BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Veterans hail 'end of Somme airport'
Battle of the Somme
More than one million died at the Somme
UK war veterans have welcomed signs the French government has dropped plans to build a third Paris airport on the site of a World War battleground.

The French transport minister has cancelled an order banning private construction on land chosen by the previous government for a new airport on the battlefields of the Somme.


We're thrilled at the news but we will maintain a watching brief

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The news - that means residents can build houses without fear they might later be knocked down to make way for the airport - has allayed fears the airport project at Chaulnes would mean relocating war graves.

And war veterans in the UK, who were backed by the government and thousands among the public, described the move as "excellent news".

French Transport Minister Gilles de Robien made a pre-election promise to review the airport plans and start again from scratch.

The original proposal was opposed by residents, veterans, historians, families of the soldiers and the Australian, British and Canadian governments.

But the Chaulnes site, 130km north of Paris, has not been officially ruled out and a French parliamentary committee is to investigate future airport needs in the coming months.

Graves at the Somme
Emotional letters were written to oppose the airport
Peter Francis, spokesman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission based in Berkshire, told BBC News Online: "We've heard some of the reports and it's certainly excellent news.

"We're thrilled at the news but we will maintain a watching brief to be on the safe side.

"We're especially grateful for the support of the government and the thousands of letters from people here - it was wonderful to see.

"The French Government has historically been excellent at looking after our interests in France and I'm sure the minister listened to our concerns."
Graves under threat
1,250 Britons, Canadians, Australians, South Africans and New Zealanders
7,245 French
2,254 Germans
Two US airmen

The Somme was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of World War I.

More than a million soldiers from the British Empire, France and Germany were killed in the battle of the Somme, which took place between July and November 1916.

But the part of the graveyard under threat from the proposal actually related to the 1918 spring offensive by the Germans.

Jeremy Lillies, of the Royal British Legion, said: "If that it turns out to be the case, then the Legion welcomes the news and our 620,000 members would be most relieved to hear the graves are not likely to be disturbed."

Among those leading the British campaign to keep the graves undisturbed was Northern Ireland Secretary Dr John Reid.

See also:

28 May 02 | N Ireland
10 May 02 | Europe
11 Mar 02 | Europe
27 Nov 01 | Europe
15 Nov 01 | Europe
03 Nov 98 | World War I
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes