General (Switzerland)

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German: General
French: Général
Italian: Generale
Romansh: Generale
CHE OF9 General.svg
Dress uniform shoulder strap with the rank of General
OF-9 - Général.png
Battledress rank insignia of General.
Kepi General.jpg
Kepi of General.
Country  Switzerland
Service branch Swiss Army
AbbreviationGerman: GEN
NATO rankOF-9
Formation1512 as Old Swiss Confederacy
1849 as Switzerland
Next higher rankNone
Next lower rankEnglish: Lieutenant general,
German: Korpskommandant,
French: Commandant de corps,
Italian: Comandante di corpo,
Romansh: Cumandant da corp
Navies Armies Air forces
Commissioned officers
Admiral of
the fleet
Field marshal or
General of the army
Marshal of
the air force
Admiral General Air chief marshal
Vice admiral Lieutenant general Air marshal
Rear admiral Major general Air vice-marshal
Commodore Brigadier or
brigadier general
Air commodore
Captain Colonel Group captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Wing commander
Major or
Squadron leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight lieutenant
junior grade
Lieutenant or
first lieutenant
Flying officer
Ensign or
Second lieutenant Pilot officer
Officer cadet Officer cadet Flight cadet
Enlisted grades
Warrant officer or
chief petty officer
Warrant officer or
sergeant major
Warrant officer
Petty officer Sergeant Flight sergeant
Leading seaman Corporal or
Seaman Private or
gunner or
Aircraftman or

The General (German: Der General, French: le général, Italian: il generale, Romansh: il general) is an office and rank in the armed forces of Switzerland. It is held by the commander-in-chief of the Army in time of war only. Under the Swiss Constitution, he must be elected by the Federal Assembly, assembled as the United Federal Assembly, specifically for the purpose of taking on the war-time responsibilities.


Normally the word "general" is not used in the Swiss military, with three-star commandants de corps the highest-ranking officers in the army.[1] Under the Constitution, the Federal Council, which acts as the country's head of state, can command only 4,000 soldiers, with a time limit of three weeks of mobilisation. For it to field more service personnel, the Federal Assembly must elect a General[2] who is given four stars.[1] Thus, the General is elected by the Federal Assembly to give him the same democratic legitimacy as the Federal Council.[2]

The general is elected by a joint session of the Federal Assembly, known as the United Federal Assembly, wherein both the 200-seat National Council and 46-seat Council of States join together on a 'one member, one vote' basis; the Federal Assembly retains the sole power to dismiss the General, but the General remains subordinate to the Federal Council by the Council's ability to demobilise and hence making the position of General redundant.[2]


Generals were appointed during the Baden Revolution, the Neuchâtel Crisis, the Franco-Austrian War, the Franco-Prussian War, the First World War and the Second World War, although Switzerland was militarily involved in none of them and the role of the army in these times was mainly to guard the border.[citation needed]

All senior officers used to hold variations on the rank of Colonel (there were "Brigade Colonels", for instance). Nowadays, the general officer ranks are: Brigadier, Divisionär (Major General), Korpskommandant (Lieutenant General) and General (which is not currently used); the senior Swiss officer detached to the line of demarcation in Panmunjeom, South Korea, however, is given the courtesy designation of Generalmajor (Major General) for equality purposes.[3]

List of generals[edit]

The following Swiss officers have held the rank of General as the leaders of the Army in time of war:

Name Election War
Guillaume Henri Dufour [4] 21 October 1847[a] Sonderbund War
August 1849 Baden Revolution
27 December 1856 Neuchâtel Crisis
1859 Franco-Austrian War
Hans Herzog 19 July 1870 Franco-Prussian War
Ulrich Wille 8 August 1914 First World War
Henri Guisan 30 August 1939 Second World War


  1. ^ Prior to the establishment of Switzerland as a federal state


  1. ^ a b McPhee, John (31 October 1983). "La Place de la Concorde Suisse-I". The New Yorker. p. 50. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Haltiner, Karl W. (2002). "The Swiss Security Sector: Structure, Control, Reforms" (PDF). Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Die Schweiz seit 60 Jahren im koreanischen Niemandsland" [Switzerland for 60 years at the korean No man's land]. (in German). 27 July 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2018. Für den in Panmunjom stationierten Delegationschef des NNSC, Generalmajor Urs Gerber, ...
  4. ^ Langendorf, Jean-Jacques (7 November 2005). "Dufour, Guillaume-Henri" (in German). Historical Dictionary of Switzerland. Retrieved 16 January 2017. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)