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Wednesday 21 February updated on 02-21-2024 at 8:06

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 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.


The Quartier des Alpins in Bourg Saint Maurice hosted the Blue Devils of the 7th Battalion of Alpine Hunters (BCA) until 2012. This place of memory allows you to discover the Haute Tarentaise valley and the defence works built to protect and control the communication routes to Italy. An opportunity to discover the local military past with its organization, the construction of fortifications, the battles 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 ancient times, the Petit Saint-Bernard pass (2188 m) has been an important crossing point. Located on the Via Alpis Graia, the Roman road built on the order of Julius Caesar, it connects Milan to Vienne (Isère). At the Petit Saint-Bernard pass, the border will evolve over time. In 1902, on the site of the time, Pierre Chanoux, rector of the Hospice, had a statue dedicated to Saint-Bernard built. In 1947, the Treaty of Paris chose the watershed between the Reclus torrent and the Doire du Verney. It currently passes through the center of the “cromlech”. The latter, a circle of approximately 75 meters in diameter formed of 46 stones, was undoubtedly made in the Neolithic era, but its dating remains delicate. Meeting place for people from both sides, place of ceremonies, burial enclosures? Despite numerous archaeological excavations, its function still remains unknown.

THE EYES OF THE DEFENSIVE SYSTEM

The fort is built on the ruins of an 18th century Sardinian redoubt, hence its name. It was erected from 1892 to 1894 to protect the Petit Saint-Bernard pass. Made up of 3 barracks buildings that can accommodate 144 men and 6 officers, it is hidden behind the rocky ridge, to protect itself from enemy fire. Later, 1 defensive enclosure, 1 rock shelter, 3 casemates and 1 cable car will complete the defense system.

JUNE 1940: THE ATTACK ON THE COL DU PETIT SAINT-BERNARD

Italy's entry into the war alongside Germany led to the Italian attack on June 21, 1940. The defense was based on the fort of La Redoute Ruinée, occupied by a section of the 70th BAF (Alpine Fortress Battalion) and in outpost by the 215th RI (Infantry Regiment) and the 164th RAP (Positional Artillery Regiment). After a bombardment by artillery and from the air, the Italian soldiers emerge through the border passes. But they find themselves blocked by the fort of La Redoute Ruinée. Several violent attacks were repelled during the days of June 21 and 22. Despite everything, the Italians managed to progress towards the Isère valley. The armistice puts an end to military operations, the undefeated garrison leaves La Redoute Ruinée on July 2, 1940.

HENRI DESSERTEAUX

Upon leaving Saint-Cyr in 1939, he was appointed second lieutenant in the 70th Alpine Fortress Battalion in Bourg Saint Maurice. In June 1940, he commanded the section responsible for the defense of the Redoute Ruinée. At the beginning of 1945, he was appointed captain in the 13th BCA (Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins) and participated in the recapture of the Redoute Ruinée in April. He fell gloriously in Indochina in September 1947.

THE FIGHTS OF 1944

Following the capitulation of Italy in September 1943, elite German mountain units “Gebirgsjäger” occupied the Petit Saint Bernard Pass. This position is essential for them to allow the withdrawal of their troops in the face of the advancing allied armies. In the fall of 1944, the Bulle battalion and the 3rd Algerian Tirailleurs Regiment launched attacks on the right bank of the Reclus torrent, but the enemy firmly held the ridges. On March 9, 1945, the 7th, 13th and 27th BCA (Alpine Hunters Battalion) were given the mission to reconquer the pass, from the Pointe de Belleface to the Redoute Ruinée. Captain Desserteaux, who had defended it so brilliantly in June 1940, participated in its recovery. Following multiple bloody assaults, the occupants were not definitively driven out until the end of April 1945.


 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.