It is just 200 years since Swiss troops fought one of their bloodiest battles ever, at the Berezina river in what is now Belarus. They were among men from all over Europe serving in Napoleon’s Grande Armée in his disastrous Russian campaign.
The invaders were almost completely wiped out by Russian scorched earth tactics and “General Winter”. The memoirs of the few who survived give a flavour of what it was like. Some described their experiences in letters, others wrote them down much later. Many were encouraged to do so in the 1850s, when Napoleon III gave medals to all those who had fought for his uncle, triggering a new interest in the campaign. Jula Slater reports.
Swiss troops recall a disastrous campaign