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Opening from December 12 to April 30, 2021

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Wednesday 28 October updated on 10-28-2020 at 8:06

Opening from December 12 to April 30, 2021

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Buy your
ski pass

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  1. Les Arcs
  2. To do in Les Arcs
  3. Heritage
  4. Memory place
  5. A border to defend

 Visits 

  The rates and dates of the guided tours are presented on My week in Les Arcs, the weekly entertainments programme and in Tourist offices.


This place was home to the Blue Devils of the 7th Battalion of the Chasseurs Alpins (Alpine Hunters) (7th BCA) until 2012. This memorial site offers an overview of the Haute Tarentaise valley and the defences built to protect and control the routes to Italy. An opportunity to discover the area’s military past, its organisation, how fortifications were built, the battles that were fought and the men who gave their lives for our freedom and peace.

« I am Delphin, a customs officer posted to the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass since May 1910. Last winter my colleague Victor, who comes from Briançon, introduced me to a great invention: skis! They consist of two wooden planks that make it easy to slide and move across the snow. With our Italian colleagues, we even have fun racing and jumping.»

Since antiquity the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass (2188 m) has been an important place of passage. Situated on the Via Alpis Graia, the Roman road built on the orders of Julius Caesar, it connects Milan and Vienne (Isère). At the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass, the border line changed over time. In 1902 Pierre Chanoux, director of the Hospice, built a statue dedicated to Saint-Bernard on the then border. In 1947, the Treaty of Paris chose the watershed line between the Torrent du Reclus and la Doire du Verney. The current line passes through the centre of the Cromlech, a stone circle of about 75 meters in diameter made up of 46 stones. It was probably built in the Neolithic era, but it remains difficult to date. A meeting place for the peoples from both sides, a place of ceremonies, funerary chambers? Despite many archaeological excavations, its function remains unknown.

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THE EYES OF THE DEFENSIVE SYSTEM

This fort is built on the ruins of an 18th century Sardinian redoubt, hence its name. It was built from 1892 to 1894 to defend the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass. Comprising 3 barracks that could accommodate 144 men and 6 officers, it was hidden behind a rocky ridge to protect it from enemy fire. Later, the defence system was completed with a defensive enclosure wall, a rock shelter, 3 casemates and a cable car.

JUNE 1940: THE ATTACK ON THE PETIT SAINT-BERNARD PASS

Italy’s entry into the war alongside Germany led to the Italian attack on June 21st, 1940. The defence depended on the Redoute Ruinée Fort, occupied by a section of the 70th BAF (Alpine Fortress Battalion), and an outpost manned by the 215th RI (Infantry Regiment) and the 164th RAP (Fort Defence Artillery Regiment). After an aerial and artillery bombardment, Italian soldiers advanced over the border passes but were blocked by the Redoute Ruinée Fort. Several violent attacks were repelled on the 21st and 22nd of June. Nevertheless, the Italians managed to advance towards the Isere valley. The armistice put an end to military operations and the undefeated garrison left the Redoute Ruinée Fort on July 2nd, 1940.

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HENRI DESSERTEAUX

After leaving Saint-Cyr in 1939 he was posted as second lieutenant at the 70th Alpine Fortress Battalion in Bourg Saint Maurice. In June 1940, he commanded the section defending the Redoute Ruinée. At the beginning of 1945, he became captain of the 13th BCA (Battalion of Alpine Hunters) and participated in the re-taking of the Redoute Ruinée in April. He fell honourably in Indochina in September 1947.

THE BATTLES OF 1944

Following the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, the “Gebirgsjäger” elite German mountain units occupied the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass. This position was essential to them to allow the withdrawal of their troops in the face of the advancing allied armies. In the autumn of 1944, the Bulle Battalion and the 3rd Regiment of Algerian Riflemen launched attacks on the right bank of the Torrent du Reclus, but the enemy stoutly held the ridges. On March 9th, 1945, the 7th, 13th and 27th BCA (Battalion of Alpine Hunters) were ordered to retake the pass, from the Pointe de Belleface to the Redoute Ruinée. Captain Desserteaux, who had so brilliantly led its defence in June 1940 took part in its recovery. After repeated bloody assaults, the occupiers were finally driven out at the end of April 1945.

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 Did you know? 

CARRIER PIGEONS

They were kept in all the forts to take over the lines of communication in case of bad weather or failure. In June 1940, the telephone line was cut by Italian troops. The Redoute Ruinée fort used these messengers to alert the command post to the Italian attacks on the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass.

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