Australia concerned over French plan to build wind farm on WW1 war graves

A plan to construct several wind turbines on the site of a World War One battlefield in northern France where the remains of thousands of Australian soldiers lie has caused concern in Canberra.

Australia concerned over French plan to build wind farm on WW1 war graves
French renewable energy company Engie Green plans to build several wind turbines between the villages of Bullecourt and Riencourt-lès-Cagnicourt in the northern Pas-de-Calais department, where so many World War 1 battles took place.
In this particular area between the two villages several divisions of British and Australian soldiers tried to breakthrough German front line between Arras and Soissons in spring 2017.
Some 10,000 Australian soldiers, most of whom were volunteers were killed or injured during the offensive.
The area was the scene of the heaviest Australian losses in the war during a battle that has become symbolic of the incompetence of British generals
directing the campaign.
The bodies of most soldiers were never recovered and their remains under the soil on what is now farmland (see pic above).
Australians regularly travel to Bullecourt to pay their respects and remember those who died.
The Australian government believes those remains, which lie undisturbed by farm machinery, will be disturbed due to the deep digging that would need to take place for the construction of the wind turbines.
Veterans' Affairs Minister Dan Tehan told Australia's Sky News in the first instance he would be raising the issue with his French counterpart.
“I'll be getting clarification on this matter,” he said in a statement.
“The French people, like the Australian people, understand the significance of this land and they have the upmost respect for the sacrifices made by Australian soldiers on their soil.
“Australia enjoys a close working relationship with the French government when it comes to recovering the remains of Australians from French battlefields,” he added.
According to Sky News, the Engie Green proposal would involve digging for foundations. There would also be transmission tunnels, other earth works and infrastructure, it said.
A spokesman for Engie told The Local France they are in contact with Australian authorities to discuss their concerns about the project and that the consuiltation period is still ongoing.
“We are ready to respond to all to their questions,” he said, but added that the company had not been asked o move or scrap the wind farm.
The Local has contacted France's Ministry of Culture for comment.


French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron

French forces "tortured and murdered" Algerian freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country's war for independence, President Emmanuel Macron admitted on Tuesday, officially reappraising a death that was covered up as a suicide.

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron
Malika, the widow of Ali Boumendjel, pictured in 2001. Photo: Stefan Fferberg/AFP

Macron made the admission “in the name of France” during a meeting with Boumendjel’s grandchildren.

The move comes after Macron in January refused to issue an official apology for abuses committed during the occupation of Algeria – instead, he agreed to form a “truth commission” as recommended by a report commissioned by the government to shed light on France’s colonial past.

Atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the countries.

Boumendjel, a nationalist and lawyer, was arrested during the battle of Algiers by the French army, “placed incommunicado, tortured, and then killed on 23 March 1957,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

“Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,” Macron told Boumendjel’s grandchildren, according to the statement.

It is not the first time the real cause of death was acknowledged.

In 2000, the former head of French intelligence in Algiers Paul Aussaresses confessed to ordering Boumendjel’s death and disguising the murder as a suicide, according to the statement.

It added that Macron on Tuesday had also reiterated his desire to give families the opportunity to find out the truth about this chapter of history.

Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle.

French historian Benjamin Stora, who wrote the government-commissioned report, has said there is a “never-ending memory war” between the two countries.

The report has been described by the Algerian government as “not objective” and falling “below expectations.”

During his 2017 election campaign, Macron – the first president born after the colonial period – declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

He has since said there was “no question of showing repentance” or of “presenting an apology” for abuses committed in the North African country.