFA. It is important that those in such positions understand their obligations to the wider membership irrespective of their executive powers. In the end it is the money of the general membership which keeps the organisation going.

 

2. The decision was taken without any regard to the above, indeed there seems to have been disagreement even amongst the NEC.

 

3. As I have stated in previous posts, I believe that the original purchase was a mistake  and agree with the decision to get rid of this millstone. The problem I have  is the decision to go ahead with the sale and then tell the membership afterwards. It was a PR disaster! It would have been better  to inform branches by e mail about the position giving a detailed explanation as to the reasons. This could have debated at branch level, results recorded and sent in thus avoiding a lot of nause.

 

4. Resigning  from the WFA, in my view, does not solve anything. An utterly useless gesture.

 

TR

 

 

Edited by Terry_Reeves

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