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Lausanne ceremony held in honour of Swiss WWI volunteers

Around 3,000 Swiss volunteers are thought to have died while fighting alongside French forces during the First World War © KEYSTONE / ADRIEN PERRITAZ

Around 100 people took part in a ceremony in Lausanne on Saturday to pay tribute to Swiss volunteers who served alongside French forces during the First World War. 

This content was published on November 10, 2018 - 14:52
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This weekend ceremonies are being held around the world to mark 100 years since the end of World War I. The Lausanne tribute, organised by French veterans, was held at the Bois-de-Vaux cemetery. 

Dominique Vanthier, President of the Union of former French Combattants in Switzerland, said this is the first time such a ceremony had been held in Switzerland. According to research carried out by the association, 2,939 Swiss volunteers died while fighting on the French side during the First World War.

The tribute was attended by the Vaud State Councillor Béatrice Métraux and Anne-Marie Glady, deputy to the French Military Attaché in Switzerland. Several senior Swiss army officers were also present, including Divisional Commander Yvon Langel.

The ceremony was marked by a reading by students from Lausanne’s French School of letters and poems by Charles Péguy, who died on the front in September 1914. A Swiss guard of honour and a brass band were also present in Lausanne. 

In addition to these Swiss volunteers, many foreigners lived in Switzerland who left in August 1914 to fight for their countries of origin. After the war, various communities of foreigners in Switzerland erected monuments to honour their fighters.

During the First World War, Switzerland also welcomed more than 65,000 prisoners of war for humanitarian reasons from 1916 to 1919. They were either seriously ill or wounded or relatively old. A number of them died in Switzerland, where they are buried.  

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