In 1943, in the beautiful Haute Savoie region in wartime Vichy France, close to both the Swiss and Italian borders, the disparate and feuding fractions of the French Resistance, who up until that time were operating independently from one another, were brought together under the command of a young French Lieutenant Théodose (Tom) Morel, an officer in the 27th Batallion of Alpine Chasseurs originally based in Annecy before the French defeat in 1940, and supplied with Allied weapons dropped by parachute on the remote Plateau des Glières.
Although the nearby towns had large numbers of the dreaded Vichy French Milice (a para-military police force) most of whom actively collaborated with the Germans, and who seemed to relish in the hunt for members of the Marquis, over a period of months, several hundred members of the secret resistance army gathered on the mountain plateau which dominates the foothills leading up to Mont Blanc.
By late 1943, raids by members of the Resistance on the Milice in nearby towns resulted in orders being given that the “terrorists” were to be tracked down and wiped out. In early 1944, the efforts of the Milice beseiging the Resistance fighters on the Plateau des Glières proved to be ineffective and so nearly half a division of German alpine troops were drafted in. Well armed with artillery and with Luffwaffe support, the force now gathered to put down the insurrection at over 4400 men was about ten times that of the Resistance fighters (although some historians put the number of Germans and Milice even higher, this has not be substantiated with recent research). All was now set for battle!
Despite the advantage of local knowledge, the Resistance were unable to hold their ground in the face of the German firepower and many were killed before the survivors managed to escape. The Germans exacted terrible revenge on the inhabitants of nearby villages and towns, with hostages being taken and executed. The Secret Army’s motto “Vivre Libre or Mourir” (Live Free or Die) had been aptly adopted.
All of this happened in the months leading up to and before D-Day in Normandy and Operation Dragroon (the Allied landings in Southern France), and so was, as the French put it, “La Première Bataille de la Résistance”. Subsequently, as the Germans began to retreat to their own borders with the Allied invasions, Haute Savoie was one of the first regions in France where the French liberated themselves.
Depending on client wishes, this tour will last about five days (excluding travelling to the region) which will allow plenty of time to explore the battlefield and surounding areas as well as having time to enjoy the culinary, scenic and shopping excursion delights of the area. It is therefore an ideal tour for all. To get the most out of the tour, it is worthwhile doing some hiking as part of the battlefield tour, although it is not compulsory!
We work with the assistance of a local guide Bruno Yates of Alptrails, who is a qualified International Mountain Leader and a British Mountaineering Instructor.
Please contact us if you are interested in this special battlefield tour. Timing is subject to availability of guides and clients.