1st May, 2021
By Jack Morphet, The Sunday Telegraph
The Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, where thousands of Diggers lie buried, will soon have a giant wind farm as a backdrop.
Every classroom in the local school carries the message: “N’oublions jamais l’Australie” – never forget Australia – for our role in saving the town but a French appeals court still decided it was a great idea to plonk eight 156m-high turbines overlooking our war dead.
The memorial, engraved with the names of 10,719 Australian soldiers who died in France in World War I and have no known grave, was the chief reason local officials rejected the wind farm proposal in 2017.
The turbines will be built on a ridge about 4.5km from Hamel, where 800 Diggers died in a pivotal battle, and about 6km from the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.
The French court accepted the giant turbines will be visible from the Australian National Memorial but claimed they would not “undermine the character” of the most important marker of our nation’s immense sacrifice on the Western Front.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has appealed directly to French President Emmanuel Macron, asking him to step in and permanently halt the wind farm’s construction.
“These are sacred sites and as far as possible should be left as they are, rather than scarred,” Mr Abbott told The Sunday Telegraph.
“We all have to live and generate power but wind turbines on battlefields – particularly battlefields sacred to the memories of 46,000 Australians who died defending France in the Great War – is just a desecration.”
In a letter to Mr Macron, Mr Abbott has asked the French President to intervene because “the souls of the dead deserve to rest in peace”.
“Not only was Villers-Bretonneux a decisive battle to defeat the last big German push; but so many momentous places are close by, such as the Somme Valley; and Le Hamel, where General Sir John Monash first masterminded the all-arms warfare that subsequently liberated France after August 1918,” Mr Abbott said in the letter to Mr Macron.
Mr Abbott has long railed against wind turbines, describing them as “dark, satanic mills of the modern era”, but told Mr Macron his objections were not based on opposition to renewable energy.
“I’m all in favour of optimising renewable power but not when it means that sites that should be as tranquil and as original as possible are dominated by the wind turbines that were alien to the soil of France at that time,” he said.
“The turbine installation has been opposed by local people as surveyed, by all the local councils, by the Somme departmental council, by the local prefect, and by the administrative tribunal of Amiens but – remarkably – approved by the Douai court of appeal.”