DOCUMENTS: 1856 1er RLE 1st Foreign Legion Military service certificate

Today, we present another part of the DOCUMENTS series. It’s a rare military service certificate, issued more than a hundred years earlier than the previous certificate, in mid-1856, shortly after the end of the Crimean War.

Like the previous one, even this document was provided to our website and published with the kind permission of Krzysztof Schramm, historian of the Foreign Legion veteran association in Poland, A.A.A.L.E. de Pologne, and the author of the awesome book called I regret nothing.

The following Military service certificate (in French: Certificat de présence sous les drapeaux) from July 1st, 1856 belonged to Sergeant Konrad Danzer. The very rare document confirmed that Sergeant Danzer was a reenlisted volunteer who was serving at the time with the 1st Regiment of the 1st Foreign Legion. According to the document, Konrad Danzer was brown-haired, grey-eyed man 5’5 feet tall (166 cm), a former professional soldier. He was born in Burg Fahrenbach, Bavaria (an independent kingdom back then, today’s largest state of Germany) and reenlisted in the Foreign Legion in February 1855, for another two years, after he most likely had successfully completed his first five-year contract.

The certificate is very interesting for several reasons. First, it was issued during a very short period (1855-1856) when two French Foreign Legions existed in parallel with each other: the original one, created in 1831, which was redesignated the 1st Foreign Legion in early 1855, upon the activation in France of the 2nd Foreign Legion (nicknamed the Swiss Legion, open for Swiss volunteers only).

Second, the certificate was issued four days after the “Swiss Legion” became the 1st Foreign Regiment (1er RE) that we know nowadays as the motherhouse of the Legion.

Third, it was issued by the original 1st Foreign Legion Regiment (1er RLE), organized in Algeria in 1841; the regiment was officially dissolved a month later, in early August 1856, and merged with the 2e RLE into the 2nd Foreign Regiment (2e RE).

Fourth, the document was issued shortly after the end of the Crimean War (1854-1856), where both regiments of the original Foreign Legion took part and where Colonel Vienot of the 1er RLE died at the head of his regiment. The Legion’s HQ in Aubagne is named after him.

Fifth, the certificate still bears the original French (Second) Republic header which is crossed out and “French Empire” is handwritten instead. The Empire of Napoleon III was established in 1852. That might mean such documents were not so often issued by the Legion at the time.

And finally, the back of the document bears a Spanish text (legalization of the signature) and a stamp of the Spanish Consulate in Oran, Algeria, dated 1856. With a high probability, the document was issued for this consulate. But why? The reason is unknown. Maybe the legionnaire was in Spanish service before enlisting in the Legion and needed to confirm his new employment situation. Or maybe he asked to serve for the Spanish Kingdom after his awaiting discharge from the Legion. Who knows…

In the right bottom corner, we can see a rare stamp of the Executive Board (Conseil d’administration), 1st Foreign Legion Regiment. As a matter of interest, the same Napoleonic eagle is again seen on the insignia of the 1st Foreign Regiment today. However, he is holding a snake (instead of Jupiter’s thunderbolt), as a reminder of the Mexican campaign with the 1863 Battle of Camerone.

Here is the rare document (click on the pics to enlarge them):


Related posts:
DOCUMENTS: 1847 1st Foreign Legion Regiment Honorable discharge certificate
DOCUMENTS: 1959 1er REP Honorable discharge certificate of SCH Rutecki
PHOTOS: 1er RE Adjudants around 1900
PHOTOS: 1963 2e REP training at Bou Sfer