Lost on a glacier for 75 years

Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin had seven children. They lived in the tiny village of Chandolin in the Swiss Alps during World War II with their five boys and two girls. In nearby pastures, their cows grazed. One day, they went to feed their cows and never returned. Their bodies were not found until 75 years later.

Francine and Marcel

Francine Dumoulin was a 37-year-old schoolteacher when she decided to accompany her husband to tend to their cattle for the first time. Her whole life had been spent working, pregnant or looking after their young children but on this occasion they took the trip together.

40-year-old Marcelin, a shoemaker, usually went alone on this journey, travelling on foot to the next state, the canton of Bern. On August 15th 1942, the sky was clear when they set out, but quickly dark clouds covered the area between their village and their farmland. The journey was to take them across the 2,600m-high Tsanfleuron glacier where it is assumed that they lost their footing and fell into a crevasse.

The Dumoulin Children

When their parents didn’t return, their children, aged between two and thirteen years old searched frantically, enlisting the help of fellow villagers and relatives to try and find them. Days past with no sign of them. Daily searches continued until, after two and a half months, the family came to realise that Mr and Mrs Dumoulin were not going to return. The children were split up and taken in by different local families.

The separated siblings grew apart, until fifteen years later, when one of the older brothers who had become a priest, led a mass on the Tsanfleuron glacier in an attempt to find closure, but the mystery of the whereabouts of Marcelin and Francine remained.


It was not until July 13th 2017 that an employee of a nearby ski resort came across backpacks, tin bowls and a glass bottle in the area. As the ice melted, male and female shoes were uncovered and part of a body became visible. Two bodies were eventually found, side by side, in clothes that were reminiscent of those worn during World War II.

In the 75 years since their mother and father went, all but two of the Dumoulin children had passed away. The youngest daughter, Marceline, has suggested she will now give her parents a funeral where she will not be wearing black, as is traditional, but white, to represent the hope that the children never lost for finding their parents.