War graves desecrated for canal

Published: Friday, 30 April 2010

THE graves of British soldiers who died fighting in the First World War are being desecrated to make way for a new waterway in northern France.

It is not just one cemetery, but numerous ones on the Somme, that saw the bitterest battles, and the biggest loss of life of all time, where the remains are being bulldozed to make way for a 'preferred route' of the Seine & Nord Canal.

The desecration has caused anger and distress to the soldiers'  surviving relatives, many of whom still visit the cemeteries, which are between the ancient towns of Compiegne and Cambrai, the scenes of fierce fighting during the First World War.

Great swathes

Officials last month published details of their 'preferred route' which will cut great swathes through numerous burial grounds.

Veterans groups and relatives have called for a halt to the plans, with one  cemetery the resting place of Victoria Cross holder,  Lance Corporal Thomas Jackson who  is buried at Sanders Keep, which is on the route of the proposed canal.


People visiting the graves have told of their horror at the desecration, with one descendant pointing out the inscription on one headstone reading  ‘Forgive them Father, they know not what they do'. Poignantly  stating:

"But you could not forgive the desecration of the graves of a hero like this man and of all the other soldiers buried there."

Peter Raine, whose grandfather, Private Charles Ferguson, is also buried in the cemetery  there, angrily stated:

"The war is a long time ago but seems recent to us because my grandfather has reached me through his diaries."

But it seems the French have forgotten what our fathers and grandfathers did for them in that  war. (The editor's own father fought on the Somme with the Lancashire Fusiliers.)