BLOODSHED: Stretcher bearers of the 8th Battalion carry wounded soldiers back along the trenches during the fighting at Bullecourt.
BLOODSHED: Stretcher bearers of the 8th Battalion carry wounded soldiers back along the trenches during the fighting at Bullecourt. AWM

CQ family's heartache at wind farm plans on unmarked graves

MILITARY blood runs deep in Patricia Laws' family history.

So when news broke of unmarked graves being disturbed on a historic French battlefield, her blood boiled.

On Tuesday, a French newspaper announced plans to build a giant wind farm on the site of the Battle of Bullecourt fought in WWI.

Six turbines are said to be installed in the midst of where thousands of dead Australians are thought to still lay in unmarked graves from the brutal battle.

Around 10,000 Australians died in the two battles on in April and May 1917.

Patricia described the plans as "absolutely horrifying” saying that her lost family member, Fred Laws, who fought on the same ground would be disgusted.

"Our Aussie lads shouldn't be disturbed,” she said.

"Anyone with any level of decency knows that you wouldn't go and disturb those men where they lay.”

BRAVERY: Fred Ruxton Laws
BRAVERY: Fred Ruxton Laws AWM

After enlisting at Rockhampton Showgrounds in 1916, Fred Ruxton Laws was conscripted in the 15th Infantry Battalion and shipped over to France.

Growing up in Ambrose, the young man spent three years in conflict before returning home after being severely wounded.

Unlike many of Fred's mates, he made it home safely.

Russell Laws, Patricia's husband and grandson to Fred, grew up alongside his grandfather at the family farm who she says rarely spoke of the horrors of war.

Patricia said after informing her husband of the news he was shocked.

"To him its outrageous,” she said.

"Russell knew him very, very well and is a lot like him.”

Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman also came out firing saying the plans by French wind power generator Maia Eolis was "an outrage gone too far”.

Patricia said she was appalled with the announcement in the wake of the Battle's 100 year anniversary.

"You can't help but be so upset when you know what they've gone through,” she said.

"Whole families were lost in these wars... so there's a lot to be thankful for when you stand here today and hear they want to go and disturb our boys.”

ATTENTION: Colonel John Monash and unidentified officers inspecting the 13th Battalion.
ATTENTION: Colonel John Monash and unidentified officers inspecting the 13th Battalion. AWM

Committed to making her voice heard, Patricia relayed her concerns to Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd to be passed on to federal levels.

She claims when contacting his office Mr O'Dowd was not aware of the news.

"I asked him to make representation on behalf of our family... but was really quite surprised when they weren't even aware of the issue,” she said.

A spokesperson from Mr O'Dowd's office said when Patricia raised concerns to the office they were aware of the news but Mr O'Dowd was not present at the time.

Patricia urged anyone else effected by the news to contact their local members in an effort to get the Prime Minister's attention.

"I hardly think there wouldn't be a family affected by this,” she said.

"I am hoping our local member will take that on board and join our family across with the entire continent.”

Condemning the plans, Patricia thinks the sacred land should be left in peace instead of boasting "eyesore windmills”.

"A lot of the boys were from the country so I think they'd appreciate a cow grazing on top of them instead,” she said.

Minister of Veteran Affairs, Honourable Dan Tehan, has addressed the issue saying he hoped the farm would not go ahead.

"I understand why the Australian people feel so strongly about this, especially when the French go to the levels that they do to help us commemorate on their soil,” he said.

”So I think they will be very understanding about this, and I think that if we work cooperatively with the French Government I think we'll get the outcome that we need.”

Photos courtesy of Ancestry.



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