Freikorps and Estonia 1919

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Durand
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Freikorps and Estonia 1919

Post by Durand » 17 Dec 2002 18:13

Hallo,

Mait wrote:

Well, about the FK in baltic states:

1. They were never established or organized in Estonia (at least that i know)
2. After the failure to establish Baltic Duke State (literal translation, it was a puppet regime that the Germany tried to establish in Baltic states after Brest-Litowsk peace) local germans organized their army called Landeswehr in Latvia. The leader of this army was German general Rüdiger von der Golz and the army was recruited from local baltic germans and seasoned soldiers from Germany.

In may 1919 this army destroyed "red units" in Riga, put their government up there and kept moving north to do the same thing in Estonia.

The Estonian government treated this move as a war and Estonian army units were sent against it. I would not call the Estonian army of the time local militia - it was well motivated army, lead by officers that mostly had served as officers in Russian Army during WW1. The troops had had many hard battles with russian and red latvian units, pushed them out of estonia and conquered quite large areas in russia (well large compared to the territory of estonia at least).

On 22. june 1919 the Estonian army started the attack, crushed the Landeswehr next day and chased the fleeing Germans to Riga. Then the peace was settled with the help of Entente.

The new Latvian republic and government were established (politically, militarily and economically backed by Estonian Republic).

23rd of June is celebrated in Estonia as Victory Day.

By the way - the Landeswehr had good leader and officer corps and large percentage of its fighters were freiwillige from germany (motivated and seasoned troops of WW1). Simply put - the Estonians were better fighters at that time and place


I just want to expand on Mait's outline of events and to ask for help.

No Freikorps (FK) units loyal to Germany seem to have been raised in Estonia, but ethnic Baltic Germans (BG) living in Estonia formed militias in Estonian towns during the fall of 1918 in response to the threat from Bolshevik forces. The Estonian government, which was in the process of forming an army, was wary of the BG militias and initially would not accept them into the Estonian army. In late November, the Estonian government decided to accept the BG militias. The militias were brought together into the Baltic Battalion at Rakvere under the command of a Colonel von Weiss. It was first deployed in early December 1919 against the Bolshevik forces on the Narva front. The Baltic battalion remained loyal to Estonia throughout the War of Independence.

Major-General Rüdiger von der Goltz arrived at Mitau on February 1, 1919, as Military Governor of Libau and General Officer Commanding the German Army's 6th Corps. In practical terms this meant that he assumed overall command of German forces defending that part of Latvia which was not under Bolshevik occupation. As an aside, Goltz commanded a German division that was instrumental in helping Mannerheim defeat Bolshevik forces in Finland during 1918.

The Baltische Landeswehr (BL) was a component of Goltz's army. The BL was formed by ethnic Baltic Germans in Latvia during the fall of 1918. After the Armistice, it received supplies from the German 8th Army. It was commanded by a Prussian Major of Scots descent by the name of Alfred Fletcher. The BL was initially composed of Baltic Germans, but it's ranks later swelled with Reich Germans, White Russians, and some Latvians. It had a complement of approximately 2,000 men.

Another component of Goltz's army was the Iron Division under the command of Major Josef Bischoff. The Iron Division was originally formed as the Iron Brigade during the fall of 1918. It was initially composed of approximately 600 soldiers acting as the rearguard of the German 8th Army. By the spring of 1919 after calls for volunteers had reached Germany, the Iron Division consisted of approximately 14,000 men. It had it's own artillery and air support (not sure about armour). Goltz's army also included a White Russian Division under the command of Prince A.P. Lieven and numerous Freikorps units from Germany. Goltz's entire army contained 20-30,000 men.

Goltz's mixed German army was in Latvia at the request of the Entente and the Latvian government under Karlis Ulmanis. At the time of the Armistice in November 1918, the Allies were worried about the military successes of the Bolsheviks in the Baltic area. After four years of war, none of the Western governments wanted to put forces into another conflict. The Entente's solution was to keep the German 8th Army in place until such time as local national armies could be developed to counter the Bolsheviks. This was stipulated in Article XII of the Armistice. The German force was meant to be a defensive one only. The problem with the Entente's solution was that the Germany 8th army would not or could not comply. Most of the soldiers, tired of war and demoralised by defeat, found their own way back to Germany. Thus, Ulmanis' government came to rely on the BL and the Iron Division. The Ulmanis government also agreed to a program to recruit volunteers in Germany for Goltz's army.

The Entente (the French and American governments were involved, but Britain was the most active and at the forefront of the Baltic policy) was never comfortable with the solution, but they saw it as the only practical alternative. Other schemes, including an effort to get the Scandinavian countries to send interventionary forces to the region in early 1919, failed. In February 1919 the British government became alarmed at the large numbers of German volunteers and the amount of material and equipment arriving in Latvia. The British persuaded the Allied Supreme Council to impose a blockade on ships carrying German volunteers, coal, and other supplies from Germany to the Baltic states. The blockade went into effect on March 3, 1919. The blockade was never strictly enforced due to practical reasons -- the absurdity of preventing the supply of an ally designated by the Entente to stop Bolshevik advances in the region and the lack of a sufficient number of warships. The blockade, such as it was, had a negative impact on Goltz's army and it was forced to rely primarily on a single rail line running from Germany to the German controlled area of Latvia for it's supplies and recruits.

Upon arriving in Latvia, Goltz determined that the position of his forces was untenable as long as Bolshevik forces were in Courland. Within two weeks, he launched an offensive which resulted in most of Latvia being cleared of Bolshevik forces by the end of March 1919. He received substantial support from the British navy during the offensive.

Despite his success, Goltz and his forces were not popular with the Ulmanis and the British governments.
For example, Latvian leaders complained that Goltz acted as an occupier rather than as advisor/defender. Goltz prevented the Latvian government from raising an indigenous army and removed or neutralised Latvian officers serving in his forces. Goltz's officers were lax in reprimanding or punishing troops who engaged in looting and other criminal activities. Goltz's forces were also quick to execute large numbers of civilians in the wake of liberating areas from Bolshevik control. There was great deal of friction between Goltz and the leaders of the British contingent -- mostly stemming from a difference in objectives. There were problems between the rankers from the German forces and those of the British, French, and Americans. At one point, the Entente prepared to defend their ships in harbor from Goltz's forces.

Goltz had some support from elements within the German government and Supreme Command and he was popular with many former soldiers in Germany, but he did not have the official support of the German government. Goltz operated independently with his own agenda. His ultimate plan appears to have been to clear the Bolsheviks out Latvia and Estonia, create a German military colony in those countries, link up with White Russian forces to take Petrograd and ultimately overthrow the Bolshevik government in Russia, and forge an alliance between Germany and a new bourgeois Russian government.

Having become tired of the Ulmanis government's complaints and it's efforts to function independently of Goltz's forces, a unit of the Landeswehr under the command of Baron von Manteuffel initiated a coup on April 16, 1919, which succeeded ousting the Ulmanis government. It is believed that Goltz knew of and tacitly supported the planning of the coup before the event, but that he did not initiate or take part in the planning or the take over. Ulmanis and the majority of his ministers made their escape and received asylum on British warships. The coup leaders installed a pro-German Latvian Pastor by the name of Andreas Niedra. The coup created a flurry of high-level political activity between the Entente and the German government. Demands were made of the German government to remove Goltz and reduce the size of the German forces in Latvia. The German government, which held only nominal control over Goltz, persuaded the Entente that if German forces were reduced in the area there was no way of holding the Bolsheviks. The Entente relented, but they demanded that Goltz not attempt to capture Riga from the Bolsheviks.

Riga was a prize that the British and the Ulmanis government in exile wanted to deny to Goltz's army. Riga was one of the best ports in the region. There were fears of another bloodbath by Freikorps units in the event of Riga's capture. The British also wanted to prevent Goltz from earning any prestige through the defeat of the Bolshevik army and occupying territory which could be used to legitimize the Goltz-backed Niedra government. The British hoped that a joint Estonian-Latvian army would move to take Riga. The Latvian contingent of the Estonian army was a division of approximatley 9,000 men commanded by Jorgis Zemitans. It was loyal to Ulmanis and had been formed in Estonia in February 1919 as a response to Goltz's efforts to prevent the Latvian government from forming an independent national army. The Latvian contingent fought under the direction of the Estonian army. The British had reason to hold out hope because the Estonian-Latvian force under the command of General Laidoner began moving south into Latvia on May 13, 1919, and subsequently occupied portions of northern and eastern Latvia under the auspices of a mutual defense treaty concluded between Estonia and Latvia in February 1919.

Under pressure from the Allies to remove Goltz, to reduce the number of German forces, and to maintain the status quo in the Baltic states, the German government recalled Goltz to Berlin for consultations in early May 1919. The German government chose not remove Goltz or to reduce the number of troops, but he was ordered not to take Riga and to cease offensive operations. Goltz made the rounds of powerful government bureaucrats and public rallies. In doing so, he found a loophole. The German government recognized the BL as a native force rather than a German one. If the BL attacked and the German forces remained in a support role, then Berlin would not oppose the action. Goltz returned to Latvia and Riga fell on May 22 to the BL with the Iron Division and other FK units in support.


Also during May there had been a great deal of debate within and between the Allied governments regarding what should be done about the situation in the Baltic states. The Entente reached several decisions which were made known to the German government within days of Riga's capture. One was the formation of an Allied military mission under the command of British Lieutenant General Sir Hubert Gough. It's purpose was to check the activities of the German forces and to organize the development of local armies in the Baltic states. It was also that a minimum of 50 percent of the German forces were to begin a withdrawal from the Baltic states in mid-June. Goltz was allowed to remain in command. If Goltz and the German forces failed to comply, the blockade would be strictly enforced. In another development immediately following the liberation of Riga, the British government by-passed the Niedra government and provided weapons and training directly to Latvians loyal to Ulmanis in order to create a force capable of countering the Germans. The British efforts were such that two Latvian divisions were formed by mid-June.

Within days of the fall of Riga, Goltz ordered his forces to move north toward Estonia. On June 3rd or June 5th (accounts vary), the BL met the Estonian-Latvian army near Cesis (Wenden). Instead of recognizing their shared interest in defeating the Bolsheviks, each side demanded that the other retreat. Words failed and skirmishing ensued. Gough arrived on the scene and was able to bring about a cease-fire. The cease-fire failed (accounts vary as to which side was the cause) on June 9th or 10th (again sources vary) and there were a series of skirmishes and battles over the next three weeks, notably at Roopa on June 20 and at Cesis (Wenden) on June 22-23.

During this period, the German forces began suffering supply, leadership, and morale problems. Their supplies ran low. German officers became aware of the hardening of foreign opinion and willingness to take measures to stop the German forces. Those of Baltic German heritage with family and business ties in the region took notice of the British support to the new Latvian divisions and began to think of their futures in the event of the failure of Goltz's forces. Thus, the officer corps was beginning to have second thoughts regarding their commitments and the continuation of the fighting. Many of the German volunteers also became somewhat disillusioned with the fact that they were no longer fighting Bolsheviks. Quite a few are said to have defected to the Estonian-Latvian army and then taken up arm against their former comrades in Goltz's army.

At the battle of Cesis (Wenden), the Estonian army was under the command of Major-General Ernst Podder. The battle has been described as extremely violent (aren't most battles?) and included the use of tanks and partisan forces on the Estonian side. The German forces were beaten and pushed back to the suburbs of Riga within a few days. Gough was able to impose another ceasefire and an armistice was signed at Strazdumuiza (Strasdenhof) on July 3, 1919. The Armistice stipulated that all German forces were to be withdrawn to Latvia; the Estonian army was to pull back to the Estonian border; the Ulmanis government was to be restored to power; and the Baltische Landeswehr was to be purged of all German volunteers and put under the command of then Colonel Alexander (later Field Marshal Alexander).

The foregoing represents what I have been able to piece together from a number of sources (often contradictory ones at that). Can anyone provide additional details regarding the war between the German forces and Estonia during June 1919 (particularly the battle of Cesis)? Can anyone recommend any books, articles, or websites (in English or German) on this subject?

Thank You and Best Regards,

Durand

(Edited 20.12.02 to reflect correct spelling of Laidoner. Edited 31.01.03 to reflect correct spelling of Baltische Landeswehr)
Last edited by Durand on 01 Feb 2003 02:45, edited 2 times in total.

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Marcus
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Post by Marcus » 17 Dec 2002 18:35

Durand,

Very interesting.

/Marcus

walterkaschner
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Post by walterkaschner » 17 Dec 2002 19:49

Thanks Durand, an excellent piece of work over a difficult subject!!

Regards, Kaschner

Gwynn Compton
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Post by Gwynn Compton » 18 Dec 2002 03:02

You've done an excellent job so far. What sources were you working from?

Gwynn

Durand
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Post by Durand » 18 Dec 2002 16:32

Hallo,

Thank you, gentlemen, for your kind words. I am glad you find the post to be of interest.

For G.C.: "So Far"! :o :) I have taken this topic as far as I can. There is very little information out there regarding the situation in the Baltic states during the period and even less devoted to the fighting between the Freikorps and the Estonians in June 1919. The sources for the above include:

The Victors' Dilemma by John Silverlight;

The Baltic States and Weimar Ostpolitik by John Hiden;

The Baltic States by Georg von Rauch;

Vanguard of Nazism by Robert Waite;

The Kings Depart by Richard Watt;

The Outlaws by Ernst von Salomon.

These sources all contain bits and pieces about the war with Estonia, but nothing really in depth. The various works also often contradict one another. One can see where later authors have used information from the earlier authors with the result that not much in the way of new information is coming to light. I have for the moment come to a dead end. I hope that members of the forum can provide additional information and sources.

Best Regards,

Durand

Tapani K.
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Post by Tapani K. » 28 Dec 2002 11:53

Hello Durand,

Here's something more: additional information and attempts to clarify some issues. Please note that from now on I will start using the Latvian forms of place-names for the sake of consistency. My Estonian language sources use either Estonian, Latvian or German forms but since the events described took place in Latvia, I think it will be logical to use Latvian, although I will not bother with the diacritic marks. I will give some German or Estonian forms in parenthsis. So, here we go:


Before the Landeswehr War the northern part of Latvia, from the river Daugava to the Estonian border was cleared of Bolsheviks by the Estonian army. This, I think is essential in understanding the situation from the Estonian side. In the end of may we have the German force around Riga. In the East we have the Estonian 2nd Division holding the front-line from Krustpils (Kreuzburg) in a rough line towards Pskov on the Russian side of the border. To the South of the Estonians there are Polish troops facing the Bolsheviks. This means that at this stage the German force was nowhere in contact with the Bolsheviks. Therefore, when von der Goltz moves to north towards Cesis, it is quite clear that he does not intend to wage war against the Bolsheviks. Also, I would like to emphasize that the Estonian presence in Latvia was with full agreement of the Latvian Ulmanis government.

At this stage one might speculate what might have happened if the German force had actually moved eastwards. At this stage the Bolshevik victory was far from certain. Imagine this well-disciplined German force moving to Pskov and advancing towards Petrograd. This operation would have been supported by the Allies who probably would have persuaded the Russian Whites under Judenitch to assist. Who knows what might have happened. Of course, for the Baltic Germans the primary goal was not overthrowing the Bolsheviks but establishing German supremacy in the Baltics which they saw as ancient German land.

With the Germans advancing northwards, General Laidoner demanded on June the 3rd that the Germans withdraw south of the line Gauja river - Sigulda - Jaunpiebalga since there were no Bolsheviks there. At the same time Laidoner ordered the Estonian 2nd and 3rd Divisions to secure the railroad to Gulbene (Alt-Schwaneburg). This is when the first stage of fighting began.

Now to Cesis area beginning from June the 19th. I will try give a day-to-day account of how I understand the battle.

19th: The Germans attack towards Straupe (Roopa) and Limbazi managing to take Straupe. Limbazi is entered but the estonians manage a successful local counter-attack throwing the Germans out of the town.

20th: No heavy fighting, germans probably manoeuvering to attack positions and Estonian consolidating their defence and pressuring the Germans in the Limbazi direction.

21st: The Landeswehr attacks from Cesis to Liepa but the Estonians manage to stop their advance with the help of reinforcements arriving during the day. Without these reinforcements the Germans might have managed to cut the road and railway from Cesis to Valmiera the Estonian position would have been untenable. The Iron Division attacks from Straupe towards Stalbe where Estonians stop them.

22nd: The Landeswehr is forced to retreat from their furthest position in the North-East of Cesis.

23rd: The Estonian general attack begins in the morning and the German force is forced to begin their retreat towards Riga. No heavy fighting in the town of Cesis.

So, based on the above and bearing in mind that the sources differ slightly, I would say that the battle of Cesis started on 21st and ended on 23rd. Since the Germans retreated from Cesis itself without heavy fighting I think we must conclude that the name "Battle of Cesis" includes all the fighting during these days around Cesis. Further, I would say that the fighting in Limbazi direction with the Iron Division on the German would not be part of the Battle of Cesis. When von Rauch says that the battle was a two-day affair he apparently sees the fighting on the 21st as part of the manoeuvering since it was during this day that the Landeswehr managed their furthest positions before being stopped by the Estonians. Still, I have a book that claims it was four-day battle but it seems to me that the 20th was not a day of heavy fighting. Of course, two, three, four maybe even five days can all be claimed with some justification.

Some other points:

Casualties: What I meant in my PM was this: The Estonian casualties until the 23rd were 7 officers and 103 other ranks killed and 9 officers and 270 other ranks wounded . I assume this includes the Battle of Cesis but the figures seem to me to be quite low.

Estonian armour: The single Estonian armoured car used against the Germans was built in Pärnu on the initiative of the 6th regiment and fought with them. The external appearance of the car has been described as looking like the armour had been hammered on by a village blacksmith. The armour plating seems to have been quite effective but the heavy weight limited the cars manoeuverability to good roads. The armoured car was called "Vanapagan" which is the name of a clumsy giant in an Estonian folk-tale; rather appropriate. The Estonians received their first tanks in the autumn of 1919 when the White Russian North-Western army retreated to Estonia. The Russians had received six tanks from the Allies and the Estonians took these over with permission from the Allies. There were four British Mark V tanks and two French Renault FT 17s. All them were in quite bad shape. (This is, of course, off-topic and has no bearing on the Landeswehr War but still quite interesting ;-) Probably von Rauch mentioned the word "panzer" in some context meaning the armoured trains and perhaps the single armoured car and the translator interpreted it incorrectly.

The Landeswehr: I have no figures but it seems that a large part of the force would have been ethnic Latvians. Have to try and confirm this.

To show you that I have not made this (all ;-)) up myself, here is the material I have. the books are all Estonian language books that I have bought on trips to Estonia :

Lûhike Vabadussõja ajalugu as mentioned in my PM.
Eesti Ajalugu: Estonian history for high school.
Ajaloo Atlas Gümnaasiumile: History atlas for high school.
Eesti Soomusmasinad: Estonian armoured vehicles 1918-1940.
Eesti maast ja rahvast: Of Estonian land and and its people; a general description of Estonian first era of independence.
Hallwag road map of present-day Baltic countries, scale 1:650 000.

I think this is enough for now. I hope you have a map of the Cesis area, otherwise it would be quite difficult to form the general picture. I'll wait for your comments. Oh, and one more thing: may I ask you why the interest in the Landeswehr war?


regards,
Tapani K.


PS: I have exchanged a couple of private messages with Durand but thought that I might bring the discussion back here.

Durand
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Post by Durand » 28 Dec 2002 23:25

Hallo Tapani K.,

Thank you for an excellent post. I am glad you decided to place the information on the forum. This is exactly the kind of discussion I was hoping to generate with my original post on this topic.

I think that the timeline one can piece together from your post and mine is as accurate as one can get without the aid of official government documents. It seems that we will have to be satisfied with the differences of a day or two in dates since none of the sources we have read can fully agree on them. I can not account for the differences, but some of it may be due to confusion on the part of participants and to scholars (and amateurs such as myself) compressing events by leaving out key points (by ignorance or design).

A case in point, I have read that the ceasefire established after the initial fighting on June 5th failed on June 9th or June 10th. There seemed to be some confusion as to why the ceasefire failed and when the fighting resumed. In reading the information that you provided and reviewing my notes, I think we can better reconstruct the events of those few days and clear up some of the confusion. After the fighting on June 5th, the negotiations were initiated by Lieutenant-Colonel Wolcott Greene of the American Military Mission to Latvia. His purpose was to convince the Germans and Estonians to join forces to fight the Bolsheviks. The mediation was then taken over by British General Gough. The Estonians refused to give up their demand that the Germans withdraw from their positions near Cesis. The Estonians had forces deployed against the Bolsheviks to the East and they did not want the hostile or, at the very least, unreliable German forces to their rear. Gough sided with the Estonians. The Estonians asked for the negotiations to be adjourned on the 9th or 10th. It seems that the fighting did not resume immediately. The Germans issued a demand on June 17th for the Estonians to withdraw. When the Estonians did not comply, the Germans attacked on June 19th.

As an aside, I found what appears to be a description of the fighting on June 5th. The account is from the curriculum vitae of Tonis Kint the Acting President of the Estonian Government-in-Exile from 1970-1990. Please note the date of June 1920. I believe that the date should read June 1919 since the events match with 1919 rather than 1920 (see http://home.swipnet.se/oole/isa-cv.htm).

In the autumn in 1918 he [Kint] returned to Polytechnicum in Riga (Latvia), but when the red sovjet army thretened to invade Estonia, then he went back to Estonia to Tallinn together with almost all Estonian students in Riga and was placed on "The Broadtracked Armored Train No. 2", that was just in formation in Tallinn. These armoured trains were in the following Estonian Liberation War something like german "Panzer troops" in the second world war. The liberation of Estonian territory followed.

Former german farm holders and remainders of german troops south of Estonia, after the revolution in Germany in 1918, had formed new troops as "Landeswehr" and they thretened Estonia from the south. In Juni 1920 german delegates did not show up after negotatiations and the armoured train No. 2 was sent to meet them and investigate why they had not appeared. - Then suddenly hidden german troops attacked the train from a low pinewood growing besides the railway. The attacking troops were cut down by machinegun fire from the train. - This was the opening of the short but intense war with the german Landeswehr, which ended with complete disaster for Landeswehr.


I fully agree that the varying dates given for the last battle at Cesis may be accounted for by more than one engagement in the vicinity of Cesis within the 2 or 3 day time span. Cesis-Valmiera on the 21st, Cesis-Rauna on the 21st and 22nd (or are Rauna and Valmiera the same locations), and the final attack by the Estonians at Cesis (Vonnu) on the 23rd.

I also fully agree on the probable translation error in von Rauch regarding the armoured trains as opposed to tanks. It did not seem likely to me that the Estonians would have had tanks at the time and, with your information, we now know they did not have them until after the Landeswehr war. Your explanation about the rail system in northern Latvia and the deployment of the Kuperjanow Partisan Battalion during this period to protect the armoured trains, further supports the idea that armoured trains, rather than tanks, were one of the key elements in the final German defeat at Cesis. By the way, you can find a picture of the "Vanapagan" armoured car at http://mailer.fsu.edu/~akirk/tanks/estonia/estonia.htm

I also agree that the casualty figures for the Landeswehr war up through June 23 seem low, especially so when compared to the Estonian casualty figures for the entire Estonian War of Independence from November 1918 to January 1920. According to the Estonian Defence Forces, the Estonians lost 5,000 killed and 14,000 wounded. (see http://www.mil.ee/index_eng.php?s=ajalugu ) The low figures for the Landeswehr war, if accurate, could be explained by the short duration of the fighting and/or perhaps the German forces were simply not up to the fight. If we can find casualty figures for Goltz's forces during the period it might help our understanding.

With regard to the Landeswehr, one would think that it would have consisted primarily of ethnic Latvians. Unfortunately, I do not have any numbers pertaining to the ethnic composition of the force. However, from what I have read, the unit was raised by ethnic Baltic Germans and included some ethnic Latvians. Once the Reich Germans and White Russians (former POWs) arrived from Germany, the number of Latvians was significantly and purposefully reduced. The Germans under General von der Goltz wanted a force loyal only to von der Goltz and not the Ulmanis government.

From what I have read, despite expectations on the part of the Germans and the government of the Entente, Goltz's attack on Riga was a fairly easy affair. It seems that the Bolsheviks, affected by the earlier moves of the Estonian army, melted away from the fighting at Riga as opposed to taking a stand and being overwhelmingly defeated at Riga.

With regard to Goltz's intent, it is difficult to know what he really had in mind at that time. I think you are correct that he was moving toward Estonia with the objective of occupying that country as part of a German military colony. I think this fit in with his world view regarding German claims to the region and also to try to wipe way some of the stain and sting of the German defeat in World War I. However, I do not think that this was his only objective. Goltz was also a staunch anti-Bolshevik. He may have had designs to cooperate with a White Russian force to overthrow Lenin's government. A strong relationship could then develop between the German and the new White Russian governments to counter the governments of the Entente. By moving into Estonia, he could capture ports not under direct British control and secure his rear in preparation for the capture of Petrograd with the help of White Russian forces.

A couple of questions, if I might:

-- Have you found any information to confirm May 13, 1919, as the date that the Estonian army moved into northern Latvia?

-- I found the information about the Poles interesting. Do you know how they became involved and how many were participating?

-- Do you have more information about the activities of Kuperjanov's Battalion during both the Landeswehr war and the remainder of the War of Independence?

-- Have you read or heard of the following book -- Hannes Walter, Tiina Tojak. They Gave Their All. The Officers Who Died in Estonian`s War of Independence (2000)? It is published by SE & JS, an Estonian firm. I am not sure if it is published in English or only in Estonian. (see http://www.sejs.ee/index_eng.htm).



You asked about my interest in the Landeswehr war. As you know, one's interest in things is usually
based on a number of inter-related reasons which may appear complicated or confusing to everyone but the person who has the interest. With that in mind, here it goes: a) I have had an interest in Germany, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union from a very young age; b) in the recent past, I have become very interested in the Freikorps and their activities in Latvia was their largest campaign; c) I suspect that both German intentions toward the East during the NS Zeit and the subsequent treatment of Germany by the Allies immediately after WW II are in at least a small part related to the Freikorps actions in the Baltic region; d) I am by nature very curious and tenacious; and e) I have been told that Estonian women are gorgeous! :wink:

Best Regards,

Durand

Gwynn Compton
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Post by Gwynn Compton » 29 Dec 2002 00:00

Keep up the discussion, it's making for very interesting reading. :)

Gwynn

Tapani K.
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Post by Tapani K. » 31 Dec 2002 09:51

Hello again.

About the cease-fire and negotiations: The Estonians were quite unhappy when Lieutenant-Colonel Greene suggested that they withdraw from northern Latvia. I would like to point out once again that Estonian troops were there with full approval an co-operation of the recognized Latvian government. The Estonians claimed that Greene was uninformed of the situation and when General Gough took over the mediation, he accepted the Estonian position.

On the 19th when the Germans attacked the Estonian armoured train it seems that there was some attempt on resuming the negotiations. One of the passengers on the train was Colonel Reek, who had agreed on meeting German negotiators. The Germans did not show up and the train drove back northwards. After some hours the train drove back to the initial rendez-vous point and this is when the Germans attacked but were beaten back with machine-gun fire from the train. Was there some kind of misunderstanding? Had the German side not informed their troops of the Estonian negotiators arriving? I hope to find something more on this.

( Edit 1.1.2003: I mistakenly wrote above that the armoured train incident would have happened on the 19th. Actually it happened on the 5th and therefore has no bearing on the negotiations involving Greene and Gough. Still, an interesting incident)

A side note: The Estonian armoured trains had a platoon-size infantry force of their own permanently attached. This smallish force was apparently intended for guard and security duties.

What were von der Goltz and his allies' objectives? I find it a bit hard to believe that his main objective would have been overthrowing the Bolshevik government since his actions clearly speak otherwise. In June he would have had a chance of attacking eastwards but instead he advanced north. Maybe he believed that he would have been able to stage in Estonia a coup similar to that in Latvia. If so, he miscalculated and may have not been fully informed of the strength of the Estonian army.

After the treaty that ended the Landeswehr War von der Goltz and other Reichsdeutsche should have returned to Germany. Did von der Goltz comply? No. He made a deal with the Russian Paul Bermont (or Bermondt, sources differ on spelling) who was in the business of forming a so called West Russian army. This army was at first recruitedmainly from Russian POWs in German captivity and had received financial and material support from Germany and apparently from some international finance circles. Von der Goltz joined forces with Bermont and together they had an army of ca 30 000 men of whom 22-24 000 were Reichsdeutsche, many of them formerly from the Iron Division. Since they now were a part of a Russian army, they could pretend that treaty terms demanding their return to Germany could be ignored.

Now, back to von der Goltz' objectives. Again he had a large, well-trained and well-armed force. What did he do with it? Did he join the White Russian general offensive led by General Judenitch against Petrograd when Judenitch, their nominal superior asked for this? No, the West Russian army moved against the Latvians in October, tried to take Riga and overthrow the Ulmanis govrnment again. This attack was repulsed with British and Estonian assistance. I think his actions show that his first and foremost objective was creating the Baltic Grand Duchy in Latvia and Estonia. This state would have formed a personal union with Germany and would have been a de facto German province with the Baltic German nobility in power.

To your questions:
My sources say that the order to move into northern Latvia was given on May the 16th and that the Estonians ( and the Latvian units with them) stopped their advance by the end of May. I hope to find more on this.

The Poles would have been holding their own line against the Bolsheviks further south with apparently little co-operation with the Estonian-Latvian force. On the other hand, there seems to have been remnants of the Latvian Bolshevik troops in eastern Latvia, so I will need to dig some more info here, too.

I'll give a short outline on Kuperjanov's Battalion in a couple of days (hopefully).

I saw the book you mentioned and held it in my hands in a book store in Tallinn but since I had already bought a few books I decided I had to draw a line somewhere. And no, I do not think it has been published in English.

And about your interest on the Landeswehr War: they are all perfectly good reasons, especially c) and e).;-)


regards and
A happy New Year,
Tapani K.
Last edited by Tapani K. on 01 Jan 2003 07:17, edited 1 time in total.

Tapani K.
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Post by Tapani K. » 31 Dec 2002 12:14

This is what I wrote in private message to Durand. Please note that in the sequence of postings this should have been couple of postings earlier. Actually, before my first posting in this thread. I have edited the text slightly to clarify some points and to correct some spellings.

The Estonian government was, obviously, highly suspicious of the Baltic-German intentions after the coup in Latvia and therefore demanded that the Germans withdraw from the Northern parts of Latvia leving the strategically important east-west railway in Estonian hands. This railway was very important for supplying the front against the Bolsheviks and also because the Estonians relied heavily on their armoured trains as mobile reserves. It is also important to note here that it was the Estonians who held the front against the Bolsheviks in Latvia roughly from Krustpils (Kreutzburg, on the north side of the Daugava opposite to Jekabpils) to the north.

On June the 5th Estonian armoured trains drove south form Cesis (Wenden ) to find out whether the Germans had acted according to the Estonian demands. The Landeswehr attacked these trains and this event is seen as the beginning of the Landeswehr War, as it is called in Estonia ( Landeswehri sõda). The attacks were repulsed but without infantry support the armoured trains were forced to withdraw. The next day the Landeswehr attacked Cesis which was defended by the 2nd Latvian Cesis Regiment. This regiment was a part of the Latvian force formed in Estonia and this was their first time in combat. It seems that this was not a very bloody affair and that the Latvians retreated fairly soon.

Meanwhile, the Estonian 3rd Division advanced towards Cesis from the north and on June 8th attacked the town with two battalions and armoured trains but did not manage to take the town. At this stage on June 10th the Allies managed to negotiate the cease-fire. In further negotiations the Estonian government stood fast in their position that they could not have the German forces in the rear of their Eastern front in Latvia. This view was accepted by the Allies represented by General Gough but the Germans refused to comply. The Estonian position was supported by the Ulmanis government who saw the Estonians as their allies against both the Germans and the Russians.

On June the 17th the Germans demanded that the Estonians withdraw threatening to resume fighting. This demand was backed up by reinforcing the Landeswehr in northern Latvia with parts of the Iron Division. The German force was nominally under the Niedra government but the actual commander was von der Goltz.

The Estonians formed a defensive line just north of Cesis running roughly from Ladenhof to Ronneburg. The line was manned by the 3rd Division with the following sub-units:
3rd Infantry Regiment in Rauna (Ronneburg) area ( commander: Captain Kruus ).
6th Infantry Regiment in Stolben area ( Captain Karl Tallo).
9th Infantry Regiment in Limbazi area ( Captain Johannes Schmidt).
In addition to the 3rd Division troops thete were two amoured trains under Captain Karl Parts and the 2nd Latvian Cesis Regiment. The Latvians were positioned between the 3rd and 6th regiments.

The fighting started with the Iron Division attacking on June 19th towards Limbazi and Straupe (Roopa) with initial success. The estonians managed to counterattack in the Limbazi area but in Straupe area the Germans advanced and managed to take the town. A major offensive by the Germans began on the 21st with an artillery bombardment and some success so that they managed to threaten the town of Valmiera in the Estonian rear. During the day the Estonians received some reinforcements: the Kuperjanov Partisan Battalion and armoured train number 2 joined the Estonian defence along the railway line Valmiera-Cesis.

A note: the Kuperjanov Partisan Battalion was formed as a reconnaissance and partisan ( maybe long-range patrol would be more accurate) unit by the former Russian army Lieutenant Julius Kuperjanov. At this stage, however the unit had expanded into a ca. 600-man battalion and was used in light infantry role and quite often in support of the armoured trains. Therefore, it would be somewhat inaccurate to say that the Estonians used partisan units in the Landeswehr War.

On the 22nd the Estonians received further reinforcements:
A battalion-sized force formed in Tallinn from the members of the sports club Kalev.
Elements of the 1st Infantry Regiment with artillery support.
An armoured car (Vanapagan) of the 6th Regiment.

With these reinforcements the German attack was stopped. It seems that the Germans were particularly demoralized when encountering Estonian artillery fire; until now they had enjoyed a monopoly of artillery support.

On the 23rd the Estonians mounted an attack of their own and drove the Germans southwards past Cesis. With this defeat and the Allied political pressure von der Goltz had no more resources to fulfill his far-reaching plans.

The Estonian casualties until June 23rd were 7 officers and 103 other ranks killed and 9 officers and 270 other ranks wounded.

The Germans continued to retreat towards Riga with the Estonian forces following and the battles occurred in Riga and its suburbs. The Estonians claim that they would have been able to crush the Landeswehr and the Iron Division totally and been able to occupy Riga but at this stage the Allies negotiated another cease-fire. The Estonians viewed the result of this with some bitterness since they were not allowed to march into the city although their part in the fighting had been decisive and they had managed to secure both the Estonian nad Latvian freedom from German overlordship; no Baltic Duchy for the German barons.

Under the treaty the reinforced Estonian 3rd Division retreated from Riga but still, the Estonian 2nd and 3rd Divisions continued defending northern parts of Latvia against the Bolsheviks.


regards,
Tapani K.
Last edited by Tapani K. on 01 Jan 2003 14:24, edited 1 time in total.

Tapani K.
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Post by Tapani K. » 01 Jan 2003 14:22

Durand wrote:I fully agree that the varying dates given for the last battle at Cesis may be accounted for by more than one engagement in the vicinity of Cesis within the 2 or 3 day time span. Cesis-Valmiera on the 21st, Cesis-Rauna on the 21st and 22nd (or are Rauna and Valmiera the same locations), and the final attack by the Estonians at Cesis (Vonnu) on the 23rd.


I would say that the Battle of Cesis is actually a sort of blanket term for all the fighting around Cesis during these days. To support this, I found a short mention of how Cesis itself fell into Estonian hands. It appears that German main force had retreated during the night and a small covering was left in Cesis. Estonians took the town after a half-hour battle in the early morning of the 23rd. Only this half-hour battle took place in Cesis itself but Cesis was the largest town in the area and in the center of the fighting so it would be logical to name all these inter-connected battles after Cesis. Also, I remenber several Estonian sources using the phrase Võnnu all when describing where they managed to beat the Landeswehr. This phrase means something like near Cesis or in the Cesis area.

And no, Rauna and Valmiera are not the same. Rauna ( Ronneburg in German) is about 20 kilometres almost due east from Cesis and Volmiera is about 30 kilometres to north-north-east.

And what I posted about the infantry unit integral with the armoured trains is probably not accurate. It seems that the size of the force varied greatly and may have been even battalion-sized in some trains. Not quite sure about this.


regards,
Tapani K.

Gwynn Compton
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Post by Gwynn Compton » 02 Jan 2003 08:47

It'd be great to see you guys turn this into an article, complete with background information on the conflict.

Gwynn

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Marcus
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Post by Marcus » 02 Jan 2003 13:36

Gwynn Compton wrote:It'd be great to see you guys turn this into an article, complete with background information on the conflict.


I agree and I'd be more than happy to post it on my site.

/Marcus

Tapani K.
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Post by Tapani K. » 02 Jan 2003 14:05

The actual writing woud have to be done by Durand; he initiated the discussion and did already write what is actually a quite good article. I would, of course, be quite willing to help with research. What do you think, Durand?

BTW, here is a link to an Estonian language site on their Freedom War ( or War of Independence). For those of you who do not read Estonian, there are some interesting pictures.

http://hot.ee/vabadussoda/


regards,
Tapani K.

Durand
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Post by Durand » 02 Jan 2003 14:33

Hallo,

Cheers to you Tapani K. for a set of fine posts. In my last post I did not mean to imply that von der Goltz's primary objective was the overthrow of Bolshevik Russia. I agree that first and foremost his objective was the creation of a German province(s) in Latvia and Estonia (possibly also in Lithuania). However, Goltz seems to have also had a vision (however fanciful), or a second phase in mind, beyond simply conquering and holding the Baltic states. In that vision the new province (or provinces) would be the base from which he could eventually aid in the overthrow of the Bolshevik government for the benefit of his troops, the German government, and himself.

In support of this, I cite several examples. As quoted in Waite's book, Goltz wrote:

I wanted to salvage from the unfortunate war whatever was still salvageable. In the East, Germany was the victor... In alliance with the "White Russians" and under the banner of fighting the Bolsheviks why could not our Eastern politics, which had been blocked by the events of 1918, be achieved in a somewhat altered and more adaptable form...? Above all, why could not an economic and political sphere be created next to Russia? Russia's own intelligentsia was ruined and her land hungered for German technicians, merchants and leaders. Her devastated and depopulated border provinces required German settlers to cultivate their fertile soil. Especially, I had in mind discharged soldiers...Russia was no longer in a position to object to these plans as she had been before the war...


The minutes of the June 7, 1919 meeting of Clemencau, Lloyd, Orlando, and Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference reflect the following appreciation of events as reported to the heads of the Entente governments:

Admiral Hope read extracts from a memorandum prepared by Sir Esme Howard, General Thwaites and himself, and from a report by General Gough at Helsingfors with regard to the situation in the Baltic Provinces. These reports revealed a very complicated state of affairs. The Germans were advancing North and Northeast from Riga, thereby preventing the Esthonians from advancing on Petrograd. They appeared to be taking this action in collusion with a Russian Anti-Bolshevist force under Prince Lievin, with whom they had established liaison by aircraft. From the available information it was evident that the Germans intended: 1. In conjunction with the German Balts in Latvia to advance into Esthonia, and with the cooperation of the German Balt element in the latter country to crush the Esthonian national movement. 2. To make common cause with the North-Russian corps, (whose sympathies are entirely pro-German) in an advance on Petrograd, where they presumably proposed to install a Government of their own choosing. (See http://www.schwab-writings.com/hi/wi/3.html)


In mid-September, Gough reported to the Allied Supreme Council that Goltz was planning:
a large German army outside Germany, in alliance with the non-Bolshevik Russians, to seize the Baltic states and eventually Russia itself. The liberty of those states would be destroyed and the independence of Finland threatened. This German and Russian force might well become the most powerful in Europe and be used against the Allies. (See Cowan's War by Bennett)


The situation in the Baltics was complicated and fluid. A lot of plans, possibilities and anticipated opportunities were likely to have been floating around in Goltz's head. Again, I agree that his primary objective was the creation of new German provinces for the benefit of Germans and Germany, but I also think that his long-term plans included fighting the Bolsheviks, if only to better secure the new province(s). Had his move against the Estonians been successful, Goltz would have achieved:

1) His immediate objective of occupying Estonia and quelling Estonian independence as was done in Latvia;

2) A secure rear and flank. The Estonian army supplemented by Latvian troops loyal to Ulmanis moved into northern Latvia on either May 13 or May 16, almost one week before Goltz's attack on Riga. It is likely that Goltz would have seen that move as a threat. If Goltz had moved east he would have left himself vulnerable to an unfriendly, if not openly hostile, Estonian/Latvian army.

3) Secure supply lines by sea. The Allies had ships based at the Latvian ports of Liepaja (Libau) and Ventspils (Windau) from which they could coordinate and support their blockade. The British recognized that their hold on those ports was tenuous. There was concern that if the Germans were to control those ports and the other ports to the north (Riga and Estonian ports), it would be impossible to mount an effective blockade.

4) A good position to take Petrograd. For some reason, Goltz seems to have been fixated on Petrograd. Perhaps because it was a port or maybe there would be some exploitable prestige in capturing the birthplace of the Bolshevik Revolution.

With regard to the situation in September/October 1919, the Western Russian Army seems to have had only two realistic options -- attack the Latvians or surrender. It was in no position to attack any Bolshevik forces because nowhere were they in contact with the Bolsheviks.

Despite having agreed to leave Latvia per the terms of the July 3 Armistice ending the Landeswehr War, Goltz, most of the German volunteers and Bermondt's Russians were still securely entrenched in Latvia and also in northern Lithuania. Some of the German volunteers had left, but more had come from Germany at Goltz's urging and with the tacit support of the German government. The so-called Western Russian Army was creating havoc in Latvia and Lithuania -- looting, burning, fighting, run-ins with the Latvian army. At the same time, Bermondt openly proclaimed Latvia and Estonia to be Imperial Russian provinces under his authority, issued his own form of currency using the "Imperial Estates" in Latvia and Estonia as collateral, and spoke of creating slave labor.
The tension between the Ulmanis government and the Western Russian Army was such that the latter was unlikely to be able to move anywhere outside of the area it occupied without coming into armed conflict with the Latvian army. As I understand it, at the end of September or very early October, Bermondt requested transit rights through Latvia in order to go fight the Bolsheviks. The Ulmanis government refused the request and Bermondt's response was to attack the Latvians.

I think that transit demand was simply an excuse to capture all of Latvia and remove the Ulmanis government. Goltz wanted space to settle his men. The German volunteers had nothing to return to in Germany and they wanted the land grants in Latvia that they thought had been promised to them by the Latvian government. Some of the Germans had also started businesses and established families in the occupied zones. None were eager to return home with the air of defeat hanging over them. Goltz and the Germans in were coming under increasing pressure to quit Latvia. Having received several complaints about the activities of the German volunteers from the Ulmanis government, the British warned the German government that Britain would blockade Germany, if Goltz and the volunteers were not evacuated. With such pressure, the volunteers could either return to Germany or attempt to legitimize and secure their stay in Latvia by overthrowing the Ulmanis government in favor of one friendly to the Germans. They chose the latter and ultimately failed.

I am not certain of the particulars of the relationship between Bermondt and Judenitch. I have read varying accounts: Judenitch rebuffed Bermondt's offer of the latter's force; Bermondt rebuffed Judenitch; and Judenitch wanted Bermondt under his command, but Bermondt wanted to command his own force as an independent wing of Judenitch's army. Whichever version, if any, is correct, the result is the same. Failure to defeat the Bolsheviks.

I would also be interested in learning more about the relationship between Goltz and Bermondt. I have read that Bermondt was commander in name only of the Western Russian Army and that Goltz, despite having formally distanced himself from the German Legion and other volunteers, continued to be the de facto commander. Goltz chose to ally himself with Bermondt because Goltz needed the support of a White Russian commander to keep the Germans in Latvia and Bermondt was strongly pro-German. Goltz and the other Freikorps leaders did not have a high opinion of Bermondt and they probably reckoned that he would be pliable. However, I am not sure how firm Goltz's grip was on Bermondt. Bermondt refused to have a German military advisor assigned to him. He generally refused advice. He openly made grand claims on Latvia and Estonia which increased tensions with the native population. Also, as I understand it, Bermondt planned and launched the ill-considered and ill-fated attack on Riga. Was Goltz firmly in control and Bermondt the scapegoat for failure or was Bermondt a loose cannon?

A question or two for you (sorry, I seem to have more question than answers):

You described a skirmish involving an Estonian armoured train on June 19th -- is that additional information pertaining to the attack on a train that I posted or is the one you describe a separate incident?

In the minutes of the June 7, 1919, meeting of the leaders of the Entente at the Paris Peace Conference, Clemenceau is cited as saying, "According to my latest news, the Germans of Estonia were marching against the Poles and the Poles were asking me to stop them." I think it possible that the information Clemenceau received was bad, he misspoke, or the transcription is in error, but in light of what you mentioned about the Poles, what do you make of Clemenceau's statement?

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Best Regards,

Durand

P.S. To Tapani K., Gwynn and Marcus: Thanks for the kind words and the honor of your suggestion. For my part, I am still trying to get a handle on the events. Tapani K. is the master and I am the student. However, a bit further down the road I would be open to a collaborative effort.

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