6 August

Berne6Taken to task by Luftflotte 3 for an alleged violation of Swiss airspace, the Geschwader responded that four Re. 2002 had been dispatched at 14.45 on the 6th to bomb Abondance, a guerilla-held village 10 km west of the frontier, and had landed at 16.10 hrs. They had found the weather far from ideal, 8/10 cloud with its base base at 1500 m, rain showers, mist and 5 km visibility. Nevertheless Obltn. Higgelke (described as the Schwarmführer) was adamant that there had been no navigational error and a French source attests that Abondance and nearby La Vacheresse were indeed bombed that day. This made little difference to the military situation: 11 days later in Australia, the Melbourne Argus published a syndicated report from reporter Edward Ashwick:

Ashwick

Despite Oberleutnant Higgelke’s protestations, a village 1.5 km beyond the frontier had been hit, as described in this Swiss communiqué:

On Sunday afternoon as the peaceable population of Morgins was enjoying its Sunday rest, three German aeroplanes — two fighters and a bomber approaching from the Abondance Valley — suddenly apeared over the village at 15.25 [local]. After turning at very low altitude, the bomber dropped a bomb in a dive. [This] fell close to the church, all of whose windows were shattered. The Hotel du Sapin had all its windows broken and the facade of a chalet was damaged.

… the planes came back over the village and the bomber released a second bomb on a chalet housing the soldiers’ hostel … [it] was pulverised, but fortunately no one was inside. The fighters then fired several machine gun bursts before the three aircraft turned back in the direction of the Abondance Valley, where they dropped bombs.

The toll in Morgins is 20 injured, among them two soldiers and some children.

NOTE: An Obltn. Higgelke was among the 12 pilots of III./SG 4 taking part in the Unternehmen Bodenplatte attacks on 1 January 1945.

The following day, Le Confédéré, a newspaper based in the nearby town of Martigny, reported on events in both Morgins and Abondance. Regarding the latter:

On Sunday evening at 19,15 [local] the German machines flew back up the Abondance Valley once again, coming to drop more bombs on the little hamlet of Vacheresse. The bombs dropped on Abondance wounded two people, while two other people injured in Vacheresse were brought to Morgins for treatment there. It appears that the German planes were taking part on an operation against the troops of the FFI based high up the Abondnace Valley.

Subsequent papers carried eyewitness accounts from Madame Blanche Deslarzes, who managed the Pension des Sapins in Morgins, which provided holiday breaks for apprentices and young workers from Geneva. She related how:

We’d just had tea when a humming became audible. A first plane appeared, flying at very low level; right away I told the girls to assemble in front of the chalet and shouted to them ‘Everyone into the cellar!’ As they were obeying … a first bomb blew pieces of rubble on to us. The girls had scarcely reached the cellar when a second bomb hit the chalet [part of which collapsed].

…Hearing the planes still turning over the village, I thought that it would be dangerous to stay down below where we might be buried and immediately gave the order to … dash for the woods. But no sooner had they run from the chalet than they received bursts of machine gun fire out in the open fields. I shouted to them, ‘Get down!’

Madame Deslarzes also made a more general observation on the villagers’ initial reaction: “With the three planes appearing in the sky, the local inhabitants did what everyone does in the absence of warnings or alerts: they went outside to take a look at them …” Three of her young guests, Jeannine Schneuwli, Monique Bovay and Denise Lee were injured and taken to hospital; the pension itself was uninhabitable.

When journalists reached the village they found hundreds of windows broken by blast and bullet holes in several buildings. They reported that 12 people were still beng treated in hospital the day after the attack, that a soldier was in danger of losing a leg and that the wife of a customs officer had suffered a severe head injury. A local shopkeeper was said, in the midst of the attack, to have spread out several Swiss flags on a meadow close to his premises in an attempt to warn the German airmen of their mistake.

continued on next page …

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