CLIO mr brice - page 32

Switzerland is known for its neutrality and as being one
of few war free countries in history and the modern
day. Specialising in cheeses and watches, military power
isn’t what first comes to mind. However, Switzerland
does have an interesting and mobile military history;
despite gaining independence and neutrality at the
beginning of the 16th century. Throughout history they
kept this neutrality to varying degrees and some of the
time not at all. The Battle of Marignano in 1525 was
fought between France and the Old Swiss Confederacy,
as part of ‘The Italian Wars’. After the battle both sides
signed an ‘eternal peace’ and it would be the last time
Switzerland ever invaded another country. I believe
that the severity of the Swiss’ losses was a key factor in
the country’s future neutrality. The French and Swiss’
‘eternal peace’ lasted until the end of the ‘Kingdom of
France’ after the French Revolution, when the French,
under Napoleon, invaded Switzerland in 1798. The
invasion was peaceful because the Swiss public didn’t try
to defend against the attack. Shortly after, the Helvetic
Republic was set up, apparently ‘one and indivisible’;
the Swiss states (called Cantons) lost their sovereigns
and became districts. In 1802 the Swiss people, who
didn’t agree with this, revolted in what was called the
Stecklikrieg, resulting in the collapse of the Helvetic
In the late 15th century the Swiss Guard was set up.
They were, and still are, soldiers who worked as guards
in small palaces or in European armies, predominately
the French, Spanish and Nepalese. Swiss citizens were
not allowed to serve in foreign armies unless they were
in the Swiss Guard. The only remaining Swiss Guard
unit is in the Vatican City, protecting the Pope and
watching over the city as they have done since the early
The World Wars further characterized Switzerland’s
military history. In World War 1 Switzerland was still
declared neutral and very little happened in the way of
Germany’s movement towards them. They increased
the guards on their borders and made it clear to all that
their military was prepared and a force to be reckoned
with. The Germans not invading was partly owed
to Ulrich Wille, the Swiss army’s commander, who
supported Germany and convinced the German leaders
of Switzerland’s power.
In World War 2, the threat to Switzerland was thought
to be more severe and the Swiss took precautions to
protect their country. In essence their tactic was to
make invading as uninviting as possible; under Henry
Guisan they moved the country’s gold supplies and
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