News National French energy company ditches proposed wind farm at Bullecourt, where thousands of WWI Australian diggers died

French energy company ditches proposed wind farm at Bullecourt, where thousands of WWI Australian diggers died

Bullecourt Battlefield, France, WWI World War I, wind farm
Thousands of Australian soldiers were killed at the historic site in World War I. Photo: Getty
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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 10,000 men.

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.