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Gareth Davies

The Western Front Association (WFA)

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Gareth Davies

Dear All

 

I am part of the Working Group that is looking at the future of the WFA. Quite a lot has been said about the WFA on the forum but I am not sure anyone has surveyed the wider GWF for a comprehensive set of views so I am going to give it a go.  First, a few rules.

1.  If you want to libel someone, please go elsewhere. In fact please keep individual names out of this.  

2.  If you want to say something was/is bad, please tell me why and what should be being done instead, and please add what you have done to try and change things.  

3.  If you have nothing to say on the subject but want to show how wonderfully clever you are, as with Rule 1 please go elsewhere. 

 

What I would like to know please is:

 

a.  Are you a WFA member. If so what encouraged you to join? What encourages you to stay?

b.  Have you previously been a member of the WFA? If so, why did you leave?

c.  If you have heard of the WFA but haven't joined, despite your very clear interest in the Great War, why haven't you joined.

 

 

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Muerrisch

a. Yes. Cannot remember . ST!

b. No. Not applicable.

c. Not applicable.

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Gareth Davies

Thank you.

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Dragon

Hi Gareth - there was a long discussion on the GWF in 2009 on this topic. I am not a member of the WFA and I contributed my thoughts, but they have vanished and I can't find them in a  search so I can't link to the topic. I saved my drafts at the time, partly because they contained some negative comments and people didn't like them. I could send you the .doc if you like rather than pasting them on here.

 

Originally I couldn't afford it. I had a low income and there is no provision for people in my situation, or adult p/t students which I was at the time, to pay a reduced fee. I invested a fair amount of money in the Drill Halls project and in materials for my course, and I didn't have any spare.

Further, I recall meeting a senior WFA member who told me it would do me good to join, for which I read it would do the WFA good if I joined and paid a membership fee. I explained my situation and said that I could only consider joining if it were made affordable for people like me. He replied (in a rather belligerent way) that I wouldn't go into Sainsbury's and ask for a price reduction, so why on earth should I think of asking the WFA for one? Fine. If that's their attitude...

I suppose I'm not terribly interested in the Somme / Flanders area of the Western Front. I'm not at all interested in the military histories. I don't research casualties. I can't think myself into that mindset, which isn't in any way a criticism of those who can, it's a reflection of our individual differences. I'm interested in arts, literature, imagery, culture, social issues, the built environment, the Vosges. I don't feel that the WFA reflects my interests.

 

Fatuous comments that I wouldn't ask a shop for a reduced price, so why expect the WFA to offer one, are patronising, offensive and shallow. Obviously the cost of membership has to cover the publications, website, organisation administration and so on. I belong/ed to various charities or organisations all of whom offer/ed concessions. In return, though this was neither expected nor requested, I decided to offer my skills to do occasional writing for them, which has/had mutual benefits. I get something to put on my completely pointless CV if I ever need one, and it keeps my brain alive and gives me back a fragment of self-respect, and they get high quality input for nothing. My point is that it isn't necessarily all one way. I may not be able to pay the full fee, but I can do stuff, such as writing.

Whatever the stated objectives of an organisation, membership groups tend to set their own norms which may be at variance with the organisation's. At that time. it seemed that if a particular group of the WFA is primarily interested in a specific topic area, then I supposed their calendar would drift towards that. More seriously, if a particular group is balanced towards older males who regard women as dumb, silly appendages, this excluding and condescending feel will permeate their encounters with us. I certainly felt that the WFA member's charm offensive ensured I wouldn't be contaminating their little clique.

 

I stress that I'm not criticising the good work that the WFA do and the quality of some of its material, publications or initiatives. I believe that many of its staff and its members are very committed and knowledgeable. I regret sounding over-critical, but if some potential enthusiastic members are deterred from joining by their experiences or observations, the WFA is not raising the right sort of awareness.

 

Gwyn

 

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Gareth Davies

Thanks Gwyn. Your penultimate paragraph contains a point/tension that I identified recently. 

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Acknown

Gareth,

I got interested in WW1 whilst writing a family history, having found that many of them served in a variety of differing, interesting circumstances. Also, I met some members who suggested that I joined my local branch. I stay because I enjoy the branch programme and the opportunity to meet like-minded people.

Acknown

Edited by Acknown
Clarity

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Michelle Young

I left because I wasn't reading the publications,  I didn't like the lack of interest in the general membership from the EC. I didn't feel they were in touch. There was no raising of the profile during the centenary. Work commitments meant that I couldn't attend branch meetings. 

 

Michelle 

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Muerrisch

Sad that my contributions over the years should be unread.

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ForeignGong

I am a member, but living in Western Australia cannot attend any meetings. I enjoy the publications when they arrive and read them all. 

 

Peter

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Bernard_Lewis

I am currently a member but have resigned and my membership is winding down.

 

I joined due to an interest in the Great War, circa 2002.

 

My research interests have spread to the Second World War and my reading of the magazine has declined (I have cancelled two other magazine subscriptions as they were only being skimmed of late.)

 

I wasn't impressed by the disconnect between the committee and (some) members over the sale of the BDW...

 

All in all, I decided to resign my membership. I've not read the latest magazine which nestles in a pile of "stuff'...I am currently immersed with the Welsh Guards in Palestine, 1946/47 😂 Time is tight...

 

Bernard

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KIRKY

I joined as it seems the best organisation dealing with WW1 and I enjoy most of the articles in the magazine.

Tony

 

Edited by KIRKY

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chaz

Not a member   so have not left.

As for 3. I am interested in WW1 and also WW2  why have I not joined? Firstly no time as I work nights so cant attend meetings.  I get most of my answers on here. With a second house in France it would be nice to get more info on sites but we tend to be free spirits, going where we want when we want not an itinerary so trying to arrange to meet others is out. With many great uncles, see my sig, we tend to stick with them.  In the past I have seen a lot of off putting remarks, and also the lack of promotion while the centenary was on. Visited the But de W for the first time this year. Makes me wonder about the future of it if held by individuals or a group with infighting....

Feel free to PM me valid reasons to join,, as I mentioned.. I've not been contacted, seen representatives in the 5 years we have been visiting from March to December. OR is it going the way of other forum I've been in and running, mainly motorcycle,  that the internet and farcebook will kill such meeting places off once the older generation have gone, says he passing 60 this year!!!

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chaz

To add, look at our noble forum, many new members join to find out information on relatives,  never to be heard of again. The old stagers here keep it running but for how long.. 

May be an idea to do a poll or two on ages of this forum and the WF just to see if new blood joining.

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seaJane

a. No.

b. No.

c. Many reasons, among them: I pay other subscriptions and can't afford yet more; I haven't the stamina to commit to regular attendance at meetings especially after or during a working day, as a result of which weekends are already full of things I really want to do; my GW interests are a) naval b) much wider than the WF; I have enough to read without taking on more; I find my GW fix from the GWF more than adequate.

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Bardess

I became a member earlier this year to be able to view the Pension Cards. The magazines overflowing with a huge array of topics are, for me, the icing on the cake [I didn't expect to actually receive one, living in Oz and thought they might be emailed PDFs]. I would love to meet other like-minded individuals but, sadly, there isn't a Branch within reasonable distance. All in all I will continue my membership and am happy to pay the subscription

 

Something I didn't expect was the Stand To archives. Nice

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Derek Black

A & B - No.

 

C. My local branch meetings are only 35-40 minutes away by car, however they are held when i'm usually just finishing work, or during a shift.

I do enjoy the WFA Youtube channel and regular Mentioned In Despatches podcast.

 

I too find the GWF and other online sources provides sufficient great war news and research sources for my needs.
I may join in the future when i need to access the pension cards in bulk for my research. The old issues of ST! may be perused then, (although i must admit i've never read more than an article or two reproduced on this forum by the authors themsleves) and hopefully found to be of interest.

 

Derek.

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keithmroberts

1  yes I am a member. I joined out of general interest in the Great War.

2   N/A

3  N/A

 

I regularly attend meetings, and the branch I am a member of definitely does not confine itself to the Western front, or to the fine detail of battles/campaigns/ service experience.

That still holds my interest which has changed over the years. When I first became free as life changed to travel more, I started out by visiting men I was or had researched in their cemeteries. Then I began to try to understand how they came to be where they are, how battles, and trench lines developed.

I still walk battlefields but less so; now I have found myself drawn more and more to the human elements, to the impact on society back in the UK, but also to a degree to the social values of meeting people with similar interests.

I will probably revisit men I have researched once the final tranche of pension Record Cards is available, but I am becoming more interested in a "sideshow" the camapign in Macedonia, where only 120,000 British troops served. That meets many of my interests - social and strudy - and I am rapidly developing an increaseed interest in the medical provision made in such areas by the Scottish Women's Hospitals and the Red Cross.

 

If my local branch excluded naval and aviation matters, and remained 100% focussed on the WF I might well fade away.

 

Age matters, and I htink at least 70% of those who attend meetings are like myself retired. That is a real concern.

 

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Dust Jacket Collector

I’ve been a member for over 30 years & have never considered leaving. I used to attend every branch meeting when I lived across the road from the venue but less often now I’ve moved away. I think it represents excellent value for money given the quality of the publications, particularly the Centenary issues of the magazine, that the committee members are unpaid and that money is paid out to various causes. Long may it survive.

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Cheshire22

Garth,

 

Are you a WFA member. If so what encouraged you to join? What encourages you to stay?

 

I’ve been a member since the 1990’s and I think it was a leaflet in my school.  
 

the fear of missing out on interesting developments in my hobby ie books, events, tours etc 

 

 

b.  Have you previously been a member of the WFA? If so, why did you leave?

 

N/A 

 

 

c.  If you have heard of the WFA but haven't joined, despite your very clear interest in the Great War, why haven't you joined.

 

N/A 

 

one thing, I do find when reading the Bulletin, that members are given awards for national level for doing a wind range of jobs.  
 

so I wrote direct to the chairperson and suggested that long service awards to be brought in for loyalship to the WFA for the ordinary members as we pay our subs to a national level and not a local level.  
 

never had a reply back, 

 

Jamie

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Steven Broomfield
13 hours ago, Gareth Davies said:

 

 

a.  Are you a WFA member. If so what encouraged you to join? What encourages you to stay?

b.  Have you previously been a member of the WFA? If so, why did you leave?

c.  If you have heard of the WFA but haven't joined, despite your very clear interest in the Great War, why haven't you joined.

 

 

 

a. Yes. I rejoined because I was invited to become a book reviewer so felt I ought to be a member. Were I being honest, I'm not sure I'd stay if the book reviewing dried up. In the past I have been a Branch Chairman but gave up when work commitments made that impossible. Even further back Iresigned after being threatened with legal action by John Giles (an oddly common event, I believe). Although I read Stand To!, I'm not sure I enjoy it so much that I'd miss it if I didn't have it

 

b. Sort of answered above: joined in the early days, fell out with JG, rejoined after he left, and became Branch Chairman. Left due to work, etc.

 

c. N/A

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The Scorer
13 hours ago, Gareth Davies said:

What I would like to know please is:

 

a.  Are you a WFA member. If so what encouraged you to join? What encourages you to stay?

b.  Have you previously been a member of the WFA? If so, why did you leave?

c.  If you have heard of the WFA but haven't joined, despite your very clear interest in the Great War, why haven't you joined.

 

 

 

I'll just answer question a., because the others aren't relevant to me.

 

I am a member, for about ten years or so, I think. I had heard about the WFA for a number of years before then, and thought that it would be worthwhile, but never got around to it. I joined because of a conversation I had with a family from (I think) East Anglia who I met on a Leger Tours trip and who were all very enthusiastic members. This prompted me to join, and I've stayed ever since.

 

My involvement is mostly on a local level, as I attend most of the meetings of two branches, Gwent and South Wales, because they're pretty convenient for me to get to. Over the years I have travelled with them and made some good friends .. and I've learnt a lot! Whilst both branches mainly concentrate on the Western Front, they both look at other areas, sometimes in isolation and others as part of the meeting's subject, which is good.

 

I don't have very much (really, none) involvement in the more "national" events and activities, although I'd like to. Lack of time prevents me from going to any of the Conferences, and I'm also unable to attend the 11th November Whitehall Service, which I'd really like to see at least once - but never say never! Although I have researched quite a few war memorials, I haven't used the Pension Record Cards so far …. too much work to do and too little time is my excuse - but again, never say never!! 

 

I read both magazines, but not always from cover to cover, as quite a lot of the articles go into so much detail that I lose track of what they're trying to say. I'm not saying that the amount of detail is a bad thing, just that I prefer to read articles that are of a more general nature. Having said that, though, when I have concentrated on a complicated article that I'm interested in, I have found it useful, and I've learnt things from it.  

 

I was disappointed about the whole BdW episode, which seemed to me to be very badly managed. However, as I'm not involved in anything like that, that's all I'll say because it's not a matter that needs to be revisited here in any detail. I anticipate that i will remain a member for a while yet, with the hope of filling in the gaps as mentioned above! If you have any questions, please feel free to PM me at any time. Best wishes with your work, and thanks for your efforts.

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healdav

I joined the WFA back in the late 1980s because I was interested in finding out more about the French sectors over here in the Lorraine, and Belgium and Luxembourg.

I was Secretary of the Branch when we had one here in Luxembourg.

Inertia now keeps me as a member. I find it infuriating that virtually every Stand To is full of articles, interesting to many no doubt, that concern only the British sector, about which I know little and have no time to find out more. I can even remember some protests that there was an article about the Russians some months ago. And even protests that a photograph of some French people had not only the Tricolour in it, but also the European flag (something required by French law). Apparently this represented a takeover by the EU (or something)!

In all, I would say the WFA is largely a British organisation aimed at the British, and not many others need apply(and I speak as someone who has contributed several articles to Stand To and the Bulletin).

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Gareth Davies

Thank you to all who have contributed so far.

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o j kirby

I joined the WFA when I was in my teens and have never allowed my membership to lapse. I initially joined as I wanted to be a member of an organisation that was actively promoting an interest in WW1, and as my passion for the subject grew, the motivation to be a member grew with it. For me it was positive to observe a developing interest in the subject spread and for me, being brought up in the wilds of Lochaber, a chance to learn more than that which was available in school books and the local library. Through the WFA I was able to make correspond with a few Veterans, and later to be motivated to track down a couple of local WW1 soldiers and get to know them.

Due to various commitments, I seldom get the chance to attend WFA meetings, but really ought to make more effort to do so should time allow.

"Stand To!" for me is a journal that has introduced me to many topics that perhaps I might have not automatically been drawn to, and this has led to knowledge and stimulation that I have gained from. As a journal, we see the work of both known and respected academics alongside that of the "amateur", and perhaps it is the "amateur" that can lead the way in bringing the stories that may not be "big" history, but at least gets us down to trench level and those who served. I often feel that in many realms of history, the "amateur" has a courage and passion that is not always conditioned by the restraints of accepted academia. I look forward to more of it and retaining my WFA membership.

Cheers,

Owain.

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Heid the Ba

C. 

The local branch meets on a Sunday which doesn't suit me.  The last interaction I had with the branch was at a "meet and greet" stand where I was left in no doubt that my lack of interest in the Somme meant I had no real interest in the war.  We discussed this on the thread about the Butte and you and others suggested I should give it another look as the WFA now covers much more than the Western Front.  And having remembered that I now will.

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