I attended the AGM at Cosford RAF museum (which is wonderful) on 27th April. The following is expressed factually, I hope, and you can make up your own mind about the issues.
The remaining members of the Executive Committee (ie excluding those who resigned in the wake of the uproar of the sale of the Butte of Warlincourt) have continued in office and have not in fact resigned, as they originally stated their intention to be.
The chairman’s report and following discussion revealed that membership has fallen over the WWI centenary period. A discussion followed on the target market for new members and the young were not thought to be an appropriate target. The demographic of the current membership is mostly elderly.
A question on the published accounts revealed that the net proceeds of the sale of the Butte were £895. The remainder of the 10,000 euros received was spent on legal fees, both British and French, to achieve the sale. This information on fees is not in the accounts, but was given verbally by Rich Hughes.
The former legal trustee, Rich Hughes, explained the reasoning for the disposal of the Butte which was to rid the WFA of the potential liability of a WWI site, with unexploded ordinance (presumably as it is in the middle of the Somme battlefield) and likely hazardous substances in the soil. The French insurers had declined to renew the policy and three English insurers had declined to cover the risk. It seemed to Rich anomalous that an educational charity owned land in the first place. The aim was therefore to rid the WFA of the problem, which involved potential personal liability to the trustees.
The Butte was held on a trust document in the name of four former trustees, two of whom were deceased. There was no power in the document to appoint new trustees to hold the Butte. In short, legally it was a mess. A former trustee from the era when the Butte was purchased said that the purchase had been something of a vanity project by the then chairman and that he, the former trustee, had been against it, as being anomalous for an educational association.
Rich explained that Bob Patterson, a former WFA chairman who has a house on the Somme, was perceived as being the only realistic purchaser, as he had done a lot of maintenance work on the Butte. The aim was to get rid of the Butte, not achieve a maximum price. An attempt some years ago to give the Butte to the French local authority had failed.
There was discussion as to whether Bob had insurance, which was not known, and what the support for the Butte from the WFA would be, including potential liability of the WFA for continued involvement. The question was asked as to what would happen to the Butte when Bob passed away.
The sentiments expressed at the meeting were that the reasons for the sale had been lucidly explained. However, the main complaint was of the secretive nature of the process and that members, including branch chairmen, were only informed by an announcement of the sale which was released publically two weeks before the centenary of the Armistice. This was described as being perfect timing for journalists to write the stories that appeared in the national press. The handling and timing of the matter was felt by many to be very poor. One of the WFA vice-presidents, Maj Gen Mungo Melvin, lucidly summed up the discussion and suggested that a post mortem be carried out to learn lessons from the row over the Butte.
In many ways, the elephant in the room was that the Association is unincorporated, which leaves the trustees and members with unlimited liability. This could be seen as an omission by the original founders of the Association, as charities would usually be formed as a charitable company. It was explained that there was a governance group which was looking at future governance of the Association. This might include incorporation as a company limited by guarantee. We will see what happens.
To All Our Members!
Terry thanks you!
“I would like to thank all the branch members for the generous book token card. It will be staying unused for a while. We are having the shower room which adjoins the library refurbished. This means the shelves are blocked by material to go into the shower and a piano. There is no point my buying any more books just yet as there is literally no place to put them. It will enable me to avoid rushing off to Waterstones for a while!”
Best wishes, Terry
Buxton Hospitals in the Great War
We have an article from Jackie and Roger Berry on their exploration of Buxton looking for traces of the wartime hospitals - see here.Handover to the new chairman (and don't drop it!)
Search for Relatives of Soldier, John William Beverley
A book wrapped in brown paper found in a cupboard in a house in Milnrow has led to a family history search by two ladies from Huddersfield. The book, ‘To Pay the Price’ by Silas K. Hocking, was a present to a John William Beverley given to him by his cousins, Clara Bell Matthews and May Matthews on his twelfth birthday in December 1900. Even more intriguing was a letter found inside the book from John William Beverley to his mother dated 26 September 1917 from the battlefields of France where he was a soldier.
The discovery of the book and letter led to Oldham where John William Beverley was born on 4 December 1888. A property repairer by trade, he lived with his mother, Martha and Stepfather, Albert Whiteley, until he married Annie Smith (dob circa 1889) at the beginning of 1912. They subsequently had a son, John Beverley, born Jan/Feb/March 1912.
John Wm Beverley joined the 2/10th Manchester Regiment of the Oldham Territorials at Whitsuntide 1915, and was sent to Egypt early in 1917. He was later sent to France where he was wounded in the knee with shrapnel on 5 April 1918. Transferred to the Lord Derby Hospital, Warrington he died on 20th May 1918, aged 29 and was buried in a war grave in Chadderton cemetery on 24th May 1918.
The researchers are trying to trace relatives of the above to return the book and letter to them. It is especially important as this year is the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.
Mike O'Brien's new book
There is a review of Mike's new book on Americans in the British forces, here.
Medals of Private George William Shaw
We were contacted recently through the website by Mark Shaw who is searching for information about his great uncle, Private George William Shaw, 12364 of 9th battalion Cheshire Regiment. Mark's email reads as follows:
I hope you may be able to help me, as I am currently researching my Family Tree. I have identified George William Shaw as my Great Uncle. He served in A Company 9th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, from 01/09/1914 until his death 22/06/1917. His service number was 12364.
I have found that his medals (with the exception of his BWM), death plaque and associated certificates were sold on Ebay in 2014. I am unable to identify the seller or the purchaser.
I would like to find who it was that bought the items, if only to ask for copies of the documentation and, maybe provide a little background information in regard of my Uncle. Ideally, I would love to buy the items.
I know it is a long shot but I thought that it may be possible that one of your members may be the purchaser. I would be obliged if you could see your way clear to circulating the details to your membership.
There is an account of the visit to Ypres by Martin and Winifrid Logan to honour the memory of those Manchester Corporation Tramways who fell in WWI - Tramways workers
Manchester Military History Society
The Society meet at:
East Manchester History and Gaming Centre,
Knivton Street, Godley, Hyde, SK14 2PU
More details on their website - Manchester Military History Society
A new memorial to Manchester railwaymen killed in WWI