Angry protesters yesterday described controversial plans to build a wind farm on a First World War battlefield as revolting.
Tens of thousands of British soldiers were killed during the Battle of Cambrai, with many of the bodies never recovered.
Now businesses are trying to exploit the sacred land in France to make money from a giant wind farm.
Cambrai became famous as the first battle in the Great War to have a major tank offensive, and lasted for several weeks in 1917.
Local historian Philippe Gorczynski is a leading authority on the battle.
He said: “We are seeing more than 100 years simply pushed aside with no respect for the blood spilt on the battlefield.”
Philippe is distraught by the decision to dig foundations to erect six turbines on the land which, until now, has been protected.
He added: “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.
“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.
“I am not expert enough to judge the merits or not of wind power.
“However, what I do know is the authorities who gave the go-ahead for this site under these conditions are simply guilty of erasing the history and the men who gave their lives to our country.”
Philippe spoke of his distress at the building work that has already been done.
He said: “Suddenly, 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 war remembrance body the Western Front Association, Philippe wrote: “With your support I am convinced that we could warn the French authorities of the consequences of their inactivity regarding the First World War archaeology, which is fully absent during each wind turbine installation on the different battlefields.”
The Battle of Cambrai was a 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 3rd Army, in order to cross the famous Hindenburg Line.
Despite a severe German counter-offensive, the battle was a victory for the Allied troops.
But about 44,000 British soldiers were killed in the conflict, one of the bloodiest of the war.
Among the many heroes were Captain Richard Wain and Lance Corporal Robert McBeath, who were both awarded Victoria Crosses for their courage.
Also among the soldiers was Gavin Bowes-Lyons, a cousin of the Queen Mother.
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