DOCUMENTS: 1847 1st Foreign Legion Regiment Honorable discharge certificate

A new part of the DOCUMENTS series. Today a very rare document is presented here, the oldest document related to the French Foreign Legion that is currently available on our website. It was issued as early as 1847 to a Belgian legionnaire, at the conclusion of his honest and faithful service in North Africa.

The following Honorable discharge certificate (in French: Certificat de bonne conduite) was issued in Oran, a port town in northwestern Algeria, on October 1, 1847. Two months before the surrender of Emir Abdelkader (December 1847), a dreaded Islamic scholar and a military leader who had resisted the French colonization for many years. His submission marked the end of the French conquest of Algeria (1830-1847). Only the following year did Algeria become an integral part of France. Therefore, it is very interesting that the document still comes from the time of the conquest of this North African country.

The honorable discharge certificate was given to Joseph Vandervielle, ordinary line infantryman (fusilier), born in August 1818. Native of Oostrozebeke, a small town located in West Flanders, Belgium, he served with the 1st Foreign Legion Regiment (1er RLE), Oran Division, Army of Africa. According to the certificate, the soldier had blond hair and blue eyes, medium-sized forehead, nose and mouth, and a round chin. His face was oval, without any special signs. He was 1.57 meters tall (5 ft 2 in). The document also confirms that the soldier “…has no apparent or hidden disabilities that could prevent him from returning to service.” Unfortunately, there is no mention in the document of the length of his service in the Legion. The certificate is signed by members of the regiment’s Executive Board (Conseil d’administration), including Colonel Mellinet, commanding officer. There is also the stamp and signature of the Oran Division’s commander, Major General Thierry.

The original 1st Foreign Legion Regiment (or 1st Regiment, Foreign Legion), constituted in Algeria in April 1841, was officially deactivated in August 1856, and merged with the 2e RLE into a new unit, the 2nd Foreign Regiment (2e RE, now 2e REI). However, in the current Legion, it is the 1st Foreign Regiment (1er RE) which sees the 1er RLE as its official predecessor.

The document, as usual, was provided to our website and published with the kind permission of Krzysztof Schramm, historian of Poland’s Foreign Legion veteran association (A.A.A.L.E. de Pologne) and the author of Zygmunt Jatczak: I regret nothing.

See the rare document in detail (click on the pics to enlarge them):


Related posts:
DOCUMENTS: 1856 1er RLE 1st Foreign Legion Military service certificate
DOCUMENTS: 1959 1er REP Honorable discharge certificate of SCH Rutecki
PHOTOS: Legionnaires in Syria around 1930
PHOTOS: 2nd Foreign Regiment’s Color Guard in the early 1900s