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#26 Deleted_NeilYork_*

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 12:19 PM

If I could state a number of facts.

1. Aurel was asked by email on 7th January 2003 if he wished to contribute to a Condon article on the Campaigners website, with or without credit. Our offer was declined.

2. He freely admits to speaking openly with visitors to Poelcapelle, telling them that JC is not buried beneath the headstone attributed to him.

3. I contacted Waterford Register Office in order to secure further details of JC's birth. The lady there mentioned they'd had many enquiries over recent months, so many it seems, that she was able to reel off information about JC from memory.

Why is it that only people in support of Aurel are posting here. Could it be that the silent majority of readers are perhaps afraid of going against the party line.

Neil York
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#27 Chris_Baker

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 01:17 PM

Neil

There's no party line on this forum. You only have to look around to find examples of utter disagreement on many things. Despite that, the discussion always takes place in an open, positive, atmosphere and as owner/moderator it is my job to see that it stays that way.

The forum has getting on for 500 members, and a much larger number of casual readers. I doubt that 20% have ever heard of Aurel or your campaign, and probably less than 5% know either of you personally. The only view that the majority can develop is based on what they have seen and read on your website and in this discussion thread.

#28 Ian Bowbrick

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 01:28 PM

I don't want to take sides in this debate. The issue between Aurel and Mr York is personal.
I would just like to ask if anyone has been able to track down relatives of Pte Patrick Fitzsimmons to ask their views on this issue?
Has anyone approached the Condon family directly?
If someone told me that my great-uncle's body was lying in a grave marked by someone elses name and details, I would want it changed.
BUT
only when the official authorities were satisified that the evidence was beyond reasonable doubt.
I would also hope that the case was presented in such a way that befitted two people who gave their lives for their country.
Ian

#29 Aurel Sercu

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 02:11 PM

If I could reply to a number of facts stated by Neil York

1. Mr York says that I was asked to contribute to a Condon article on the Campaigners website, with or without [sic] credit, and that I declined the offer.
This was my answer, quoting from my reply (Jan 7) : "I would rather not do that, and keep it for my own website. I'm sure you understand. As we have agreed some months ago [August 2002] I trust you keep it confidential right now."
- I could and maybe should have added that one and maybe the main reason of my declining was that I knew about the anti-CWGC reputation of Mr York's website, and that my attitude with regard to this was very different.
- I did not realize at the time that my words "right now" by Mr York would be interpreted as : "until Feb 2, not any longer". In no way was it suggested at that time (Jan 7) that Mr York was about to start his "parallel" investigation more than 6 months after I had started mine.
- This also to show that it is wrong when Mr York in a higher reply seems to interpret "parallel" as "simultaneous".

2. It is true that I have told people about my research. Also because I thought it was important to hear other people's advice. At one occasion I have told some visitors I happened to meet at Poelcapelle British Cemetery. I see no harm in that. Certainly less harm than Mr York continuing the John Condon research without my knowing for his own gain, and forgetting to tell people he contacted, that I was the one who had started it and given him the basic information.

3. It is true, as Mr York stated, that he contacted Waterford Registration Office and was informed that there had been many inquiries about John Condon in the past months. Let it be clear : these were not inquiries that came from me.
Could it be that Mr York got into a panic, realizing that another party (whoever that was) could rob him of his scoop and publicity for his website ?
To support this view : 6 hours later I received an email with his words "It looks like the Condon bug has now bitten me :-)"
The panic bug I assume.
It was from that moment on that Mr York started to ask as much of my research results as possible. To this, in all honesty, I must add that later he gave me information too. Not substantial, but confirming my conclusions at the time.

As to the last paragraph of Mr York's posting. Yes, there is a large silent majority. 600 or more people have read this thread. Only two dozen or so have replied. But I think that it is a bit premature to conclude that many or most will support Mr York or "are perhaps afraid of going against the party line". If the silent majority, however, wants to voice their feelings against my point of view : no problem as far as I am concerned. I am prepared.

Since Mr York refers to our email correspondence, I see no reason why I should refrain from doing the same.

On Jan 12 Mr York wrote : "I'm being honest and straightforward with you now Aurel. My heart says I can't betray the trust placed in me. I'm between the devil and the deep blue sea."

Obviously Mr York chose for the devil.

When I emailed to Mr York last Sunday, immediately after I had learned quite coincidentally that a few hours later the John Condon article would be published on Mr York's and Mr Morcombe's website, and indignantly asked if this was really true, Mr York's audacious answer was : "Yes. We were going to let you know just as soon as it was posted. Of course I'll understand perfectly if you're unhappy, and I hope we won't allow the matter to sour our friendship." (Similar words on Mr York's website.)
Mark the words : "just as soon as it was posted". So : after. Not before. I certainly can assure that Mr York's "openness" had soured my Sunday, to say the least. Hence my initial posting in this thread.

At that time I knew with absolute certainty that Mr York indeed had a different dictionary, in which the word "Gentlemen's Agreement" mentions an expiration term. It seems I will have to find an update of my dated dictionary.

Mr. York, I know you will react like a devil in the holy water font (literal translation of a Flemish expression), but don't you think it is about time to give up your desperate attempts in a hopeless situation ?

Aurel Sercu

#30 paul guthrie

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 02:12 PM

It seems to me from their posts and website that York and Morcombe just do not care that they have appropriated the work of another. It makes me so mad that I am just going to not say a lot more of what I think of that. This is absolutely reprehensible.

#31 Aurel Sercu

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 02:39 PM

A reply to Mr Ian Bowbrick

Dear Mr Bowbrick

1. As to the identity of the soldier whose name has been mentioned by Mr York and Mr Morcombe ... (Please note that I have not done so myself).
The main reason that I have not come out yet with my full and complete conclusions (and probably never will), is that I would consider it highly unfair and inappropriate to make the matter public at the risk of being held responsible for confronting possible descendants with the name of a (great)(grand)father without having been informed in an acceptable way before. It seems to me that Mr York and Mr Morcombe do not share my scruples.

2. I have cautiously started to find possible descendants. Not until a month or so ago. The reason that I waited so long is understandable : I had to be 200 % sure before I took steps.

3. I do realize that communicating with possible descendants will not be easy. I am even willing to accept that maybe this should be done through other, official, channels. But I do not have an idea as to who or what that can be. As Mr York no doubt is now continuing his search for possible descendants of the fallen soldier, I think he may have an answer to that question. (Yet I'm afraid cooperation with the CWGC can be ruled out in this case.)

4. As to contacting relatives of John Condon : no, I have not contacted them. A few months ago, however, at the time I had only done research about the burial place problem, not about the age problem yet, I myself was contacted. I think I can say that I have treated this brief contact in a conscientious way.

5. If I ever should have come out with the exhaustive conclusions of my research (which, I repeat, I will not do, in the light of what has happened) I can guarantee that, prior to the publication, I certainly would have made contact with the Condon family. (This is confirmed in a higher posting by Mr Clive Harris.) I am fully aware that this communication would and could have been an extremely painful event.

6. I cannot hide that right now I am relieved at the thought that no doubt Mr York will do this, instead of me. Let me be honest : it is quite a burden off my shoulders. The fact that Mr York will do this, after instead of before publication, maybe is only a "detail". It is tjhe intention that counts. His willingness to do that will be highly appreciated.

7. As to the rest of your posting : I completely agree.

Should you have more questions, please feel free to ask. I am quite willing to clarify.

Regards

Aurel Sercu

#32 Ian Bowbrick

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 03:35 PM

Aurel,
Many thanks for your post in response to mine. Your answers certainly confirm the excellent reputation you have in this community.
It is a great pity that you have decided to not publish your findings on Pte Condon as I, and I am sure many others, were looking forward to reading these.
There is an old Irish saying that roughly translates as 'when you make a gentleman's agreement with someone make sure you are first dealing with one'.
Apologies for taking up your time and good luck with your work.
Ian

#33 paul guthrie

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 04:50 PM

Aurel I am sure you are quite depressed by this. First of all we all know how it makes you feel like a fool when someone abuses your trust. The only way to keep that from EVER happening is obvious and is not the way good people operate. You will get over feeling foolish.
When you do reconsider publishing , do not internet publish, publish in the best WW1 journal in the world, Stand To! There is a very long waiting period but I hope we can get that waived in this instance. Give this some thought and do not reject out of hand.
Paul

#34 Drummy

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 05:38 PM

Hi Aurel,

It would be great to see you publish your findings in 'Stand to', keep up the good work! I hope the efforts of all parties involved in this reasearch will aid the MOD or CWGC investigating the findings and once and for all sorting the situation out as to who is actually buried where.

Best wishes Neil Drum.

#35 Fred van Woerkom

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 07:16 PM

I have known Aurel for some time now and I know that he is a man of the greatest integrity, sensitive to the feelings of the descendants of the fallen soldiers. I think that he has been most unfairly treated: he is always willing to share his extensive knowledge of the Flanders battlefields and he does so in a remarkably lucid way, which means that he did a lot of work before the "' authors' started.
Disgraceful! I'm with you all the way, Aurel.
Fred van Woerkom

#36 John Hartley

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Posted 04 February 2003 - 09:27 PM

I've just been voicing my views in the Chat Room but am happy to repeat them in the more public arena of the Forum. I have had great respect for the Campaign (and have been considering that I might want to enlist their help in respect of someone I'm researching) but, if I understand matters correctly, they have effectively "nicked " Aurel's work and published it.

As someone who has undertaken WW1 research as have many others(and had it internet published), I know how I would feel if this happened to me. Regardless of any other matters, therefore, my sympathy and support lies with Aurel.

There was no need whatsoever for the almost smug conclusion in the published article of finding the "real youngest". Done you no credit at all, guys.

John

#37 John Morcombe

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 12:35 AM

Things that warrant a reply.

On the subject of tracing relatives of Patrick Fitzsimmons, Mr. Bowbrick is quite correct, such a job is for the authorities. We would dearly love to find faithful next-of-kin as this would speedily resolve matters with the CWGC. However, with the current political climate in Belfast we think it unlikely that a Catholic family would be pleased to advertise that their kin fought for the British. The absence of next-of-kin in no way affects the truth of the case.

As for his contact with the relatives of John Condon, what Aurel hasn't said is that their attitude was apparently, aggressively anti. Again, next-of-kin have no bearing on the truth of the case.

Last evening Aurel sent us an email, in which he showed that he is a truly honest and decent person, referring to our article as an "Excellent piece." Thank you Aurel, praise indeed.

John Morcombe
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#38 Greenwoodman

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 09:18 AM

And spreading the details all over a website and on this forum does not put at risk of exposure (and perhaps worse) this Catholic family whose ancestor fought in the British army??? Your thought processes again show a lack of integrity.
Any chance of Mr York apologising for the "party line" crack? Ah, no, back to lack of integrity again.

#39 Aurel Sercu

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 10:57 AM

Reply to Mr Morcombe's posting of 4 Feb 23.45

1. As to the relatives of John Condon (who had contacted me) : It is true that I have not said that their attitude was aggressively anti. The reason that I have not said that is that this way of presenting things is a simplification. I do not think that Mr Morcombe has a right to have an opinion about the relatives' attitude, as I don't recall that he has my (brief) email correspondence with the Condons. Unless of course his opinion is based on his own contact with the relatives.
Let it be clear that in no way I will say more about this correspondence with the Condon relatives.

2. As to my "praise". Yes, I did send an email to Mr Morcombe and Mr York, with opening words "Excellent piece". This is the rest of the email : "Whether you consider that as cynicism and irony is up to you. And kindly remove 'Belgian comrade' and 'Belgian pal'. I am the one who decides whose comrade I am. And in all honesty : I'd rather be the [...] 's comrade. [ censored by myself (a.s.) ] Also remove 'well-known and respected'. A compliment is only a compliment if you take into account who it comes from. (...) And remember that even borrowed plumes fall out. And leave the wearer naked. Having to cover his embarrassment."

If Mr Morcombe does not know what irony is, then I cannot say that I am happy about this, for this would mean that at least we have something in common : naivety. The difference between mine and his is that my naivety is because I had trusted people who had a secret clause in the gentlemen's agreement : "This gentlemen's agreement expires after six months. The other party involved is not entitled to being informed about this clause and expiration term."

This is the heart of the matter.

Aurel Sercu

#40 john w.

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 12:03 PM

To all....

Having read the content of this episode, let us all learn from it and be careful in what we say and do, as human nature is frail at times and leads to unnecessary diversions.

John

#41 paul guthrie

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 03:04 PM

Yes and the nature of some is quite a bit more frail than others, take a look at this York Morcombe bunch for a prime example, disgusting.

#42 Chris_Baker

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 03:42 PM

Users

Please take care to adhere to the conditions of use of the forum. No matter how strongly you feel about the actions of any of the parties involved in this matter, please ensure that you do not indulge in immoderate language or personal attacks. Just step back and think how your post would read if it were read out in a court of law, or even just read out to a group of people who had no attachment or feelings about the subject.

This post is not aimed at anyone in particular, just at the general drift.

#43 Deleted_KyleTallett_*

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 04:04 PM

My first time on this site!!!.
Just to add i have had dealings with Aureil and find him a decent man who has done much good. I have also known Neil York and John Morcombe for many years and do not consider them the ogres that are being portrayed here. I risk getting pilloried myself i know, but i would add that i have had many dealings with both men and consider them friends.
Interestingly the debate seems to be around the conduct rather than the content of this article. The conduct i will leave both parties to deal with amongst each other as only they know the truth.
I find it sad to see two groups of decent people embroiled in a public wrangle.
We are not the owners of history, we are merely the guardians.
My final note is that i wish Auriel well with his work with the diggers, i personally value it, and wish there were more decent men salvaging our history in front of the bulldozer although it ruffled many feathers over here, ironically John Morcombe was a defender of the diggers when the "establishment" turned their noses up.
I am also a supporter of JOhn and Neils work overall, that is also valuable when deciding the true course of history.
I wish this debate on conduct would now end, and people to focus on the issues raised.

Kyle Tallett

#44 paul guthrie

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 05:21 PM

Though they were a lot less than I think parts of my posts were more than I should have said and I apologize for using the forum incorrectly.
On the old adage, " if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all" I will refrain from commenting on the controversey itself because I can't say anything remotely nice.
I now hope we can persuade Aurel who did the fine work that led to these amazing findings to publish them in written form. Yesterday I suggested Stand To! but it has a two year back up. I have a fall issue slot for an article of mine but would be happy to have it delayed for this.
However, upon reflection, the Bulletin may be a better place. Any thoughts?

#45 Aurel Sercu

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 05:52 PM

1. My apologies to the webmaster if any of my postings contained or seemed to contain "immoderate language". For that I have just removed a word in one of my previous replies. In all honesty however I think I can say I have successfully refrained from expressing how I really felt, knowing that this would certainly lead to the use of very immoderate language indeed from my part.

2. I have no problem with what Mr Tallett writes : that "the debate of conduct would now end and that it is time to focus on the issues raised. " However, focussing on these issues on this Forum (I suppose this refers to the questions Who lies beneath John Condon's headstone, and How old was John Condon when he fell) will not be easy. On the other hand we all know where my conclusions and evidence (sorry, Mr York's and Mr Morecombe's) can be read.

3. I have read that many users of this Forum encourage me to publish my research in the future. I must say that I highly appreciate this encouragement. However, I fail to see the use of that. After all, all I could do is "borrow" what was published two days ago elsewhere. (Though I would use a far more milder intonation of course.) So I have taken all my John Condon documents of the past 6 months to the loft of my house, where I have stored them, marked : "Having become useless. Reason : dated." (In fact it was a different word.)

Aurel Sercu

#46 paul guthrie

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 06:09 PM

Aurel I submit there is a lot of difference in self publishing in an obscure web site and being published in publications of WFA which John Keegan recently called the best of its kind that exists. Keep thinking, this is completely fresh and raw right now.

#47 Kate Wills

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 07:07 PM

Aurel,

May I ask you to re-consider this at your leisure. An article authored by you in Stand To! would reach every paid-up member of the WFA and quite a few more besides, and also have the benefit of permanance. Who can say what the life-span of a web-page might be, but the written word is with us for ever.

#48 paul guthrie

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 07:49 PM

Quite right Kate. Historians doing research do not foot note references to web site self published articles but do cite articles in respected magazines like those of WFA.

#49 Paul Garlington

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 08:01 PM

Aurel, I am amazed, though certainly not surprised, by the amount of support you have received by the contributors to this forum. All members of the groups I took to Ypres last year hold you in the highest esteem, and those from the school party were cheerfully telling their mates that they had met you when the BBC repeated "The Forgotten Battlefield" recently. The adults (from another party), whom you took to the excavations at Boezinghe, will all visit again this year and are looking forward to meeting you once more. I cannot express how disappointed I feel and how sorry I am that your hard work has come to nought. I can only repeat the encouragement of those who have written above to reconsider filing everything away and to think seriously about publication.
All good wishes
Paul

#50 Chris Noble

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Posted 05 February 2003 - 09:07 PM

Having been away for a few days visiting relatives, to log on to this thread on this website has quite frankly left me "gobsmacked", first of all the importance of the subject in an historical context, and secondly, the apprehension that this forum was travelling down the same road as the W.F.A forum.
I do not know Aurel personally, but everyone on this forum knows the commitment that Aurel has to the subject of the Great War, the unselfish and giving attitude that he has for sharing his expertise on this subject. I am sure that everyone on this forum agrees that in the true sense of the word "Aurel is a true gentleman". To you Aurel I can only hope that this does not dampen your faith in human nature and, as posted by other members of this forum, a bulletin in "Stand To" would be most appreciated by those that have a GENUINE interest.

The "Silent Majority", Chris Noble.