Western Front Association
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The Western Front Association (WFA) was inaugurated on 11 November 1980, in order to further interest in The Great War of 1914-1918. The WFA aims to perpetuate the memory, courage and comradeship of all those who fought on all sides and who served their countries during The Great War. The Western Front Association does not seek to justify or glorify war. It is not a re-enactment society, nor is it commercially motivated. It is entirely non-political. The object of the Association is to educate the public in the history of The Great War with particular reference to the Western Front.
The WFA was established by military historian John Giles, who enlisted the help of John Terraine, who had co-written the landmark television series The Great War, which was first broadcast in 1964. Giles was driven to form The Western Front Association as a result of the creation of such groups as 'The Gallipoli Association' which had been established in 1969, and - in the early 1970s - the 'Waterloo Association' which had been set up to save the old battlefield. It was in this context, over the following years, that John Giles developed the idea for an association on the First World War with its emphasis on the Western Front. It would be, John Giles was clear, "The Western Front" and not, in his words about "Salonica or Naval battles" - the definitive article 'The' was also stipulated. And thus in November 1980 The Western Front Association was established.
Since its foundation the WFA has grown over the years to in excess of 6,000 members worldwide. There are around 60 branches in the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The WFA is a UK registered charity, numbered 298365.
- 1 Web site
- 2 Branches
- 3 Publications
- 4 Video resources
- 5 Annual Service of Remembrance
- 6 Butte de Warlencourt
- 7 First World War records saved
- 8 Sound archives at the Imperial War Museum
- 9 Tours
- 10 Membership address
- 11 Honorary office holders
- 12 References
The website of the Western Front Association contains articles on The Great War. One of the sections of the website is a "For Schools" section which has educational resources for teachers and students.
With nearly sixty branches worldwide, including fifty in the UK and Ireland, the association has a representation in most counties in the UK and in most of 'main combatant' countries which took part in the Great War. Membership of the WFA is not a requisite to attend branch meetings, which are open to the public. There are no formal charges for attending these meetings, but a donation on the door is usually requested, this is typically between £3 and £5. Most branches hold an event at least once a month, so there are between 500 and 600 meetings up and down the UK every year in which an aspect of the Great War is discussed. The number of branches being formed is increasing.
The WFA publishes its journal, "Stand To!" three times a year. This contains articles on the subject of The Great War. There is also a house magazine for members, the "Bulletin", which is also published three times each year. An electronic newsletter is also available to which members and non-members can subscribe.
The Western Front Association holds conferences in various venues with typically four or five speakers addressing a range of subjects. These conferences are often filmed and these videos have been made freely available to the public via the Association's web site and via YouTube.
Annual Service of Remembrance
The WFA organises each year the Remembrance ceremony held at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London on 11 November (except when the 11th falls on Remembrance Sunday). The 2014 ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
Butte de Warlencourt
The Western Front Association owned a small but historically important part of the "old front line" on the Somme, the Butte de Warlencourt. This land was bought by The Western Front Association in 1990 in order to ensure its future preservation.
A memorial detailing the fighting that took place in the area was dedicated in a ceremony on the Butte on 30 June 1990. The ceremony involved the then President of the WFA, well known historian and author John Terraine.
First World War records saved
Medal index cards
The Medal Index Cards were saved from destruction in 2005. Medal Index Cards (MICs) are the original method of recording medal entitlement for soldiers who served in the Great War.Each soldier who served in an active theatre of operations was awarded a medal.
The Medal Index Cards were stored at the Ministry of Defence record centre in Hayes until 2005. Due to the need to make space, the MoD sold the Hayes site for redevelopment; the MoD (which owned the cards) proposed the cards would be destroyed. No museum or archive was prepared to take them on, so the Western Front Association came forward and agreed to save these records.
Since obtaining these cards, the WFA has been storing them. Many WFA members have requested copies of these, often placing the card in a frame alongside the medals.
Pension index cards and ledgers
In November 2012, the WFA announced that it has secured over six million Pension Index Cards and Ledgers from the UK's Ministry of Defence, which would otherwise have been destroyed. These are an extremely valuable primary source for family and military historians as they provide information on men (and some women) who served in the Great War and who subsequently applied for a pension. This significantly adds to the data that is available, particularly for those individuals who survived the Great War.
Sound archives at the Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum's sound archive holds over 33,000 recordings relating to conflict since 1914. This consists of the largest oral history collection of its type in the world, with contributions from both service personnel and non-combatants as well as significant holdings of speeches, sound effects, broadcasts, poetry and music. The Western Front Association funded digitisation of the majority of IWM's First World War sound recordings, thereby widening public access to this important historical resource.
The WFA organises tours of the Battlefields for its members three times a year. Many of the WFA's branches organise similar tours at a local level.
The address of the association is:
The Western Front Association
BM Box 1914
Telephone: +44 (0)207 118 1914
Honorary office holders
Prof. Hew Strachan FRSE, FRHistS
Prof. Peter Simkins MBE, FRHistS
Prof. John Bourne BA, PhD, FRHistS
Prof. Gary Sheffield BA MA PhD
Lt. Col. (ret'd) Christopher Pugsley DPhil, FRHistS
General (ret'd) the Lord Richard Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL
Dr. Roger Lee PhD jssc
Lt. Col. (ret'd) Graham Parker OBE
The Burgomaster of Ypres
The Mayor of Albert
Past Vice Presidents:
The Earl Kitchener TD, DL
Tony Noyes CEng MICE
HRH The Prince Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria
General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, GBE, KCB, DSO, MC
The Earl Haig, OBE, KStJ, DL
Col Terry Cave CBE
Hon. Leonard G. Shurtleff
- "Prime Minister joins WFA in Armistice Day remembrance at the Cenotaph, London". Centenary News. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
- Ezard, John (2 March 1990). "Somme Site Becomes British". The Guardian. Manchester. p. 2.
- "Announcing the Sale of the Butte de Warlencourt to Former WFA Chairman, Bob Paterson". The Western Front Association. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- Johnson, Jamie (1 November 2018). "British charity sells Somme battlefield plot without telling members". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
- Western Front Association, The (1980-date). "Stand To!, The Journal of the Western Front Association". ISSN 0261-6548 "Bulletin, Members in house magazine of The Western Front Association" ISSN 0263-8479
- The National Archives, UK. Soldiers and Genealogy Your Archives
- University of Oxford, UK. The First World War Digital Poetry Archive: Western Front Websites
- Imperial War Museum
- Centre for First World War Studies, University of Birmingham
- The Great War
- History Today
- The Charity Commission
- The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- The Guardian