One of the last remaining war veterans to have been present at the 1944 Normandy beach landings has written an open letter in opposition to plans to build wind turbines close to the historic site.
Léon Gautier’s letter was published in Le Figaro, just days before Mr Gautier’s 100th birthday. In it, he has protested against a proposal to build a wind farm near Gold Beach, a few hundred metres from the British military cemetery of Bazenville.
Mr Gautier was a former volunteer combatant in the Free French Naval Forces, and won the Croix de Guerre for 1939-1945. He is also a member of the Order of the British Empire, a grand officier de la Légion d’honneur, but was president of the Amicale of the former commando Kieffer association.
He said: “It is a place of the great memory of humanity – of a tragic memory. People come from all over the world to pay their respects. The peace of this resting place of the heroes of the Liberation could soon be disturbed and offended.
“A 150-metre-high wind farm is to be built in a place whose memory should not be troubled.”
The letter’s signatories wrote that they had signed the letter “in the name of history”. They have asked for the D-Day beaches to be protected by a 15-km radius to “preserve the peace of remembrance” and protect local landscapes.
The letter added, theatrically: “For more than a thousand years, history has never ceased to traverse these lands, these surroundings of Bayeux; for more than a thousand years, countless hands, chiselling the stone, have erected churches, farms and castles, almost always the same hands which, season after season, have drawn the nourishing ploughs.”
It comes after an extension of a wind farm in the Arce valley in Aube was refused this summer, but the Saint-Victoire mountain area is still the subject of a fierce legal battle over the same issue.
The wind farm project is being proposed by Vensolair, a subsidiary of the Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR), in the commune of Le Manoir (Calvados).
Similarly, in February 2020, then-Ecology Minister (and now Prime Minister) Elisabeth Borne, said before the Senate that she regretted that "unfortunately, wind farms have been allowed to be built within visibility from historical monuments".
In May 2021, her successor Barbara Pompili announced plans to create a local “map of areas suitable for wind power development".
However, this map has yet to be made publicly available, leading some departmental councillors in Auvergne to call for it again this week, saying that the map is “more urgent than ever”, and that heritage be protected, whether natural, historical or memorial.
The open letter was co-signed by:
Alain de Dainville, member of the Charles de Gaulle Foundation, of the Comité du Débarquement and of the French section of the Comité d'érection du mémorial britannique de Ver-sur-Mer
Gérard Chesnel, former French ambassador, vice-president of the Souvenir Normand
And Dr. Jean-Pierre Benamou, founding president of the D-Day Academy, collaborator of the Caen Memorial and of the Juno Beach Centre.