RACZ, Alexandre Mle 16.614 13e DBLE 1944-1945

The history behind some battered letter covers

The source

Already some years ago now, a fairly battered letter cover addressed to a member of the French Foreign Legion was offered at the auction site Delcampe.
Delivering the letter in januari 1945 seemed quite a challenge based on the number of changes made on the cover.
Although I was interested, I did not buy the cover, most likely I found the asking price was too high.
When recently cataloging documents from the 13e Demi-brigade de Légion Étrangère I found out that at the time not one but 3 covers addressed to the same legionnaire Alexandre RACZ had been offered.
I decided to make an attempt to find out the story behind these covers.

The investigation

Although all the covers had postal stamps on them placing them in the chronological order in which they were sent was not possible. The adresses used were either that of the training (instruction) unit of the Legion in Sidi Bel Abbes or that of the transit unit. These adresses seemed no longer valid and as such all letters were returned to sender.
Despite that there are indications on the covers that it was know legionnaire Alexandre RACZ served with the 13e D.B.L.E. / 3 BLE.

In more detail:

Paris 9 november 1944

The sender of this letter, as indicated on the back of the cover, was:

J. RACZ. 14 fg St Honoré Paris 8m [ Faubourg Saint Honoré ]

The original address was:

Alexandre KACZ matricule 16.614
C.I.2 B.I.F
Légion Etrangère
Sidi Bel Abbes
Algérie

The postmarks “Paris 123” are dated 9 11 1944.
The unit and Sidi Bel Abbes Algeria are crossed out and most likely replaced by the in purple pencil written field post number (Secteur Postal) 82006.
This again is crossed out. The reason for that can be derived from the piece of paper glued to the left corner of cover. On it is written RENFORT Le 19-11-1944 13me D.B.L.E. Under this on a red tape, Inconnu 6 T or 6 I, 82006.
Written in pencil another field post number can be found 82388.
This one seemed not to have been the correct one either because 3 stamps indicate “Retour a l’Envoyeur”, return to sender.

The numero matricule reveals that Alexandre RACZ joined the French Foreign Legion around september or oktober 1944.

FFL 18 januari 1945

Although bearing a postal stamp dated 18 januari 1945, this letter might have been sent earlier.
The postal stamp seems to be an army postal service stamp of the F.F.L. “Poste aux Armees”
As for the cover sent on the 9 november 1944, this cover initially had the same address in Sidi Bel Abbes Algeria.
Added were in other writing CP1, the 11e Cie and also the SP 82388.
Placed on the upper left hand corner was a paper information strip from the Service du Vaguemestre LEGION – BEL-ABBÈS. It has 3 options Présent, Libere and Inconnu. Present, Discharged and Unknown.
Indicated was that Alexandre RACZ was present at the 3BLE. The 3 Bataillon de Légion étrangėre
Added was further the bureaux postaux militaires (BPM) in this case No 5 belonging to the 1e division française libre, later integrated in the l’armée de Libération.
Despite the fact that is was known in which unit Alexandre RACZ was serving the letter was again returned to the sender. On this cover further a faint “contrôle postal FFL” stamp can be seen.

FFL 1944

The third cover is chronologically the most difficult to place because the only postal stamp that contains such information can hardly be read. It is clear the year is 1944.
It is further fairly similar to the FFL 18 januari 1945 cover except for the fact that the address of the sender when returning also this letter initially was Hopital Central St Louis a Avignon.

EVDG and FFL

In historical databased about members of the French Foreign Legion we find Alexandre RACZ twice.
First as volunteer for the duration of the war. He was assigned to the régiment de marche de volontaires étrangers.

Alexandre RACZ
Naissance Le 30 juin 1912, Mako (Makó, Csongrád Megye, Hongrie)
Recrutement Seine Bureau Central (75) (Paris, Île-De-France, France)
Matricule au recrutement: 7302
Incorporation Unité: régiment de marche de volontaires étrangers (RMVE);
Source : Mémorial de la Shoah – Fonds UEVACJEA

Second, confirming the information on the covers as a member of the FFL.

Alexandre RACZ
Naissance Le 30 juin 1912, Hongrie (Hongrie)
Organisme de résistance : forces françaises libres (FFL)
Cote de l’acte : Service historique de la Défense, Vincennes GR 16 P 496997

Why the letters could not be delivered ?

Winter 1944-1945

Legionnaires of the 13 DBLE with improvised camouflage clothing i.e. bedsheets

As a hypothesis: in the period the letters were sent around november 1944, the 13 DBLE was heavily involved in fighting in the Vosges and later in the Colmar Pocket. Losses were very high and as such the demand for reinforcements.
These might have been sent from Algeria (Sidi Bel Abbes) in a hurry and as such administration was lagging behind leading for the postal service not being able to deliver the letters.

3 BLE

An important piece of information is the on two covers indicated unit 3 BLE: 3 Bataillon de Légion étrangėre.
According to Comor [1] it was decided on the 17th of october 1944 to recreate this unit.
It was staffed with young recruits from the camps Val d’aton and Gray, and what Comor describes as the last légionnaires sent from Sidi Bel Abbes. The official founding date of the 3 BLE became the 1st of november 1944.

The name of Alexandre RACZ is not found in the casualty list, so it is assumed he survived the war.
Alexandre RACZ probability of survival might have been higher than other young recruits because since at least he had some military experience from the 1940 campaign.

Further investigations ongoing, additional information more than welcome.

Frans Janssen

References

a http://ww2postalhistory.fr/poste_FFL01_fr.php?cat=FFL&activ=02

[1] Comor, André-Paul. L’Epopée de la 13ème Demi-brigade de Légion Etrangère, 1940-1945

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