The Wind Industry Knows No Shame: Turbines to Desecrate the Unknown Graves of Thousands of Australian Soldiers in France
This coming Anzac Day, 25 April 2015, looms large in Australia’s history, and collective consciousness, marking the Centenary of Australia’s bloody entry to the War to end all Wars, on the beaches of Gallipoli.
Not so much a celebration, as a reflection on the honour, courage and spirit of Australia’s fighting men and women, Anzac Day causes even the hardest heart to melt in awe at the extreme sacrifice offered, and made, by the finest young men this country had to offer.
Consider a country, remote from the rest of the world, barely a “Nation”, with a little over 4 million people, largely clinging to the south-eastern cities and coasts of its wide brown land, that saw some 420,000 men, from all over it, and from all walks of life – farmers, bankers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, Aboriginal stockmen, and everything in between – enlist for service in the First World War; representing 38.7 per cent of the male population aged between 18 and 44. The whole country missed them all at the time; and far too many of them were missed forever after.
Of that number, some 330,000 joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and saw action overseas: at Gallipoli, in the Middle East, Belgium and France.
In France, the AIF often saw the thickest of the fighting; took the most ground, artillery and prisoners; and suffered more than their fair share of casualties: by 1918, Lieut.-General Sir John Monash had honed his skills as a commander, and those of his troops, to be without equal.
Of the more than 295,000 members of the AIF who served in France and Belgium – at places like Fromelles, the Somme, Bullecourt, Messines, Passchendaele and Villers-Bretonneux – over 46,000 lost their lives, and 132,000 were wounded. Of those who were killed in action, some 11,000 have no known grave.
For Australians, that ground is our most hallowed. The contribution made by these men was Second to None: in valour, life and limb.
In the fearless recapture of towns like Villers-Bretonneux – an action involving a counter-attack at night, without artillery support – described by those that witnessed it as “the Most Brilliant Feat of Arms in the War” – the AIF earned the enduring respect of an embattled French people who, as this sign above the playground in their school declares, will never forget what was done by so many fine young men, so far from home.
Not only did Australian Diggers save many a French Town and Village, as they waited for the scarce shipping needed to bring them home after the Armistice on 11 November 1918, many remained in France and helped to rebuild their schools; and, on their return, rallied and raised funds back home to help with that fine and noble task.
The deep ancestral connection between many Australians and those who fought to save the French, and who endured indescribable suffering in doing so, brings with it a mixture of pride in the sacrifices made, and a sense of collective grief for the tragic loss of so many promising young lives; lives of precisely the kind needed to fulfill the hopes of a young Nation.
One of those is Peter Norton, whose great uncle, Private Alfred William King, from Port Melbourne, was killed on 12 May 1917 at the second battle of Bullecourt. In two battles, the AIF suffered horrendous casualties: more than 10,000 killed, wounded or captured (for a moving understanding of what these men suffered see this article).
Peter Norton, is rightly incensed at plans to spear wind turbines all over the Bullecourt battlefield; an act which can only be described as a monstrous affront to both the Australians who fought and died there; and to the French people, who still honour them on that sacred ground.
If we didn’t know the wind industry better, STT would be shocked. But these people know no bounds, moral decency or shame. To STT, this outrage is just the latest example of their callous disregard for their human victims; whether trying to live peaceful prosperous lives; or, having made the supreme sacrifice, to rest in peace.
Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald on the wind industry’s latest disgrace.
Battle to stop wind turbines being built on WWI battlefield
Sydney Morning Herald
22 March 2015
The Australian government has been asked to intervene to stop wind turbines being built on a former World War I battlefield in northern France, where 10,000 Australians became casualties of the Great War.
Six wind turbines have been proposed for the former Bullecourt battlefield, including two on the German trench lines where intense fighting took place during two battles in 1917.
Now farming land abutting the French towns of Bullecourt and Riencourt, the flat clay soil was the site of a flashpoint between the Germans attempting to move south and the Australians pushing north in their attempt to break through the Hindenburg Line.
Peter Norton, a battlefield guide of seven years, has written to Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson asking for the government to “protest and prevent the desecration” of the former battlefield.
Mr Norton argues that, while the former battlefield has long been worked for farming, the ploughs used did not go further than 300 millimetres deep. They did not disturb graves because the German army had a minimum grave depth of 600 millimetres. It meant many remains of Australian and German soldiers had been left untouched for almost a century. They were now at risk, he said.
“Now we are talking heavy engineering, not just a farmer’s plough,” he said.
Mr Norton said the foundations for each of the six proposed turbines would go deep underground. Existing farmers’ tracks would need to be widened to support heavy haulage equipment and the cable runs connecting the turbines underground would involve digging trenches more than a metre underground.
Of greatest concern, he said, were turbines number one and two. They are planned for one of the most sensitive parts of the battlefield, where there was heavy fighting in April and May 1917.
“I’m in no doubt that there are quite a number of Australian dead still lying in and around turbine number one … it was a hot spot of the battlefield,” he said.
At the end of the second battle in May 1917, the Australians did what no one else had managed to do, breaking and holding the Hindenburg Line.
Breaking the German defences and capturing the village of Bullecourt, while a significant strategic advantage, came at a cost. The two battles resulted in 10,000 Australian casualties.
Among them was Mr Norton’s great uncle, Alfred William King. Private King, from Port Melbourne, was killed on May 12 when a shell landed near the foxhole he was sheltering in with five others. All were killed and buried nearby, but the location was lost in the chaos of war. The grave was re-located in 1955, and Private King and Charles Edgar Strachan from Albert Park were the only ones identified.
Mr Norton said his concerns were echoed by French locals, particularly in Riencourt, 2.5 kilometres east of Bullecourt, where they had formed a lobby group to stop the turbines being built.
“There is a hardcore number of locals who say we must never forget … that the Australians must never be forgotten,” he said.
The wind turbine project proposed by French group Maia Eolis is now before the local government, which will decide if it can go ahead.
A spokesman for the group said the proposed wind farm was part of a French government commitment for 23% of energy to be renewable by 2020, and that the Riencourt area had been defined as favourable for windfarms. He said the project was at feasibility stage, and there were ongoing landscape, heritage, ecological and acoustic studies.
“We know the past of this territory and we will be very vigilant on this issue. Thus, the necessary precautions will be taken to ensure an implantation respectful of the site of Bullecourt,” the spokesman said.
A spokesman for Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson said the government was keen for the project to be handled appropriately.
He noted French authorities had well established protocols to ensure any disturbed remains were recovered and reinterred within a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery.
The response failed to impress Mr Norton.
“I’ve called on the Australian government to be active and what they’ve come back and said is that we’re going to stand by and watch. I’m not happy about that. I am extremely concerned.”
Sydney Morning Herald
STT notes the plea made to Michael Ronaldson to intervene on behalf of those Australians who hold the memory of what was achieved, and what was lost, in those French fields.
The Victorian Senator is one of very few Liberals who has thrown any kind of public support behind the disgrace that is the wind industry in Australia – a position based more on mercenary opportunism, and family ties, than on anything worthy of note or merit (see our post here). So, his pathetic response is of no surprise.
How decent Australians respond will be another matter.
Now “Ronno” can count among the victims of his wind industry mates, the final resting places of thousands of young men who perished at Bullecourt; and those who, like Peter Norton, live to keep the memory of their timeless sacrifice alive.