Our story begins in the peaceful hamlet of La Thuile located in Italy's Aosta Valley. Our journey leads us up the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard towards the French border. The pass is surrounded by serene lakes and majestic mountains and feels a bit wild in comparison to other alpine passes. We descend from the border to the first French village, but before we reach there, we need to continue on foot to reach the Fort de la Redoute Ruinée.
A redoubt is a fort with an enclosed defensive emplacement, usually made of earthworks or stone. The Fort de la Redoute Ruinée is a French fort that overlooks the Col de la Traversette. It was built out of the ruins of the Fort de la Traversette in 1630 by the Duchy of Savoy. In 1792, during the French Revolutionary Wars, the Savoyards garrisoned the old fort with fifty men until it fell to the French army in 1794 and was renamed Fort Libre (Fort Free). The fort became permanently French with the exchange of territory that accompanied the Treaty of Turin in 1860.
After the First World War, the redoubt was heavily reinforced and became part of the Tarentaise section of the Alpine Line, in anticipation of invasion from Italy as part of the France's Maginot Line defences. In 1940, during the Italian invasion of France, the redoubt's small force of 47 men stopped the Italian troops from attacking the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard. The Italians brought a motorised division to reinforce the attack and broke through the pass. However, by the armistice between Nazi Germany and France, the redoubt was still under French control. After the Armistice, the Third Republic troops left with their flag, and the Italians and Germans took control of the redoubt.
In 1944, towards the end of the war, the French made several unsuccessful attempts to regain control of the pass. It wasn't until April 1945 that the Italians Alpini Regiment and the Germans of the Gebirgsjäger Regiment abandoned their positions. The Alpini commander, Lieutenant Colonel Armando De Felice, ordered all his positions on French soil abandoned on April 29th. The redoubt was heavily damaged and remains in ruins to this day.