1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Switzerland/Army

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Army[edit]

The Swiss army is a purely militia force, receiving only periodical training (so far as regards men between 20 and 48 years of age), based upon the principle of universal compulsory personal military service. Till 1848 the' cantons alone raised, armed, equipped and trained all military units and nominated the officers. By the Federal Constitution of 1848 (art. 20) the Confederation was entrusted with the tra ining of the engineers, the artillery and the cavalry, with the education of instructors, for all other arms, and with the higher training of all arms, while* it was empowered to found military schools, to organize general military manoeuvres, and to supply a part of the war mattricl. The Confederation, too, was given the supervision of the training of the infantry, as well as the furnishing, the construction and tie maintenance of all war materiel, which the cantons were bound to supply to the Confederation. The Federal Constitution of 1874 marked an advance on that of 1848 as to the following points. The principle of universal military service and the organization of the Federal army were developed according to the proportion of the population capable of bearing arms (in contradistinction to the 1848 system, art. 10, of fixed contingents in the proportion of 3 to every 100 men of the population of each canton); the entire military training and arming of these men and the cost of their uniform and equipment were taken over by the Confederation, which, too, supervised the military administration of the cantons. The uniform, equipment and weapons of the men were to be free of cost to them, while compensation was due from the Confederation to the families of those killed or permanently injured in the course of their military service, as well as to the invalids themselves. There thus remained to the •cantons the raising of all the infantry units and of most of the cavalry and artillery units as well as the nomination of the officers of all arms; all these acts were subject to the supervision of the Confederation and had to be in accordance with Federal laws and regulations. An attempt made in 1893 to extend still further the sphere of action of the Confederation io military matters was rejected by a vote of the Swiss people. Thus the present system rests partly on the 1874 Constitution; and partly on the new military law, passed by the Federal parliament on the I2th of April 1907. a. The 1874 Constitution forbids the maintenance of any standing army (art. 13), and alao (art. if) the practice (formerly, very widespread) of hiring out contingents ofrmercenary soldiers by the Confederation or the cantons to foreign powers ("military capitulations ")• The Federal government can, . .at or without the request of any canton, repress any disturbances within Switzerland by means of Federal troops, the cantons being bound to_allow these free passage over their territory (arts. 16-17). By art. IS every Swiss male citizen is subject to the obligation of personal military service (the families of those killed or permanently injured in the course of active Federal service as well a> the invalids themselves are provided for by the Confederation), and the tax for those exempted is to be fixed by a Federal law, while every recruit receive* free of cost his first uniform, equipment and weapons. An. 16 provides that the Confederation has control of the Federal army and of -the war mat6rid, the cantons being only allowed certain defined rights within their respective territories. By art. 20 the limits of the jurisdiction of the Confederation and of the cantons are defined. The Confederation has the sole right of legislation in military matters, but the execution of these laws is in the bands of the cantons, though under Federal supervision, while all branches of military training and arming are handed over to the Confederation ; on the other hand, the cantons supply and keep up the equipment and the uniform* of the soldiers, though these expenses are reim- bursed by the Confederation according to a certain scale fixed by Federal regulations to be made later on. Art. 21 enacts that, where military considerations do not stand in the way, the military units are to be formed of men of the same canton, but the actual raising of these .units and the maintenance of their numbers, as well as the nomination and the promotion of the officers, belong to the cantons, subject to certain general principles to be laid down by the Confederation. Finally, the Confederation has (art. 22) the right of using or acquiring military drill grounds, buildings, &c., belonging to the cantons on payment of moderate compensation according to -principles to be laid down in a Federal law. It will thus be seen that the Swiss army is by no means wholly in the hands of the Federal authorities, the cantons still having a large share in its management, though the military department of the Federal executive has the ultimate control and pays most of the military expenses. In fact it has been said in jest that the coat of a soldier belongs to his canton and his rifle to the Confederation. /'. After much discussion and careful consideration of "the opinions of many experts, the Federal law of 1907 was enacted, by which more uniformity was introduced into administrative matters and the whole system remodelled, of course, according to the general principles formulated in the Federal Constitution of . 1874 and summarized under a. The following is a bird's-eye view of the actual organization of the Swiss army. Every Swiss male citizen is bound to render personal military service between the ages of twenty and forty- eight. Certain classes are exempt, such as high Federal officials, clergymen (not being military chaplains), officials of hospitals and prisons, as well as custom-house officials and policemen and officials of public means of communication, but in the latter case ' only those whose services would be indispensable in time of war, re... post office, telegraph, telephone, railway and steamer employes ( all exempted before 1907}— custom-house men. policemen _ and ( he officials last named must have had a first period of training before they are exempt. Those who are totally disqualified for any reason must, till the age of forty, pay an extra tax of 6 francs a head, Rlus ij francs on every 1000 francs of their net property, and ii .in. > on every loo francs of their net income, the maximum tax that can be levied in any particular case being 3000 francs a year ( property under lopo francs and the first 600 francs of income are tree from this tax, which is only levied as to its half in case of the men in the. Landwehr): this tax is equally divided between the Confederation and the cantons, its total yield in 1905 being about £ 171,000. The cantonal authorities muster in certain fixed centres their young men of twenty years, who must appear personally in order to submit themselves at the hands of the Federal officials -to a medical examination, a literary examination (reading, arithmetic, elementary Swiss geography and history, and the composition of a short written essay), as well as (since 1905) pass certain elementary gymnastic tests (a long jump of at least 8 ft., lifting at least four times a weight of about 37 fo in both hands at once, and running about So yds. in under 14 seconds), different marks being given according to the degree of proficiency in these literary and gymnastic departments. Those falling below a certain standard — bodily, mental or muscular — are exempted, but may be " postponed " for not more than four years, in hopes that before that date the desired standard will be attained. If not totally disqualified (in that case they pay A tax) they may be incorporated not in the territorial army, but in the auxiliary forces (e.g. pioneers, hospital, commissariat, intelligence and transport departments). The oantons (under Federal supervision) see that the lads, while still at school, receive a gymnastic training, while the Confederation makes money grants to societies which aim at preparing lads after leaving school for their military service,, whether by stimulating bodily training or the practice of rifle shooting, in which case rifles, ammunition and equipment are supplied free — in ,ill these cases the attendance of the lads is purely voluntary. In some cantons the young men, between the ages of eighteen and twenty, arc required to attend a night school (in order to rub up their school knowledge) for sixty hours a winter for two winters, the teacher being paid by the Confederation and the lads being under military law. fJaturally the lads from the large towns and the more prosperous cantons do best in the literary examination and those who belong to gymnastic societies in the gymnastic tests, though sheer bodily untrained strength avails much in the lifting of weights. In 1906 26,808 young men of twenty years of age were examined (this is exclusive of older men then first mustered). Of this nunfber 14,045 (52*4%) were at once enrolled as recruits, 3497 (13%) were postponed " for one or two years, and 9266 (34*6%) *•• "' exempted wholly — these ratios vary but little, for the standard is kept rather high, partly owing to con- [HISTORY tiidrr.it ions of expense, so that a young fellow of twenty who becomes a " recruit " at once may be taken tobe distinctly above the average in bodily and mental qualities. By the new law of 1907 the army is divided into three (not, as previously four) classes — the AUSZU& or f'/j/t- (men from twenty to thirty-two), the Landwehr (men between thirty-three and forty) and the Landsturm or rtstrvt (men between forty-one and forty-eight). The recruits serve for different periods during their first year according to the arm of the service into which they aretincorporated— 'infant rv and engineers sixty-five days, artillery and garrison troops seventy-five days and cavalry ninety days, while those in the auxiliary troops serve but sixty days. Soldiers in the Elite are called out seven times during thfiir term of service for a period of eleven days a year (fourteen days for the artillery and garnson trpopb), while the Landwehr is only called out once for a training perioa of eleven days. Cavalry men serve ten years in the Elite (no service in the Landwehr). and during that period are called out eight times for a training period of eleven days a year. Between the ages of twenty and forty each soldier must attain a certain proficiency in marksmanship (at least 30 points 'out of 90 in 10 shots), while there is an annual inspection (by cantonal officials) of arms uniform and equipment. The Confederation also makes money grants to rifle societies, which in 1906 numbered 3732, had 220,951 members (all soldiers between twenty and forty must be members), and received Federal grants to the amount of about /,'3. S1"1"- Rifle and uniform become the full property of the soldier after he has completed his full term of service. Officers serve in the Elite till thirty-eight years of age, and in the Landwehr till forty-four (in the case of officers on the staff the service lasts till forty-eight years of age), -while they remain in the Landsturm tilt fifty-two years of age. The Swiss army is made up (according to the new law of 1907) of a staff, composed of all the commanding officers on active service from the rank of major upwards (in this as in all the fallowing cases the actual number is to be fixed by a Federal law), the general staff, the army service corps (post office, telegraph, railways, motor cars, chaplains, police, courts of justice, secretaries, &c.. and the auxiliary services), while the soldiers proper are divided into a number of classes — infantry (including sharpshooters and cyclists), cavalry, artillery (including the mountain batteries), engineers (including Cappers and railway labourers), garnson troops, the medical, veterinary (veterinary surgeons and farriers), commissariat and transport services (drivers and leaders of laden horses and mules). On the first of January 1907 (still under the old system) the numbers of the Swiss army were as follows; the Elite had ^39,514 (of which 104,263 were infantry, 5183 cavalry, 18,544 artillery and 5567 engineers), and the Landwehr 93,163 (including 67,955 infantry, 4378 cavalry, 13.332 artillery and 4313 engineers) — making thus a total of 232,677 men between the ages of twenty and forty-four years of age (17.221 infantry, 9561 cavalry, 31,866 artillery and 9880 engineers). To this total must be added 44,294 men in the armed Landsturm (forty-five to fifty years of age) and 262,138 auxiliary troops (pioneers, workmen in military establishments, medical,. commissariat and transport departments, police, firemen, clerks, and men at a military depot). The total of the Landsturm and the auxiliary services is 306,432, so that a grand total is 539.109 men (under the old system officers served in the Landwehr till forty-eight, and in the Landsturm i ill fifty-five). The total expenses of the Swiss army rpse from £928,000 in 1 89,6 to £1,400,000 in 1906. Rifles arc manufactured in Bern, ammunition at Thun and at Attdorf, uniforms are made in Bern, and the cavalry remount d<5p6t is at Thun, which is also the chief artillery centre of Switzerland. There is a department for military science at the Federal Polytechnic School at Zurich, one section being meant for students in general, and the other specially for officers. ,. (W. A. B. C.)