Baltische Landeswehr

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]

Baltische Landeswehr
Baltic German
ActiveNovember 1918 – January 1920
AllegianceBaltic German.svg Baltic nobility
PatronRüdiger von der Goltz
EngagementsEstonian 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.

Command structure

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]


  • Major Emil von Scheibler (7 December 1918 - 6 February 1919)
  • Major Alfred Fletcher (6 February 1919 - 3 July 1919)
  • Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Alexander (British; July 1919)[1]


Guido Maydell Balti Landeswehris Guido Maydell in the Baltic Landeswehr
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]

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.


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.

The Germans released from the Baltische Landeswehr were incorporated into the Deutsche Legion[3] 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)

  • 1. Deutsch-Balt. Kampfbataillon (Stoßtrupp Manteuffel; Baron Hans von Manteuffel)
  • 2. Deutsch-Balt. Kampfbataillon (Hauptmann Malmede)
  • 3. Deutsch-Balt. Kampfbataillon (Rittmeister Graf zu Eulenburg)
  • MG-Scharfschützen-Abteilung (Hauptmann Freiherr von Khaynach)
  • Russische Abteilung Fürst Lieven (Cavalry Captain Prince Anatolii Pavlovich Liven or, in German, Fürst Anatol Leonid Lieven)
  • Lettische Kampf-Brigade (Colonel Jānis Balodis)
  • Stamm-Kompanie Talssen
  • Stamm-Kompanie Tuckum
  • Balten-Kompanie des Gouvernement Libau
  • Elements of the MG-Kompanie of III./Freiwilligen-Regiment Libau (Gouvernement Libau)
  • Lettische Kavallerie-Abteilung
  • Russische Kavallerie-Abteilung
  • Kavallerie-Abteilung Engelhardt
  • Kavallerie-Abteilung Drachenfels
  • Kavallerie-Abteilung Pappenheim
  • Kavallerie-Abteilung Halm
  • 1. Deutsch-Balt. Batterie (Ehmke)
  • 2. Deutsch-Balt. Batterie (Barth)
  • 3. Deutsch-Balt. Batterie (Sievert)
  • Deutsch-Balt. Haubitze-Batterie
  • Russische Batterie (Röhl)
  • Badisches Freiwilligen Abteilung Medem (attached Korpstruppe)
  • Lettische Pionier-Kompanie
  • Pionier-Abteilung Stromberg
  • Balt. Fernsprech-Abteilung
  • Lettische Fernsprech-Abteilung
  • Balt. Funker-Abteilung
  • Flieger-Abteilung 433 (attached Korpstruppe)
  • Armee-Kraftwagen-Kolonne 021 (attached Korpstruppe)
  • Staffel-Stab der Landeswehr (Major Wölki)
    • Munitions- und Train-Kolonne I
    • Munitions- und Train-Kolonne II
    • Landeskolonne III
  • Feldlazarett
  • Sanitäts-Kompanie
  • Sanitäts-Kraftwagen-Zug
  • Wirtschafts-Kompanie 1
  • Wirtschafts-Kompanie 2
  • Bahnschutz-Detachement
  • Pferdelazarett
  • Sammeldepot Libau

See also


  1. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b c 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.
  4. BischoffJosef, Die letzte Front. Geschichte der Eiserne Division im Baltikum 1919, Berlin 1935.
  5. Darstellungen aus den Nachkriegskämpfen deutscher Truppen und Freikorps, Bd 2: Der Feldzug im Baltikum bis zur zweiten Einnahme von Riga. Januar bis Mai 1919, Berlin 1937; Bd 3: Die Kämpfe im Baltikum nach der zweiten Einnahme von Riga. Juni bis Dezember 1919, Berlin 1938.
  6. Die Baltische Landeswehr im Befreiungskampf gegen den Bolschewismus, Riga 1929.
  7. Eesti Vabadussõda 1918-1920, Tallinn, Mats, 1997. ISBN 9985-51-028-3.
  8. Kiewisz Leon, Sprawy łotewskie w bałtyckiej polityce Niemiec 1914-1919, Poznań 1970.
  9. Łossowski Piotr, Między wojną a pokojem. Niemieckie zamysły wojenne na wschodzie w obliczu traktatu wersalskiego. Marzec-kwiecień 1919, Warszawa 1976.
  10. Paluszyński Tomasz, Walka o niepodległość Łotwy 1914-1920, Warszawa 1999.
  11. Von den baltische Provinzen zu den baltischen Staaten. Beiträge zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Republiken Estland und Lettland, Bd I (1917-1918), Bd II (1919-1920), Marburg 1971, 1977.

External links

Alfred Fletcher

Alfred Fletcher (29 January 1875 in Lampersdorf – 20 September 1959 in Herzogenaurach) was a German soldier, Major and politician.

Anatol von Lieven

Anatol Leonid Fürst von Lieven, (1872 – 1937) was a Baltic German prince of the Lieven family who commanded a counter-revolutionary White movement during the Russian Civil War in Latvia known after him as the Liventsy (Latvian: Līvenieši).

Armin von Gerkan

Armin von Gerkan (November 30, 1885 in Subate, Latvia – December 22, 1969 in Garstedt, present Norderstedt, Germany) was a Baltic German classical archaeologist and member of an aristocratic family. He was an expert for archaeological building research and joint founder of Robert Johann Koldewey Society (Koldewey-Gesellschaft e.V.) in Berlin. Gerkan is a seminal figure in ancient architectural history. His report "Griechische Stadtanlagen" (1924) is still consulted today as a basic text for ancient city planning and his methodology has been widely adopted.

Architect Meinhard von Gerkan (born 1935 Riga) is a relative.

Baltic Germans

The Baltic Germans (German: Deutsch-Balten or Deutschbalten, later Baltendeutsche) are ethnic German inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in what today are Estonia and Latvia. Since their expulsion from Estonia and Latvia and resettlement during the upheavals and aftermath of the Second World War, Baltic Germans have markedly declined as a geographically determined ethnic group. The largest groups of present-day descendants of the Baltic Germans are found in Germany and Canada. It is estimated that several thousand still reside in Latvia and Estonia.

For centuries Baltic Germans and the Baltic nobility constituted a ruling class over native non-German serfs. The emerging Baltic-German middle class was mostly urban and professional.

In the 12th and 13th centuries Catholic Germans, both traders and crusaders (see Ostsiedlung), began settling in the eastern Baltic territories. After the Livonian Crusade, they assumed control of government, politics, economics, education and culture of these lands, ruling for more than 700 years until 1918 — usually in alliance with Polish, Swedish or Russian overlords. With the decline of Latin, German became the language of all official documents, commerce, education and government.

At first the majority of German settlers lived in small cities and military castles. Their elite formed the Baltic nobility, acquiring large rural estates and comprising the social, commercial, political and cultural elite of Latvia and Estonia for several centuries. After 1710 many of these men increasingly took high positions in the military, political and civilian life of the Russian Empire, particularly in Saint Petersburg. Baltic Germans held citizenship in the Russian Empire until the Revolution of 1918. They then held Estonian or Latvian citizenship until the occupation and later annexation of these areas by the Soviet Union in 1939–1940.

The Baltic German population never surpassed more than 10% of the total population. In 1881 there were 180,000 Baltic Germans in Russia's Baltic provinces, but by 1914 this number had declined to 162,000. In 1881 there were approximately 46,700 Germans in Estonia (5.3% of the population). According to the Russian Empire Census of 1897, there were 120,191 Germans in Latvia, or 6.2% of the population.Baltic German history and presence in the Baltics came to an end in late 1939, following the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and the subsequent Nazi–Soviet population transfers. Almost all the Baltic Germans were resettled by Nazi Germany under the Heim ins Reich program into the newly formed Reichsgaue of Wartheland and Danzig-West Prussia (on the territory of the occupied Second Polish Republic). In 1945, most ethnic Germans were expelled from these lands by the Soviet army. Resettlement was planned for the territory remaining to Germany under terms of the border changes promulgated at the Potsdam Conference, i.e. west of the Oder–Neisse line, or elsewhere in the world.

Ethnic Germans from East Prussia and Lithuania are sometimes incorrectly considered Baltic Germans for reasons of cultural, linguistic, and historical affinities. But the Germans of East Prussia held Prussian, and after 1871, German citizenship, because the territory they lived in was part of Kingdom of Prussia.

Battle of Cēsis (1919)

The Battle of Cēsis (Latvian: Cēsu kaujas; Estonian: Võnnu lahing Battle of Võnnu; German: Schlacht von Wenden, Battle of Wenden), fought near Cēsis (or Võnnu, Wenden) in June 1919, was a decisive battle in the Estonian War of Independence and the Latvian War of Independence. After heavy fighting an Estonian force moving from the north, supplemented by Latvian units, repelled Baltic German attacks and went on full counter-attack.

Danish-Baltic Auxiliary Corps

Danish-Baltic Auxiliary Corps (Danish: Dansk-Baltisk Auxiliær Corps, DBAC) was a Danish company of military volunteers, established 1919 as a non-governmental initiative to help in the Estonian and Latvian war of independence. It was originally planned to send several companies to help, but due to the success of war, only one company was sent, Compagnie Borgelin. The company consisted of approximately 200 men with Captain Iver de Hemmer Gudme as corps commander and Captain Richard Gustav Borgelin as company commander. DBAC left 26 March 1919 for Hanko in Finland on board the Finnish ship M/S Merkur.DBAC was contracted by the Estonian Army and participated on its side in the months of May to August 1919 during the Estonian War of Independence and the Latvian War of Independence. During the months of May and June DBAC conducted a 200 kilometres (120 mi) long push from Võru in southern Estonia to Jakobstadt in Latvia, and ultimately the Daugava River, to cut off the Bolshevik's eastern supply lines.

After the successful campaign, the DBAC was pulled back to Estonia, since the political conflicts between Baltische Landeswehr and the Latvian Army was not part of the contract. At the end of July 1919 DBAC was sent to a section of the eastern front between Ostrov and Porkhov in the Russian Pskov Governorate, which turned out to be a bloody experience and costly to the corps (four dead, twenty wounded and four prisoners of war). On 2 September 1919, the Danish-Baltic Auxiliary Corps marched through Tallinn to their ship Kalevipolg, in a victory parade with over 1000 Estonian soldiers, Johan Laidoner and Otto Strandman participating. On 22 June 2013, a memorial for the Danish volunteers was revealed in Estonia.

Eduards Kalniņš

Eduards Kalniņš (December 31, 1876 – June 28, 1964) was a Latvian general. He participated in the Russo-Japanese War and in the Latvian War of Independence. He was Minister of Defence of Latvia in 1926 and 1928 and was recipient of the Latvian military Order of Lāčplēsis, 2nd and 3rd class, and the Estonian Cross of Liberty.

Ernst Põdder

Ernst Põdder VR I/1 (10 February 1879 – 24 June 1932) was a famous Estonian military commander in the Estonian War of Independence.

In 1900 Põdder graduated from the Vilnius Military Academy. In the Russo-Japanese war he achieved the rank of Lieutenant, and in World War I became Polkovnik (Colonel). In July 1917 he joined the Estonian national units as commander of the 3rd and 1st Estonian regiments. In 1918 Põdder was promoted to the rank of Major General. During the German occupation of 1918, he was one of the main founders of the underground Defence League. At the beginning of the Estonian Liberation War, Põdder was Chief of Internal Security. On April 4, 1919, he became Commander of the 3rd Division, where his main achievement was a victory over the Baltische Landeswehr.

After the war, Põdder commanded the 3rd Division and, after 1921, the 2nd Division. He actively participated in defeating the 1924 coup attempt. In 1926 he became a permanent member of the war council, as well as an active organizer of scouting. Ernst Põdder was the only honorary member of the League of Liberators. Põdder is a recipient of the Latvian military Order of Lāčplēsis, 2nd class.

Estonian War of Independence

The Estonian War of Independence (Estonian: Vabadussõda, literally "Freedom War"), also known as the Estonian Liberation War, was a defensive campaign of the Estonian Army and its allies, most notably the White Russian Northwestern Army, Latvia, and the United Kingdom, against the Soviet Western Front offensive and the aggression of the Baltische Landeswehr. It was fought in connection with the Russian Civil War during 1918–1920. The campaign was the struggle of Estonia for its sovereignty in the aftermath of World War I. It resulted in a victory for the newly established state and was concluded in the Treaty of Tartu.

Freikorps in the Baltic

After 1918, the term Freikorps was used for the anti-communist paramilitary organizations that sprang up around the German Empire, including in the Baltic states, as soldiers returned in defeat from World War I. It was one of the many Weimar paramilitary groups active during that time.

Kalev Infantry Battalion

The Kalev Infantry Battalion (Estonian: Kalevi jalaväepataljon) is an infantry battalion of the Estonian Land Forces. It is a part of the 1st Infantry Brigade and its primary task is to train conscription-based mechanized infantry units. The battalion has been previously known as the Kalevlaste Maleva and as the Kalev Single Infantry Battalion. The battalion is currently based at Paldiski and is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Mait Müürisepp.

Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion

The Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion (Estonian: Kuperjanovi jalaväepataljon) is a battalion of the Estonian Land Forces. It is a part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade. Battalion headquarters is at Taara Army Base, Võru, and is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Toomas Tõniste.

Latvian War of Independence

The Latvian War of Independence (Latvian: Latvijas neatkarības karš), sometimes called the Latvia's freedom struggles (Latvian: Latvijas brīvības cīņas) or the Latvian War of Liberation (Latvian: Latvijas atbrīvošanas karš, "War of Latvian Liberation"), was a series of military conflicts in Latvia between 5 December 1918, after the newly proclaimed Republic of Latvia was invaded by Soviet Russia, and the signing of the Latvian-Soviet Riga Peace Treaty on 11 August 1920.The war can be divided into a few stages: Soviet offensive, German-Latvian liberation of Kurzeme and Riga, Estonian-Latvian liberation of Vidzeme, Bermontian offensive, Latvian-Polish liberation of Latgale.

The war involved Latvia (its provisional government supported by Estonia, Poland and the Western Allies—particularly the navy of United Kingdom) against the Russian SFSR and the Bolsheviks' short-lived Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic. Germany and the Baltic nobility added another level of intrigue, initially being nominally allied to the Nationalist/Allied force but attempting to jockey for German domination of Latvia. Eventually tensions flared up after a German coup against the Latvian government, leading to open war.

Following a cease-fire, a ploy was developed by the Germans, nominally dissolving into the West Russian Volunteer Army led by Gen. Pavel Bermont-Avalov. This West Russian Volunteer Army included Germans and former Russian prisoners of war nominally allied with the White Army in the Russian Civil War, but both Bermondt-Avalov and von der Goltz were more interested in eliminating the nationalists than fighting the Bolsheviks.

Certain episodes of the Latvian Independence War were also part of the Polish-Soviet War, particularly the Battle of Daugavpils.

Nikolai Reek

Nikolai Reek VR I/2, VR II/2, VR II/3 (born Nikolai Bazykov; 1 February [O.S. 20 January] 1890 in Tallinn, Estonia – 8 May 1942 Ussolye, Perm Oblast, Soviet Union) was the Estonian military commander during the Estonian War of Independence.

In 1910, he graduated from Chuguyev Military Academy. He participated in World War I, in 1917 graduated Imperial Nicholas Military Academy. Reek joined Estonian units in 1917 and was Chief of Staff until dissolution of these units. After that he organized the Defence League in Virumaa. In Estonian Liberation War Reek was firstly commander of 5th regiment at Viru Front, in January 1919 he became Chief of Staff of 1st Division, in April he became Chief of Staff of 3rd Division. Reek played important role in winning war against Baltische Landeswehr. In September 1919 he achieved rank of Colonel and served as Chief of Staff of Viru Front. After war Reek repeatedly served in positions of Chief of Staff, Minister of Defense and Commander of 2nd Division. At 1938 Reek was promoted to Lieutenant General. In 1941 Soviet occupation authorities arrested Reek and the following year executed him.

Reek is recipient of the Latvian military Order of Lāčplēsis, 2nd class.

Rüdiger von der Goltz

Gustav Adolf Joachim Rüdiger Graf von der Goltz (8 December 1865 – 4 November 1946) 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.

United Baltic Duchy

The United Baltic Duchy, (German: Vereinigtes Baltisches Herzogtum, Estonian: Balti Hertsogiriik, Latvian: Apvienotā Baltijas hercogiste) also known as the Grand Duchy of Livonia, was a state proposed by the Baltic German nobility and exiled Russian nobility after the Russian Revolution and German occupation of the Courland, Livonian, and Estonian governorates of the Russian Empire. It was proposed in April 1918, after Estonia and Latvia had formally declared independence.

The idea comprised the lands in Estonia and Latvia and included the creation of a Duchy of Courland and Semigallia and a Duchy of Estonia and Livonia that would be in personal union with the Crown of Prussia under the German Empire's occupied territory Ober Ost before the end of World War I covering the territories of the Medieval Livonia in what are now Latvia and Estonia.


Võidupüha or Victory Day in English is a Public holiday in Estonia which takes on June 23. It has been celebrated since 1934. The holiday marks the victory of Estonia in the Battle of Cēsis by the Baltische Landeswehr on June 23, 1919.

Werner Bergengruen

Werner Bergengruen (September 16, 1892 – September 4, 1964) was a Baltic German novelist and poet. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

West Russian Volunteer Army

The West Russian Volunteer Army or Bermontians was an army in the Baltic provinces of the former Russian Empire during the Russian Civil War of 1918–1920.

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