Mountain troops (Switzerland)

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Memorial stone for the Mountain Army Corps 3 on the Gotthardsaumweg
Mountain Army Corps 3 (1992)

The mountain troops of the Swiss Army were mainly grouped in the 3rd Army Corps, which was mainly deployed in the Alpine region and was specially trained and equipped for combat in difficult terrain and under unfavorable climatic conditions. The year of origin is on the one hand the formation of the 3rd Army Corps in 1892 and on the other hand the year 1962 with the reorganization and renaming of Mountain Army Corps 3 (Geb. AK 3).

Prehistory and forerunners

Its location as a transit country for north-south traffic in the center of Europe has given Switzerland its geopolitical significance as an Alpine passport and transit state since the late Middle Ages . The three entrance gates to the Alpine region are the dams of St. Maurice and Martigny on the Rhone for the Valais Alps , the Sargans pass on the Rhine for the Bündner passes and the Uri valley on the Reuss for the Gotthard pass .

Mountain ranges played a crucial strategic role in military victories early on. The battles on the Calven and near Frastanz were decided in the Swabian War of 1499 by bypassing mountain ranges. Machiavelli said around 1500 that the Swiss were so free because they were so well armed. During the Thirty Years' War , Duke Rohan led his troops to several victories with mountain operations in Graubünden and Valtellina . During the Second Coalition War , the French, Austrians and Russians took place in the Swiss Alps in 1798/99 . Helvetic maneuvering exercises already existed in the mountains in the 19th century, although there was no distinction between field and mountain troops.

The III. Army Corps, later the Mountain Army Corps, was formed on January 1, 1892 with Hermann Bleuler as the first commander. The fortresses of St. Gotthard and St-Maurice were also built during this period .

Formation of the mountain troops and First World War

The decisive impetus for the creation of actual mountain troops was the formation of mountain troops in the neighboring countries of Italy ( Alpini ), France ( Chasseurs alpins ) and Austria . Chief of Staff Theophil Sprecher von Bernegg helped the mountain troop idea to break through.

With the troop order of 1911 (TO 11), the four mountain brigades 3 (1st Div, Sitten), 9 (3rd Div, Thun), 15 (5th Div, Bellinzona) and 18 (6th Div, Chur) with a total of 21 battalions created. That was a minimum for von Sprecher. In his opinion, a mountainous country like Switzerland should equip and train the entire army in a mountainous manner, which was not possible at the time for reasons of cost.

The mountain brigades were assigned to field divisions 1 (Lausanne), 3 (Bern), 5 (Zurich) and 6 (Chur) and were assigned to the mountain areas of Valais / Vaud (Br 3), Berneroberland (Br 9), Central Switzerland / Ticino (Br 15) and Graubünden (Br 18). This had the advantage that if the field divisions were to be deployed in the mountains, they had already trained and equipped troops that could have been used for difficult bypasses of bottlenecks and blocked positions. In addition to the mountain brigades , the crews of the Gotthard fortresses ( Fort Hospiz , Forte Airolo , Fort Motto Bartola , Fort Bäzberg , Fort Bühl , Fort Stöckli ) and St. Maurice (Savatan, Dailly, Fort du Scex ) were trained in the mountains. The fortress soldiers in Landwehr -Alter were recruited from the newly formed mountain troops. The mountain brigades were assigned up to three mountain artillery batteries as special troops.

A mountain infantry battalion with outgoing soldiers consisted of four mountain infantry companies with 982 men, 68 pack animals, 20–40 draft horses, 10–20 carts. The Gebirgsmitrailleurkompanie had 4–8 machine guns . The mountain artillery battery had 206 men, 98 pack animals, 4 draft horses, 2 carts, 4 guns of 7.5 cm caliber. The mountain equipment was expanded in active service with 46 mountain kitchen fortons, 6500 pairs of skis, 1100 ice ax, 1500 tent units, 1500 snow goggles. The fortresses also received searchlights, telephone equipment, 270 pairs of snow tires, 4000 snow goggles, 850 tent units and 1700 woolen blankets. The soldiers of the entire army received winter equipment with 270,000 pairs of calf bands, 325,000 pairs of gloves and 200,000 earmuffs.

In September 1912, the German Kaiser attended the autumn maneuver of the 3rd Army Corps ( Imperial Maneuver ) in Toggenburg . Together with his Chief of Staff Moltke, he came to the conclusion that the Swiss Army would be able to prevent foreign troops from marching through as a bypass attack into southern Germany.

The newly created mountain brigades had proven themselves during the active service / border occupation 1914–1918.

Interwar period

The population growth in the 1920s led to growing numbers of troops in the militia army and triggered the 1925 troop order (TO 25). The TO 25 led to a strengthening of the mountain troops (each mountain infantry battalion now consisted of three mountain infantry companies and one mountain mitrailleur company, the light machine gun was introduced) and the formation of the new mountain infantry brigade 10 , which was subordinate to the 4th Division (Lucerne). For the first time, voluntary off-duty mountain training (ski courses, military patrol run by the Swiss Ski Association ) was also regulated. The 1909 ordinance on voluntary military pre-instruction for young people was expanded in 1928 by the pre- instruction regulation. It sponsored offers from various organizations under private law, such as preliminary gymnastics lessons from the Swiss Gymnastics Club and armed preliminary lessons from the Swiss Officers' Society .

The general rearmament in Europe led to the troop organization of 1938 (TO 38) and brought a further extension of the training times and a changed structure. The military loan , which was far oversubscribed by the Swiss people in the crisis year of 1936 , brought urgently needed money and broad political support. Surrounded by hostile dictatorships, the militia army of the Alpine country of Switzerland was looking for a way to defend itself against a superior force. In order to be able to better use the advantage of the terrain, the TO 38 increased the number of mountain troops. Three complete mountain army units (mountain divisions 3, 8, 9) and three independent mountain brigades ( 10 , 11 , 12 ) were created. Switzerland also invested heavily in permanent fortifications, especially in the mountains.

The armament in 1931 with the new carbine , 1933 with the mortar , cm 8.1 in 1935 with the cm heavy artillery gun 10.5 , 1936, the first anti-tank guns ( infantry cannon 4.7 cm) and first anti-aircraft guns caliber 20 and 75 mm generally massively reinforced. With this new organization and structure, the mountain troops moved in on September 2, 1939 ( general mobilization ) for active service during the Second World War.

Second World War and initiation of the mountain war

The western campaign suddenly presented national defense with a completely different situation. Because of the progress made by German operations in France, the north / north-east facing army position ( Limmat position ) had to be extended to the west (Plan West A, Operation Order No. 10): In mid-June 1940, the so-called "Mittelland-Reduit" was temporarily occupied the Sargans stronghold to Lake Geneva led. After Italy entered the war (June 10, 1940), Switzerland was completely surrounded by a single belligerent group of powers. The all-round threat from numerically and materially superior opponents required a shortening of the front by combining and concentrating the main forces of the army in the foothills of the Alps and the Alps, which were suitable for defense against superior weapons from all directions.

The orientation of the army towards possible use in the mountains with the TO 38 proved its worth in the new defense strategy in the Swiss Reduit ordered by Henri Guisan in July 1940 , which would have essentially led as a mountain war with the three fortress focal points of St-Maurice, Gotthard and Sargans Need to become.

Immediately after moving into the redoubt, an intensive expansion of this mountain position began for the warfare of the army and to enable the troops and the civilian population living there (500,000 people) to live in the resource-poor area. An extensive network of tactical, traffic-related and material destruction sites was created ( dissuasion effect ). The expansion of the infrastructure also included the construction of airfields for the Air Force .

The training for warfare in the mountainous Reduit took place especially for the units that were previously operating in the Central Plateau. There were major mountain maneuvers and numerous mountain courses and mountain competitions (division championships) of all kinds. In 1943 the Swiss Army organized the Patrouille des Glaciers for the first time . In 1941, the federal government had issued a new regulation on voluntary military pre-instruction for young people, which gave him the authority to train leaders. The newly created central office for preliminary instruction, gymnastics, sports and shooting opened the training center in Magglingen in 1942 and founded the Federal Gymnastics and Sports School in 1944 . By 1971, over 50,000 pre-class leaders had been trained. The voluntary preliminary lessons also included winter and summer camps and courses in the mountains. In 1972 the preschool was replaced by Jugend + Sport (Y + S) .

During the Second World War, a fourth army corps was formed from ad hoc divisions. All four army corps had mountain troops of different strengths. The large mountain units had mountain infantry, artillery, sappers, telegraphists, radio operators and mountain medical services.

Post-war period - Mountain Army Corps 3

The troop organization of 1961 ("Army 61") created new army units that were adapted to the operational areas (border divisions, field divisions, mechanized divisions, mountain divisions, border brigades, fortress brigades, reduit brigades). The Federal Council's message began with the quote from international lawyer von der Heydte : As grotesque as it sounds, the “eternally” neutral state is basically the only state that international law prohibits disarmament . The Mountain Army Corps (Geb. AK 3) , newly formed in January 1962 , ranged from St-Maurice to Sargans and from Ticino to Samnaun and comprised 15 cantons and all national languages. The three field army corps and the mountain army corps each consisted of three divisions . The Mountain Army Corps was made up of the troops of the Army Corps, the Mountain Divisions ( 9 , 10 , 12 ), Border Brigades ( 9 , 11 , 12 ), Fortress Brigades (10, 13, 23), Reduit Brigades ( 21 , 22 , 24 ) and Territorial Brigades (9, 10, 12). The infantry of the great mountain associations was mountain artillery, -sappeure, -telefonisten, -funker, Train columns supported and mountain ambulance.

In the newly created Mountain Army Corps, training in the large unit was taken by hand. In September 1962, mountain divisions 10 and 12 faced each other in maneuvers, and in 1966 all three mountain divisions carried out the largest military maneuvers in Swiss military history with around 45,000 soldiers, who were supported by large parts of the air and army troops. The previous mandatory and voluntary mountain training was further promoted. On January 1, 1967, the central mountain combat school in Andermatt began operations.

Consistent development of the mountain troops

The comparison of the number of fusilier battalions to that of the mountain fusilier battalions shows the development of the mountain troops since the order of troops (TO) of 1911. Only the infantry troops are taken into account, tanks, artillery and special troops are missing.

Troop TO 1911 TO 1925 TO 1938 Mission statement 80
Feet Bat 84 77 70 75
Give feet bat 21st 33 50 37

The Reform Army 95 brought a strong reduction in manpower, whereby the division into three field army corps and one mountain army corps was retained. The Mountain Army Corps lost about a third of its population.

Commanders of the Mountain Army Corps 3

Army reforms

With the Reform Army XXI , the active force was reduced from 360,000 to 120,000 men and numerous traditional units as well as all army corps (including mountain army corps) and all divisions were dissolved. The structure and degree structure have been adapted to the NATO armies.

The Ordinance on the Army Organization (AO) of October 4, 2002 provided for the following structure within the Army for the remaining mountain troops of the Swiss Army: three mountain infantry brigades, two of which are active (Geb Inf Br 9 and 10) and one reserve mountain infantry brigade ( Geb Inf Br 12 ). There was also the Mountain Service Competence Center in Andermatt and the Mountain Specialists Department 1 .

The mountain infantry brigades (Geb Inf Br 9, 10, 12) were disbanded as part of the further development of the army (WEA).


Web links

Commons : Mountain Army Corps 3  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Heinrich Wirz: 100 Years of Mountain Army Corps 3 (1892-1992) . In: Schweizer Soldat , No. 6, 1992
  2. Adrien Tschumy / Pierre Bugnard: The military defense of the Alpine region until 1914. In: Our Alpine Corps.
  3. a b c d e f Our Alpine Corps. Command Mountain Army Corps 3, Bern 1983, ISBN 3-85761-225-8
  4. Message from the Federal Council to the Federal Assembly on the Organization of the Army (New Troop Order of June 3, 1910)
  5. ^ Federal Council resolution of May 31, 1912
  6. ^ The German imperial visit to Switzerland, 1912
  7. ^ Ernst Riedi: Creation and development of our mountain troops 1912–1939. In: Our Alpine Corps .
  8. ^ Resolutions of the Federal Assembly of May 6, 1924 and the Federal Council's executive resolution of March 1, 1926
  9. ^ Resolution of the Federal Assembly of October 7, 1936
  10. ^ Ernst Riedi: Creation and development of our mountain troops 1912–1939. In: Our Alpine Corps
  11. With the operation order No. 12 of July 17, 1940, the divisions 1, 3, 8 were moved to the already existing divisions 7 and 9 in the foothills of the Alps, with the operation order of August 17, 1940, the 6th division came to
  12. Instructions for the conduct of the war in the Reduit as an attachment to Operation Order No. 13 of May 25, 1941
  13. Hans-Rudolf Kurz : The Second World War 1939–1945 as a trailblazer for the initiation of mountain warfare. In: Our Alpine Corps
  14. ^ Federal Council Message of June 30, 1960
  15. Hans Rapold: The post-war period. In: Our Alpine Corps .
  16. Marco Jorio: Züblin, Georg. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  17. ^ Marco Jorio: Reichlin, Georg. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  18. Marco Jorio: Franchini, Enrico. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  19. Marco Jorio: Moccetti, Roberto. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  20. Referendum of May 18, 2003 on the Military Law
  21. General Swiss Military Magazine 11/2017: The Gotthard Brigade - more than mere combat strength