Baltische Landeswehr

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Baltische Landeswehr
Baltic German.svg
ActiveNovember 1918 – January 1920
Allegiance Baltic German.svg Baltic nobility
Patron Rüdiger von der Goltz
Colours Feldgrau
Engagements Estonian War of Independence, Latvian War of Independence, Aftermath of World War I
Rüdiger von der Goltz,
Alfred Fletcher,
Harold Alexander
Shoulder strap piping in light blue and white, the Baltic colors.

The Baltic Landwehr or Baltische Landeswehr ("Baltic Territorial Army") was the name of the unified armed forces of the Couronian and Livonian nobility from 7 December 1918 to 3 July 1919. [1]

Courland Place in Latvia

Courland, is one of the historical and cultural regions in western Latvia. The largest city is Liepāja, the third largest city in Latvia. The regions of Semigallia and Selonia are sometimes considered as part of Courland as they were formerly held by the same duke.

Governorate of Livonia governorate of the Russian Empire

The Governorate of Livonia was one of the Baltic governorates of the Russian Empire, now divided between the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Estonia.

Baltic nobility

The Baltic or Baltic German nobility was the privileged social class in the territories of today's Estonia and Latvia. It existed continuously since the Northern Crusades and the medieval foundation of Terra Mariana. Most of the nobility were Baltic Germans, but with the changing political landscape over the centuries, Polish, Swedish and Russian families also became part of the nobility, just as Baltic German families re-settled in e.g. the Swedish and Russian Empires. The nobility of Lithuania is for historical, social and ethnic reasons often separated from the German-dominated nobility of Estonia and Latvia.


Command structure

Rudiger von der Goltz, Major-General RvonderGoltz.jpg
Rüdiger von der Goltz, Major-General

The Landeswehr was subordinated to the German VI Reserve Corps commanded by Rüdiger von der Goltz, a position he gained on 1 February 1919. The commander of the Landeswehr during its operations was Major Alfred Fletcher and Harold Alexander. [1]

<i lang="de" title="German language text">Ober Ost</i>

Ober Ost is short for Oberbefehlshaber der gesamten Deutschen Streitkräfte im Osten, German for "Supreme Commander of All German Forces in the East" during World War I. It also has an implied double meaning, as in its own right, "Ober Ost" translates into "Upper East," which describes its geographic region in reference to the German Empire. In practice it refers not only to said commander, but also to his governing military staff and the district they controlled: Ober Ost was in command of the German section of the Eastern Front.

Rüdiger von der Goltz German lieutenant-general

Gustav Adolf Joachim Rüdiger Graf von der Goltz was a German army general during the First World War. He commanded the Baltic Sea Division, which successfully intervened in the Finnish Civil War in the spring of 1918. Goltz stayed with his troops in Finland until December 1918 representing German interests, and in practise ruled the country as a military dictator during this period. After the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Goltz commanded the army of the Baltic German-established Government of Latvia, which in 1919 was instrumental in the defeat of the Russian Bolsheviks and their local allies in Latvia, but suffered a defeat against Estonia and was eventually unsuccessful in retaining German control over the Baltic region after the War.

Major is a military rank of commissioned officer status, with corresponding ranks existing in many military forces throughout the world.


Alfred Fletcher German politician and officer

Alfred Fletcher was a German soldier, Major and politician.


A member of the Baltic Landeswehr Guido Maydell Balti Landeswehris Guido Maydell in the Baltic Landeswehr.jpg
A member of the Baltic Landeswehr

After the November 11, 1918, armistice the Inter-Allied Commission of Control insisted that the German troops remain in the Baltic countries to prevent the region from being re-occupied by the Red Army. As the Soviet westward offensive approached, the Provisional Government of Latvia approached August Winnig, the German attorney in the Baltics, and signed an agreement with him authorising the organisation of land defense forces on 7 December 1918. The parties signed another agreement on 29 December which secured all foreign soldiers, who participated in the battles for the freedom of Latvia, full citizenship of Latvia. [2] The arms, horse harness and uniforms were to be supplied by the state of Germany. [2] The food supplies were to be taken care of by the Provisional Government of Latvia. [2]

The term Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control was used in a series of peace treaties concluded after the First World War (1914–1918) between different countries. Each of these treaties was concluded between the Principal Allied and Associated Powers on the one hand, and one of the Central Powers like Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey or Bulgaria.

Red Army 1917–1946 ground and air warfare branch of the Soviet Unions military

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

Latvia Republic in Northeastern Europe

Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Since its independence, Latvia has been referred to as one of the Baltic states. It is bordered by Estonia to the north, Lithuania to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the southeast, and shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west. Latvia has 1,957,200 inhabitants and a territory of 64,589 km2 (24,938 sq mi). The country has a temperate seasonal climate.

Theaters and Campaigns

In late February 1919 only the seaport of Liepāja (Libau) and surroundings remained in the hands of the German and Latvian forces. In February and March 1919, the Landeswehr was able to win a series of victories over the Red Army, first occupying the port of Ventspils (Windau), and then advancing south and east towards Riga. The murder of three men of the Baltische Landeswehr led to the coup d'état of April 16, 1919, by the proclamation of the Government of a Lutheran clergyman, Andrievs Niedra. Parleys, in which the United States and the United Kingdom took part, did not prevent the advance on Riga and the capture of this city on May 22, where Baron Hans von Manteuffel-Szoege made an entry with a small detachment, and died leading his men. Latvian national government was deposed while the Freikorps moved on to capture Riga on May 23, 1919. Latvians sought assistance from the Estonian Army which had been occupying Northern Latvia since earlier that year. After the Bolsheviks had been driven out from most of Latvia, the Allies ordered the German government to withdraw its troops from the Baltic region. However, the Germans succeeded in negotiating a postponement, arguing that this would have given the Bolsheviks a free hand. In June 1919, General von der Goltz ordered his troops not to advance east against the Red Army, as the Allies had been expecting, but north, against the Estonians. On June 19, the Landeswehr launched an attack to capture areas around Cēsis (Wenden), however in the battles over the following few days they were defeated by the Estonian 3rd Division, including the Latvian 2nd Cesis regiment, led by Ernst Põdder. On the morning of June 23, the Germans began a general retreat toward Riga. The Allies again insisted that the Germans withdraw their remaining troops from Latvia and intervened to impose a ceasefire between the Estonians and the Landeswehr when the Estonians were about to march into Riga. In the meantime, an Allied mission composed of British troops under General Sir Hubert de la Poer Gough had arrived in the Baltic with the task of clearing the Germans from the region and organizing native armies for the Baltic States. To ensure its return to Latvian control, the Baltische Landeswehr was placed under British authority.

Liepāja City in Latvia

Liepāja is a city in western Latvia, located on the Baltic Sea. It is the largest city in the Kurzeme Region and the third largest city in the country after Riga and Daugavpils. It is an important ice-free port. In 2017 population of Liepāja is 69,443 people.

Ventspils City in Latvia

Ventspils is a city in northwestern Latvia in the historical Courland region of Latvia, and is the sixth largest city in the country. At the beginning of 2017, Ventspils had a population of 39,286. It is situated on the Venta River and the Baltic Sea, and has an ice-free port. The city's name literally means "castle on the Venta", referring to the Livonian Order's castle built alongside the Venta River. Ventspils holds the national record for the highest temperature ever recorded in Latvia with 37.8 °C (100.0 °F) on 4 August 2014.

Riga City in Latvia

Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 637,827 inhabitants (2018), it is also the largest city in the three Baltic states, home to one third of Latvia's population and one tenth of the three Baltic states' combined population. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the Daugava river. Riga's territory covers 307.17 km2 (118.60 sq mi) and lies 1–10 m above sea level, on a flat and sandy plain.


After taking command of the Baltische Landeswehr in mid-July 1919, Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Alexander (the future Field Marshal the Earl Alexander of Tunis and Governor General of Canada, 1946-1952), gradually dismissed German nationals born within the borders of Imperial Germany.

Tunis City in Tunisia

Tunis is the capital and the largest city of Tunisia. The greater metropolitan area of Tunis, often referred to as Grand Tunis, has some 2,700,000 inhabitants.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

The Germans released from the Baltische Landeswehr were incorporated into the Deutsche Legion [3] [ circular reference ] in September 1919. The legion served under the West Russian Volunteer Army commanded by Colonel Prince Pavel Bermondt-Avalov in his attempt to capture Riga, but suffered complete defeat by the end of November 1919.

The British insisted that General von der Goltz leave Latvia, and he turned his troops over to Bermondt-Avalov's West Russian Volunteer Army. General von der Goltz later claimed in his memoirs that his major strategic goal in 1919 had been to launch a campaign in cooperation with the white Russian forces to overturn the Bolshevik regime by marching on Saint Petersburg and to install a pro-German government in Russia.

The purged Baltische Landeswehr units subsequently assisted in the liberation of Latgale from Bolsheviks together with Latvian and Polish armies in January 1920.

Prominent members

Prominent Baltic officers from the Landeswehr era include:

(the ranks are the highest ranks reached in the Third Reich era)


Members of the Baltische Landeswehr wore shoulder strap piping in light blue and white, the Baltic colors.

Order of battle (20 May 1919)

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 Colonel Jaan Maide (1933). Ülevaade Eesti Vabadussõjast (1918–1920) (Overview on Estonian War of Independence) (in Estonian). Archived from the original on 2010-08-22.
  2. 1 2 3 Die Baltische Landeswehr im Befreiungskampf gegen den Bolschewismus: ein Gedenkbuch. Riga: Ernst Plates. 1939.
  3. de:Deutsche Legion (1919)


  1. Goltz Rüdiger von der, Meine Sendung im Finland und im Baltikum, Leipzig 1920.
  2. Goltz Rüdiger von der, Minu missioon Soomes ja Baltikumis, Tartu, Loodus 1937; faksiimiletrükk Tallinn, Olion 2004. ISBN   9985-66-379-9.
  3. Bermond-Awaloff Pavel, Im Kampf gegen den Bolschevismus. Erinnerungen von..., Berlin 1925.
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  10. Paluszyński Tomasz, Walka o niepodległość Łotwy 1914-1920, Warszawa 1999.
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