Wind farm axed at Bullecourt battlefield

A French energy company has dumped a proposed wind farm at Bullecourt in France, where thousands of Australian diggers died during World War I.


French energy company Engie has abandoned plans to build a wind farm on the Bullecourt battlefield. (AAP) Source: SBS

Families of diggers who fell one hundred years ago on the Bullecourt battlefield in France have forced an energy company to abandon plans to build a wind farm on the historic site.

Engie has announced it will halt the development of the project in response to an Australian backlash.

"Respectful of the memory of Australian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice on French soil during the First World War, Engie has taken the decision to cancel this project," a spokesman for the French company told AAP.

The company said it was particularly sensitive to the emotion aroused in Australia and anxious to alleviate the fears of "all those who preserve and maintain the memory of the Australian soldiers who fell during the offensives of 1917".

"The recent reactions have highlighted the symbolic nature and sacredness of the site," the spokesman said, insisting the company had respected the history of the site from the outset.

Bullecourt was the scene of two of Australia's bloodiest battles on the Western Front in northern France.

In April and May 1917 the Australian Imperial Force lost more than 10,000 men.

Among them was Austin Martin, aged 20 from Haddon, Ballarat Victoria, whose remains were never found.

His niece Maureen Brady said it was a relief the project had stalled.

"I think they have to show some respect," she told AAP.

Mrs Brady said she was still hopeful one day his body might be found.

She remembers as a young girl her parents kept a large photograph of the private in his Army uniform on the mantelpiece of the fireplace in their bedroom but her father seldom talked about his lost brother.

Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan had lobbied the French government to stop the project.

"This is wonderful news for every Australian and especially those with a family connection to the Battle of Bullecourt," he told AAP.

"Some 2300 Australians who died at Bullecourt have no known grave and Australians were rightly concerned about the potential impact of a construction project at the site."

He praised the company for acting with empathy as well as the French government for making representations on behalf of Australia.

"Seeing how passionate Australians were about protecting the final resting place of the Bullecourt soldiers was a powerful reminder that we will never forget the service and sacrifice of the men and women who fight for our freedom and values," Mr Tehan said.

3 min read
Published 21 November 2017 at 10:12am
Source: AAP