I have often wondered about the southen end of the western front when it reached the Swiss border.How did the Swiss prevent the two sides in the conflict from invading Swiss territory to sneak round to the other side and attack from the rear .Did the Swiss have to put up defensive lines to prevent this?
Aside from some pretty rough terrain, the Swiss kept, and still keeps a sizable defensive force. Every male within a certain age range in good health is armed and part of a national guard. It would not have been wise to attempt to go through.
Making a stab at it without any cites, I’ll WAG that the demands of maintaining the front across Belgium and France deprived the Huns of enough manpower to overwhelm whatever defensive forces the Swiss could put to stand (probably not negligible), without weakening their line to the point of penetrability somewhere else. I’d guess the same applied to the Allies. And, it seems, it served everybody’s interest, in both European wars of the 20th century, to have a neutral state on scene.
I’m a little ticked that I can’t find the citations for this, considering how many books on the Great War I own. Here’s my recollection:
Both the French and the German lines made their way to the Swiss border and threupon were refused some distance along the flank. From the Swiss perspective, looking down from higher ground, they faced about ten miles of front, the left side being the refused French flank, the right side being the refused German flank. Both trench systems were under direct artillery and machine-gun observation from the higher Swiss ground.
The flank held because it was so easily observed by the Swiss. Any attempt at incursion into Swiss territory would force the attacker to move between not one but two lines of fire, that of the Swiss and that of the defender. Furthermore, it would immediately enter the Swiss into hostile relations with the attacker and would allow the defender passage through Swiss territory into the unprotected attacker’s rear. As a result, the southern flank was actually the most strategically dangerous part of the line for an attacker.
Both the Germans and the French very carefully observed every possible courtesy with the Swiss who were observing them, and also with each other. I believe it was this section of the line where it was not uncommon for soldiers of both sides to be seen picking mushrooms in daylight in no-man’s land. Also (supposedly, since I can’t find the dang cite), there was a burgeoning trade between the Germans and the French–sausage and cheese for wine, among other things.
There’s also the fact that by WWII, Switzerland had already been established as THE neutral country of the world. If anyone tried to mess with the Swiss, every other undeclared nation in the world would have turned on the aggressors full force: If they’ll attack the Swiss, who knows who’l be next? Of course, most of the non-aligned countries in WWII were pretty insignificant individually, but who wants them all crawling down your back at once?
In the years preceding WWI, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the then President of Switzerland (who is largely a parliamentary chairman serving for one year, so his name would be of little note) were supposedly reviewing Swiss militiamem. The Kaiser asked, “How many men can you mobilize?”, and the Swiss President replied, “About a hundred thousand, Majesty”.
Wilhelm, who was well-known for his severe case of foot-in-mouth disease, said, “Well, I can raise two hundred thousand troops. Suppose I were to send my army to invade Switzerland?”
“In that case, Majesty,” the Swiss President retorted, “every man in our army would have to fire twice.”