Plans to build a wind turbine farm on a famous First World War battlefield in northern France have been described as “revolting”.
Tens of thousands of British soldiers were killed during the historic Battle of Cambrai and many of their bodies were never recovered.
Cambrai became famous as the first battle in the Great War to feature a major tank offensive. Now businesses are trying to exploit the land to make money from a giant wind farm – with early work already under way.
Military historian Philippe Gorczynski said: “We are seeing more than 100 years simply pushed aside with no respect whatsoever for the blood spilt on the battlefield.”
Mr Gorczynski is angry over the decision to dig foundations to erect six turbines on the land which, until now, has been protected.
He explained: “Since the region has long been preserved from wind development it is a real gold mine for promoters – on land that deserves much better.
“We must preserve the memory of the battlefield and what lies beneath it.”
He added: “It’s really revolting to see how these lands have been ploughed, without the slightest
scruples, by people who have only the financial interest in mind.
“The authorities who gave the go-ahead for this…are simply guilty of erasing the history and the men who gave their lives to our country.”
During the initial phase, Mr Gorczynski said the company was not required to conduct archaeological excavations. They are now pressing ahead with phase two.
He added: “Bulldozers pushed hundreds of cubic metres of land, loaded with witnesses of history and broken destinies.
“Regularly, the lands of the Cambrai plain give up soldiers’ personal effects, pieces of gear, weapons and ammunition.”
In a letter to the Western Front Association, Mr Gorczynski wrote: “With your support, I am convinced that we could warn the French authorities of the consequence of their inactivity regarding the WW1 archaeology which is fully absent during each wind turbine installation on the different battlefields.”
The battle of Cambrai – from November 20 to December 7, 1917 – was a major turning point in the war.
A total of 476 tanks were used as part of the strategy of General Julian Byng, commander of the British Third Army, in order to cross the Hindenburg line.
Despite a severe German counter-offensive, the Battle of Cambrai was a victory for the Allied troops, but there were 44,000 dead and wounded Brits, and 45,000 on the German side.
Among them was Lieut Gavin Bowes-Lyons, 20, cousin of the Queen Mum and Capt Richard Wain, also 20. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry for single-handedly charging and taking an enemy stronghold.