⚔️ The 15 largest military forts in French-speaking Switzerland

Foreword


The territory of French-speaking Switzerland, like that of the whole of Switzerland, is full of thousands of military structures ranging from the smallest as anti-tank structures, the famous “toblerones”, to larger structures that can accommodate very few soldiers up to several dozen like bunkers, little forts or even forts.

“Toblerones” near the Poëta-Raisse gorges in the canton of Neuchâtel.
"Toblerones" near the Poëta-Raisse gorges in the canton of Neuchâtel.

In this article, we will focus on the largest forts in French-speaking Switzerland. Those who were able to contain a troop independently for several weeks. It is worth visiting some of them to see the Swiss military defences of the Second World War and the Cold War..

The military forts around Saint-Maurice and in the Grand-Saint-Bernard area. Panel in the fort of Evionnaz.
The military forts around Saint-Maurice and in the Grand-Saint-Bernard area. Panel in the fort of Evionnaz.

National Redoubt


The National Redoubt (Réduit National in french) is a concept of withdrawal of the Swiss army into fortifications at the level of the Alps. The aim was to delay the enemy’s advance in the Jura and the Swiss Plateau and barricade themselves in the Alps forts to better resist. The concept of National Redoubt dates back to the late 1930s and was to be applied in the event of conflict during the Second World War or the Cold War. Little known at the time of the Second World War. It became mythical after the fact.

The National Redoubt consisted of 3 main fortresses, the fortresses of Saint-Maurice in French-speaking Switzerland and those of the Gotthard and Sargans in German-speaking Switzerland. Each fortress consisted of a set of main forts and a multitude of other minor defensive structures.

The Fortress of Saint-Maurice included the forts of Savatan and especially Dailly, with its 12 km of gallery (5 km for Savatan), on the east bank of the Rhône in the canton of Vaud. On the west side in Valais, the forts of Scex and Cindey served as counterworks to protect the first two forts. Other smaller forts were located to the south and north of the fortress to prevent access to it. The North included the Chablais area and the South the Martigny, Grand-Saint-Bernard and Trient areas.

A map of the National Redoubt exposed at Fort Evionnaz.
A map of the National Redoubt exposed at Fort Evionnaz.

Decommissioning of military forts


Since the beginning of the 21st century, all the military forts in French-speaking Switzerland have been disused, with the exception of part of the Dailly fort, which remains jealously under the control of the Swiss army. The reason for this decommissioning is that the forts simply no longer respond to today’s threats because conflicts have now moved in the electronic area and militarily, the evolution of ballistic weapons means that the forts could, in a few seconds, be destroyed by missiles fired thousands of kilometres from the targets.

Most of the forts have been taken over by associations that maintain them.

The main forts were made up of three types:

  • Artillery forts.
    They are intended for firing over long distances, up to several tens of kilometres. They are equipped with the largest guns.
  • Infantry forts.
    They are designed for the fight against tanks or soldiers and equipped with small guns and machine guns.
  • Mixed artillery/infantry forts
    The 7.5 cm calibre artillery pieces could have a dual function, either anti-tank and anti-personnel fire or artillery fire.

Each fort was protected by many smaller defensive structures such as bunkers, machine gun posts, mines or a dense network of barbed wire.

A fictitious shell inserted into a 105 mm artillery gun at Cindey Fort.
A fictitious shell inserted into a 105 mm artillery gun at Cindey Fort.

Mg-51 machine gun at Fort Cindey with a gas mask system to combat the carbon monoxide (CO) released by the weapon.
Mg-51 machine gun at Fort Cindey with a gas mask system to combat the carbon monoxide (CO) released by the weapon.

In Switzerland, military structures, large or small, are listed from the southwestern tip of the country with the letter A followed by a number. For example, the fort of Commeire is listed as A27.

Visit of the forts


All the forts are open to visit but only five of them, listed below and visited by La Torpille, are open without reservation usually in summer a few days a week. The schedules can be consulted on the forts’ website by checking the table below. Visits to other forts must be booked in advance. You should not forget a sweater because the temperature in the rock is about 8 to 10 degrees. The adult and child prices in francs are added on the right of the listing below.

  1. Pré-Giroud Fort 12/7
  2. Cindey Fort 14/7
  3. Scex Fort 14/7
  4. Champex-Lac Fort 14/8
  5. Evionnaz Fort 9/5

The forts are ranked in order of interest at the visit. The fort of Pré-Giroud, in the Vaud Jura, is clearly the most interesting to visit. All visits, lasting one to two hours, are accompanied by a guide, except for the fort of Evionnaz.

Listing of military forts


⚔️ Summary


The Torpille team lists below the main forts of French-speaking Switzerland.

Jura Forts

  • Pré-Giroud Fort

Chablais Forts

  • Chillon Fort
  • Champillon Fort

North Saint-Maurice Forts

  • Toveyre Fort
  • Petit-Mont Fort

Saint-Maurice Fortress

  • Dailly Fort
  • Savatan Fort
  • Fort de Cindey
  • Fort du Scex

Sud Saint-Maurice Forts

  • Evionnaz Fort
  • Vernayaz Fort
  • Follatères Fort

Vallée du Trient Forts

  • Litroz Fortin

Grand-Saint-Bernard zone Forts

  • Champex-Lac Fort
  • Commeire Fort

⚔️ Jura Forts


icone drapeau du canton de vaud Pré-Giroud Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Artillery fort.
  • 🏗️ Construction: 1941-1942.
  • 🎯 Goal: Delay the enemy’s advance towards the fortress of Saint-Maurice.
  • 🏃 Visit: Yes
  • 🔗 Detailed article about the Pré-Giroud Fort.

The purpose of the Pré-Giroud fort was to prevent the intrusion into Switzerland via the Col de la Jougne. It is the most interesting fort to visit in French-speaking Switzerland, it is preserved in the same condition as the troop left it with all its infrastructure and equipment. In addition, the Torpille team was pleasantly surprised by the passion that animates the guides during the visits.

The fort is located in the city of Vallorbe, which also offers the points of interest of the Vallorbe Caves, the Railway and Iron Museum and the JuraParc Zoo.

The entrance to the fort of Pré-Giroud “disguised” as a chalet. This fort is sometimes also called “fort 39-45”.
The entrance to the fort of Pré-Giroud "disguised" as a chalet. This fort is sometimes also called "fort 39-45".

A video showing the visit of the fort by the television channel “la télé”.

⚔️ Chablais Forts


icone drapeau du canton de vaud Chillon Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Mixed fort
  • 🏗️ Construction: 1941-1942
  • 🎯 Goal: Defense outpost of the fortress of Saint-Maurice
  • 🏃 Visit: Yes from the end of 2019

The Fort of Chillon is an outpost for the defence of the fortress of Saint-Maurice. He watches the narrow passage at the level of the Chillon Castle located just next door. It was armed with anti-tank guns and artillery.

The “hidden” entrance to the fort of Chillon just in front of the castle of Chillon.
The "hidden" entrance to the fort of Chillon just in front of the castle of Chillon.

A sailboat next to the chillon castle.
A sailboat next to the chillon castle.

A video on the exterior structures of the Chillon fort.

icone drapeau du canton de vaud Champillon Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Artillery fort.
  • 🏗️ Construction: ?
  • 🎯 Goal: Northern outpost of the fortress of Saint-Maurice
  • 🏃Visit: No

Fort Champillon is an artillery fort that has been recycled into a museum. Unfortunately the museum is no longer open at the moment.

A video on the outside of Champillon Fort.

⚔️ Forts north of Saint-Maurice


Located north of the Saint-Maurice position are the secondary forts of Tovaire (VD) and Petit-Mont (VD).

  • 🔫Type: Artillery forts
  • 🏗️ Construction: ?
  • 🎯 Goal: Positions nord de la forteresse de Saint-Maurice.
  • 🏃 Visit: No

A video about the fort of Le Petit-Mont.

⚔️ Saint-Maurice Fortress


The fortress of Saint-Maurice has four forts, the forts of Scex and Cindey on the west side in Valais, which face the forts of Dailly and Savatan on the east side in the canton of Vaud. The heart of the fortress is the Dailly fort with its more than 12 kilometres of gallery, making it the largest military fort in Europe.

Valais forts:

Plan of the Cindey and Scex forts.
Plan des forts de Cindex et du Scex - forts militaires de suisse romande

icone du canton du valais Scex Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Artillery fort.
  • 🏗️ Construction: 1911 – 1952
  • 🎯 Goal: Structure to protect Savatan and Dailly forts
  • 🏃 Visit: Yes

Fort du Scex is built in 1911, improved until 1952 and militarily abandoned in 1995. It is accessible, like Cindey Fort, through the gallery leading to the Fairy Cave of Saint-Maurice.

The artillery guns of the Fort du Scex are located very close to the Notre-Dame du Scex Chapel.
The artillery guns of the Fort du Scex are located very close to the Notre-Dame du Scex Chapel.

icone du canton du valais Cindey Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Infantery fort (Mixed fort since 1952)
  • 🏗️ Construction: 1940 -1952
  • 🎯 Goal: Structure to protect Savatan and Dailly forts
  • 🏃 Visit: Yes
  • 🔗 Detailed article about the Cindey Fort

Built between 1941 and 1946, Fort Cindey was upgraded between 1948 and 1952 and abandoned militarily in 1995. With Fort Pré-Giroud, it is one of the only military forts in French-speaking Switzerland that can be visited regularly and without reservation.

The entrance to the Fairy Cave leading to Fort Cindey.
The entrance to the Fairy Cave leading to Fort Cindey.

A rack used to support the soldiers’ guns inside Fort Cindey.
A rack used to support the soldiers' guns inside Fort Cindey.

Diagram of the Fort Cindey galleries.
Diagram of the Fort Cindey galleries.

Vaud forts:

icone drapeau du canton de vaud Dailly Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Artillery fort.
  • 🏗️ Construction: From 1892 to 1995.
  • 🎯 Goal: Heart of the fortress of Saint-Maurice.
  • 🏃 Visit: On reservation only.

Le fort de Dailly est la plus grande forteresse militaire d’Europe avec environ 20 kilomètres de galeries, elle était au cœur du dispositif de la forteresse de Saint-Maurice et une pièce maitresse du réduit national. Ce fort est malheureusement peu mis en valeur au niveau du publique.

Vidéo on Dailly Fort.


icone drapeau du canton de vaud Savatan Fort

  • Type: Artillery fort.
  • 🏗️ Construction: From 1892 to 1995.
  • 🎯 Goal: Heart of the fortress of Saint-Maurice.
  • 🏃 Visit: On reservation only.

Savatan Fort is located below Dailly Fort and connected to it by an underground funicular.

⚔️ Forts south of Saint-Maurice


icone du canton du valais Evionnaz Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Infantery fort.
  • 🏗️ Construction:
  • 🎯 Goal: Defense of the southern positions of the fortress of Saint-Maurice.
  • 🏃 Visit: Yes
  • 🔗 Detailed article about the Evionnaz Fort

The Evionnaz fort is open to visitors for a few months in summer. It is the only fort to be visited without a guide and it offers a military historical museum along its galleries. Weapons rooms such as machine guns and artillery guns are not accessible to the public.

The entrance to the fort of Evionnaz with a military truck used as a ticket office.
The entrance to the fort of Evionnaz with a military truck used as a ticket office.

The main gallery of the fort of Evionnaz with a panel of the museum against the wall.
The main gallery of the fort of Evionnaz with a panel of the museum against the wall.

Martigny region:

icone du canton du valais Vernayaz Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Infantery fort.
  • 🏗️ Construction:
  • 🎯 Goal: Defense of the southern positions of the fortress of Saint-Maurice.
  • 🏃 Visit: No

This fort has been recycled into an “Escape Game” which is a game, played as a team, whose goal is to escape from a place you are locked in a time limit often an hour. The concept of this very recent and very fashionable game comes from Japan.

It was a fort on both sides of the Trient Gorges to fight tanks. Each part of the fort was connected by a bridge.

Next to the Trient gorges, the entrance to the fort of Vernayaz by the train tunnel and the exit locations of the anti-tank guns.
Next to the Trient gorges, the entrance to the fort of Vernayaz by the train tunnel and the exit locations of the anti-tank guns.

The bridge connecting the 2 parts of the fort over the Trient River.
The bridge connecting the 2 parts of the fort over the Trient River.

Humorous advertisement for the “Escape Game” at Fort Vernayaz. The old uniforms of the Swiss army with their red spots have become mythical.

icone du canton du valais Follatères Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Mixed fort
  • 🏗️ Construction:
  • 🎯 Goal: Defense of the southern positions of the fortress of Saint-Maurice.
  • 🏃 Visit: No

Follatères Fort is located under a rocky spur called “Les Follatères” at the strategic position of the Rhône bend in Martigny. Its function is twofold:

  • Anti-tank with two 7.5 cm batteries towards the Drance and Rhône valleys
  • Anti-infantry with two 8.1 cm long mortar shells batteries and numerous machine guns.

View of the Follatères from the Grand-Saint-Bernard restaurant along the motorway.
View of the Follatères from the Grand-Saint-Bernard restaurant along the motorway.

Video of the Follatères Fort from a drone.

⚔️ Valley of Trient Forts


The military structures of the Trient Valley were positioned in four sectors in order to prevent an intrusion from Chamonix and France towards the Rhône Valley and the fortress of Saint-Maurice, one of the three pillars of the National Redoubt. Each of the four sectors listed below consisted of small bunkers, various defensive structures or mined structures. There is no fort strictly speaking in this sector, only the Litroz fort has a larger structure.

  • Col de la Forclaz sector
  • Tête-Noire/Litroz sector
  • Finhaut sector
  • Châtelard Frontière sector

A bunker at la Forclaz disguised as a chalet on the left of the picture. The image is taken from the path of the bisse of Trient that can be seen in the foreground.
A bunker at la Forclaz disguised as a chalet on the left of the picture.

icone du canton du valais Litroz Fortin

  • 🔫 Type: Infantery fortin (blockhouse).
  • 🏗️ Construction:
  • 🎯 Goal: Protection of Switzerland from Chamonix.
  • 🏃 Visit: On reservation only

The Litroz fort is the largest fort in the Trient Valley. Located at the level of Tête Noire above the Mysterious Gorges, it is open to visitors by reservation.

The mysterious Gorges of Tête Noire. (Black Head)
The mysterious Gorges of Tête Noire. (Black Head)

Video about a simulation of an attack on Litroz Fort.

Video on the life in Litroz Fort.

⚔️ Forts in the Grand-Saint-Bernard area


The military zone of Grand-Saint-Bernard includes the three valleys of the Drance (Drance de Bagne, Drance d’Entremont and Drance de Ferret). Hundreds of small structures were positioned in this area and the two most imposing were the artillery forts of Commeire near Orsière and Champex, to guard access to the Great St Bernard Pass.

Various activities are located near these two forts:

The hospice of Great St Bernard located at the pass of the same name.
The hospice of Great St Bernard located at the pass of the same name.

The Toules dam on the road to Great St Bernard.
The Toules dam on the road to Great St Bernard.

The pretty winter sledge run in Champex-Lac.
The pretty winter sledge run in Champex-Lac.

icone du canton du valais Commeire Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Artillery fort.
  • 🏗️ Construction: 1940 – 1943
  • 🎯 Goal: Invasion protection from Italy
  • 🏃 Visit: Sur réservation

Le fort de Commeire surveille la route du Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard jusqu’à la hauteur du barrage des Toules.

Une vidéo sur un canon du fort de Commeire.

icone du canton du valais Champex-Lac Fort

  • 🔫 Type: Artillery fort.
  • 🏗️ Construction: 1941-1942
  • 🎯 Goal: Invasion protection from Italy
  • 🏃 Visit: Yes
  • 🔗Detailed article about the Champex-Lac Fort

The fort of Champex-Lac watches over the Val Ferret and a small part of the road leading to the Great St Bernard pass. The Val Ferret is less important from a military point of view because it does not allow access to Italy by a road.

The entrance to the fort of Champex-Lac.
The entrance to the fort of Champex-Lac.

The corridor in the fort.
The corridor in the champex-lac fort.

The armoury in the fort of Champex-Lac.
The armoury in the fort of Champex-Lac.

Comparative table of military forts in French-speaking Switzerland


FortsChillon
A390
Champillon
A365
Dailly
A250
Savatan
A200
Scex
A160
Cindey
A155
Evionnaz
A80
Vernayaz
A68/69
Follatères
A66
Commeire
A27
Champex
A46
Pré-Giroud
A577
CommuneVeytauxCorbeyrierLavey-MorclesLavey-Morclessaint-Mauricesaint-MauriceEvionnazVernayazMatignyOrsièresOrsièreVallorbe
Cantonpetit drapeau du canton de vaud Vaudpetit drapeau du canton de vaud Vaudpetit drapeau du canton de vaud Vaudpetit drapeau du canton de vaud Vaudicone du canton du valais Valaisicone du canton du valais Valaisicone du canton du valais Valaisicone du canton du valais Valaisicone du canton du valais Valaisicone du canton du valais Valaisicone du canton du valais Valaispetit drapeau du canton de vaud Vaud
Site Webfortdechillon.chNonwww.forteresse-st-maurice.chforteresse-st-maurice.chforteresse-st-maurice.chproforteresse.chescapeworld.chproforteresse.ch/commeireproforteresse.ch/champexpre-giroud.ch
Construction1941-19421942-19441892-19951892-19951911-1915
1915-1924
1935-1936
1938-1939
1940-1946
1948-1952
1940-1946
1948-1952
1940-19431941-1942
Décomissionement19951995199519951995
Désarmé en 1983
19951999
(Désarmé 1986)
1999
Ouverture à la visitea venir 2018 ou 20192014201420022002OuiSur reservation
type de visiteSite webSite WebSite Web
Zone MiliataireChablaisChablaisSaint-MauriceSaint-MauriceSaint-MauriceSaint-MauriceSaint-MauriceSaint-MauriceSaint-MauriceGd-St-BernardGd-St-BernardJura Vaudois
Type de fortartillerie/acartillerieartillerieartillerieartillerieartillerie /acanti-charanti-charartillerieartillerie?artillerie
Armement au moment du démantellement2 canons 105mm2 Canons tourelle de 15 cm L 42 1958
1 Lance-mine de forteresse de 12 cm 1959 / 83
2 Canons tourelle de 10,5 cm L 52 1939
4 Canons de 10,5 cm L 42 1939
1 Canon antichar de 9 cm 1950 / 57
4 Lance-mines de forteresse de 8,1 cm 1956 / 60
17 Mitrailleuses de forteresse 1951 / 80
2 obusiers 105mm
2 lance-mines 120mm
2 lance-mines de 81mm
12 mitrailleuses
8 canon 75mm2 canons 105mm
4 canons ach 90mm
3 mitrailleuses
5 canons ach 90mm
2 Mitrailleuses
canons ach 90mm
Mitrailleuses
2 canons de 75mm direction Saint-Maurice
2 canons de 75mm direction Forclaz
2 canons de 105mm direction Gd-St-Bernard
4 canons 75mm8 canons 105mm et 2 canons 75mm3 canons 105mm
1 canon ach
3 mitrailleuses 7.5mm
Nombre d'homme
172 (avant désarmement)173140130
AutrePlus grande fort d'Europe
Funi Savatan-Dailly
Funi Savatan-DaillyConnecté à Cindey par galerie naturelle
Téléphérique
Connecté à Scex par galerie naturelle
Téléphérique
AVEC VISITE GUIDEE
› Une exposition de casques romains et antiques et modèles réduits de machine de guerre

› Une exposition de figurines de soldats et chefs militaires
3 niveaux
600m de galerie

Mapping of military forts


The following link shows the geographical location of the military forts in French-speaking Switzerland.

Fortifications in Europe


Other countries in Europe, such as Switzerland with its National Redoubt, have fortifications dating from the 1930s to 1945, of which we give a brief summary here. These fortifications in Europe were defensive lines rather than a retreat zone like the National Redoubt but the armament and type of construction were relatively similar.

History has shown that no fortified line was able to stop the enemy in time of war, while the National Redoubt was simply not used because Switzerland was spared by the Second World War.

🚧 The Maginot line


  • 🏗️ Years of construction: 1928-1940.
  • 🏳️ Country of construction: France.
  • 🗺️ Fortification area: Frontière avec la Belgique, Luxembourg, Allemagne, Suisse, Italie. Corse.
  • 🗡️ Use in time of war: 1940
  • 👱 Personality bearing its name: André Maginot (1877-1932)

A video on the Maginot Line.

🚧 The Atlantic Wall


  • 🏗️ Construction: 1942 -1944.
  • 🏳️ Country: Nazi Germany in 1942 after the invasion of Norway and France.
  • 🗺️ Zone: Maritime borders of Norway, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France.
  • 🗡️ Use: 1944
  • 👱 Name: –

A video of the Youtube channel “Nazi megastructures” on the Atlantic Wall.

🚧 The Alpine Wall


  • 🏗️ Construction: 1931-1940.
  • 🏳️ Country: Italy.
  • 🗺️ Zone: Border with France, Switzerland, Austria and Yugoslavia.
  • 🗡️ Use: 1940 and 1944
  • 👱 Name: –

🚧 The Siegfried line


  • 🏗️ Construction: 1930s.
  • 🏳️ Country: Germany.
  • 🗺️ Zone: Border with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.
  • 🗡️ Use: 1944
  • 👱 Name: –

A video of the Youtube channel “Nazi megastructures” on the Siegfried line.

🚧 The Beneš line


  • 🏗️ Construction: years 1935-1938.
  • 🏳️ Country: Czechoslovakia.
  • 🗺️ Zone: Border with Germany.
  • 🗡️ Use: No
  • 👱 Name: Edvard Beneš (1884-1948)

🚧 The Staline Line


  • 🏗️ Construction: 1940-1941.
  • 🏳️ Country: USSR after the invasion of the Baltic States, Eastern Poland and Bessarabia (in Romania).
  • 🗺️ Zone: Western border of the USSR, from the Baltic to the Carpathian mountains.
  • 🗡️ Use: 1941
  • 👱 Name: Joseph Staline (1878-1953)

🚧 The Molotov Line


  • 🏗️ Construction: 1928 – 1939.
  • 🏳️ Country: URSS.
  • 🗺️ Zone: Western border of the USSR, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
  • 🗡️ Use: 1941
  • 👱 Name: Viatcheslav Molotov (1890-1986)

🚧 La nouvelle ligne d’eau


  • 🏗️ Construction: until 1939.
  • 🏳️ Country: Netherlands.
  • 🗺️ Zone: Flooding of land in the Netherlands.
  • 🗡️ Use: 1940
  • 👱 Name: –

🚧 The KW line


  • 🏗️ Construction: 1939-1940.
  • 🏳️ Country:  Belgium.
  • 🗺️ Zone: Border with Holland and Germany.
  • 🗡️ Use: 1940
  • 👱 Name: –

Acknowledgements


La Torpille warmly thanks Mr. Pierre Frei of Saint-Maurice for his many comments.