Australians upset at wind farm plan on WWI battlefield

Pas-de-Calais is the site of many old wartime battles and memorials, including this one in Rebecques

An wind turbine project in Pas-de-Calais is causing controversy as its intended site is a former battlefield, on which thousands of Australian soldiers died in World War I.

The Australian government has today announced that it will seek an explanation from France as to the plans, as it says the Bullecourt site still contains the remains of fallen soldiers, and is a place of homage for Australians remembering the war, reports French news source FranceInfo.

The wind turbine project, from French renewable energy company Engie Green, proposes to build several electricity-generating turbines between the villages of Bullecourt and Riencourt-lès-Cagnicourt (Pas-de-Calais).

And yet, this is the area on which many British and Australian soldiers worked together to attempt to breach the German army’s front line, between Arras and Soissons, in April and May of 1917.

The Australian soldiers, many of whom were volunteers, saw over 10,000 of their number injured or killed during the push.

Canberra’s involvement in the new project has allegedly emerged following a report by the UK television channel Sky News, which further investigated the wind turbine proposals.

Now, the Australian Minister of Veteran Affairs Dan Tehan has announced that he will be contacting the Paris government to receive assurances on behalf of the soldiers’ descendants and learn how the project might affect the remains of the soldiers still in the ground.

The Sky News programme claims that while current farming practices on the land are rather superficial and do not affect the remains, the construction of wind turbines is likely to require much deeper digging work, which, the programme claimed, may risk disturbing the fallen bodies.

“The French, like the Australians, understand the importance of this land,” said Tehan, in a statement. “They have the utmost respect for the sacrifice Australians made on their soil.”

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