The lost cemetery of Le Grand Bornand

<The 1944 Milicien cemetery in the Vallée du Bouchet, le Grand Bornand>Here is a cemetery you won’t read about in many places. It’s the cimetière des miliciens, and it has no legal standing.

On 24 August 1944, some 76 miliciens were executed in the Vallée du Bouchet after a court martial found them guilty of treason. Miliciens are a difficult subject for lots of reasons. Although they were set up by the Vichy government to help aid their alliance with Nazi Germany, their legal standing was never very clear. As a result, they weren’t accountable to any authority and had a reputation for being lawless in their pursuits. Although French, they fought the French Resistence more than once, including just kilometres away at the Plateau des Glières.

Before the court martial of 100 miliciens, 75 coffins were ordered, suggesting their fate had been sealed before the trail. Many of those sentenced to execution were under 20, with the youngest just 16. However, Annecy and the surrounding villages had only been liberated for a few days when the court martials took place, and the horrors of wartime France were as fresh as the blood that was still being spilled in neighbouring areas. It’s almost surprising that all 100 weren’t sentenced to death.

A nearby rock (not pictured) marks the spot where the miliciens were executed. Walkers  stumble across the white crosses and mistakenly presume they belong to fallen Resistance fighters. Only a few families have recuperated their dead loved ones, and fifty crosses remain. This may well be the only milicien cemetery in France, and very few people want to talk about it. Given the harrowing nature of the events, it’s not surprising.

You won’t find any of this history mentioned at the cemetery. Nor will you find any government employees tending to the graves. Relatives of the dead mow the lawns and keep the graves tidy. However, the local mayor has been asked to place a plaque at the site to — at the very least — clear up any ambiguity over whose graves they are. Given that a cross-country ski piste dissects the graves and the execution rock, I doubt the plaque will provide much more than that. The only thing for certain is that most of us alive today in this area will never really know just how desperate those years of war must have felt. Their impact is certainly still felt today.

 

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I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced professional writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Read more...

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