Baltische Landeswehr

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Baltische Landeswehr
ActiveNovember 1918 – January 1920
CountryUnited Baltic Duchy
Allegiance 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.

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

Command structure[edit]

Rüdiger von der Goltz, Major-General

The Landeswehr was subordinated to the German VI Reserve Corps which Generalmajor Rüdiger von der Goltz (military governor of Libau in Latvia from 1 February 1919) commanded from 2 February 1919[2] until 12 October 1919. Major Alfred Fletcher and the British officer Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Alexander commanded the Landeswehr during its operations.[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]


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.[3] The arms, horse harness and uniforms were to be supplied by the state of Germany.[3] The food supplies were to be taken care of by the Provisional Government of Latvia.[3]

Theaters and campaigns[edit]

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[4][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[edit]

German Landeswehr memorial, Forest Cemetery, Riga

Prominent Baltic officers from the Landeswehr era include:

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

Rank insignia[edit]

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

Commissioned officers
Rank group Field/senior officers Junior officers
Baltische Landeswehr[5]
Befehlshaber Kommandeur
Rittmeister Kornett Fähnrich
Enlisted personnel
Rank group NCOs Other ranks
Baltische Landeswehr[5]
Wachtmeister Oberfeldmeister Feldmeister Gefreiter Soldat

Order of battle (20 May 1919)[edit]

  • 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[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Colonel Jaan Maide (1933). Ülevaade Eesti Vabadussõjast (1918–1920) [Overview of the Estonian War of Independence (1918–1920)] (in Estonian). Archived from the original on 2010-08-22.
  2. ^ Wegner, Günter; Bradley, Dermot (1990). Stellenbesetzung der Deutschen Heere 1815-1939: Die höheren Kommandostellen 1815-1839 [Staffing of the German armies 1815-1939: The higher command posts 1815-1839]. Formationsgeschichte und Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Streitkräfte, 1815-1990 (in German). Vol. 1. Osnabrück: Biblio- Verlag. p. 628. ISBN 9783764817794. Retrieved 13 August 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Die Baltische Landeswehr im Befreiungskampf gegen den Bolschewismus: ein Gedenkbuch [The Baltic State Army in the liberation struggle against Bolshevism: a commemorative book] (in German). Riga: Ernst Plates. 1939.
  4. ^ de:Deutsche Legion (1919)
  5. ^ a b Boltowsky, Tomans; Thomas, Nigel (2019). Armies of the Baltic Independence Wars 1918-1920. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 63.


  • Goltz Rüdiger von der, Meine Sendung im Finland und im Baltikum, Leipzig 1920.
  • Goltz Rüdiger von der, Minu missioon Soomes ja Baltikumis, Tartu, Loodus 1937; faksiimiletrükk Tallinn, Olion 2004. ISBN 9985-66-379-9.
  • Bermond-Awaloff Pavel, Im Kampf gegen den Bolschevismus. Erinnerungen von..., Berlin 1925.
  • BischoffJosef, Die letzte Front. Geschichte der Eiserne Division im Baltikum 1919, Berlin 1935.
  • 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.
  • Die Baltische Landeswehr im Befreiungskampf gegen den Bolschewismus, Riga 1929.
  • Eesti Vabadussõda 1918-1920, Tallinn, Mats, 1997. ISBN 9985-51-028-3.
  • Kiewisz Leon, Sprawy łotewskie w bałtyckiej polityce Niemiec 1914-1919, Poznań 1970.
  • Łossowski Piotr, Między wojną a pokojem. Niemieckie zamysły wojenne na wschodzie w obliczu traktatu wersalskiego. Marzec-kwiecień 1919, Warszawa 1976.
  • Paluszyński Tomasz, Walka o niepodległość Łotwy 1914-1920, Warszawa 1999.
  • 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[edit]