Morts pour la patrie
19 June 2021
These are the well-known words on every village square in France in memory of the dead in the Franco-German (Prussian) wars of 1870/71, 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.
Switzerland was not involved in these Franco-German conflicts and the last (civil) war on Swiss soil took place from 3 to 29 November 1847.
But who are Georges Thibaud (1893-1917), Paul Guyaz (1887-1918), Henri Desponds (1898-1918) and Jules Mayor (1882-1918)?
These names are mentioned with the words ‘Morts au service de leur pays’ on the monument in front of the church in Concise, (Canton of Vaud). Many other villages and cities have similar monuments.
They refer to Swiss soldiers who mainly died because of the Spanish Flu or other illnesses and accidents.
The Kannenfeldpark in Basel has a monument in memory of (French) citizens, however, residents of Basel, who fell in the wars of 1914-1918 and 1940-1945.
The monument was originally only an obelisk. It was erected in 1888 in memory of the soldiers of General Bourbaki’s army who died in Basel from their wounds. This army had crossed the Swiss border in February 1871, fleeing the Prussian army.
Another famous (French) citizen was the Bündner Charles Laurent Carisch (1882-1914). With him also died the dream of the Grand Palace Riom.
There are around 52 monuments commemorating fallen French citizens as residents of Switzerland.
The words ‘Mort(s) pour la patrie’ and ‘In Gedenken an die gefallenen Wehrmänner’ or words to that effect also appear in parks, squares and other places to remember Swiss soldiers.