World War I: Latvian Campaign (1915-18 )

Figure 1.--This boy is identified as an officer in the Latish Shooting Battalions (LSB). He has an officers LSB badge. We think that is the same force that other sources call the Latvian Rifles. This youth was identified as an Ensign (similar to a second leiutenant). He has been awarded the Order of St. Stanislaus. He also wears the LSB Badge and Badge of the Russian School of Ensigns on his breast pocket. He also wears an officer's saber. The photograph was probably taken in 1916. The back of the photo is signed by the youth--it looks something like Arnold.

The northern or Baltic border between the German and and Russian Empires was at East Prussia and Lithuania. Latvia was located some hundred miles to the north. World War I began when Germany demanded that Russia ceased mobilizing its vast army. When the Tsar refused, the Germans declared war (August 1, 1914). Shortly thereafter, the Germans began the war in the west by attacking France in a massive drive through Belgium--executing the Schiliffen Plan. This was the principal German offensive of the War, designed to be the war-winning offensive. The Russians honoring their treaty with France, launched a major offensive in the East against the smaller German army left in eastern Germany. The Germans as a result had to divert troops from the Western offensive abndcrush them east. The initial fighting was in East Prussia and Poland, but after Hindenberg and Ludendorf snashed Russian armies at Tannenburg and other battles (1914), the Germans moved east into Poland and the Baltics (April 1915). The Germans captured the port city of Liepāja (May 7) and Talsi, Tukums and Ventspils (May 18). The Russian Supreme Command ordered the evacuation of the whole population from Kurzeme (Junw 29). An estimated 400,000 refugees fled east. Some went to in Vidzeme, but most continued all the way to Russia. The Germans occupied the western coastal province of Kurzeme. The Russian War Ministry ordered the evacuation of the factories in Riga and the workers (July 19). This was accomplished with some 30,000 rail cars loaded with military equipment and the factory machinery. Latvians at the time were integrated into Russian army units. With the approach of the Germans, Latvian petitioned the Army General Headquarters to establish separate ethnic Latvian military units (The Latvian Rifles) in order to defend Latvia. Russian authorities eventually apprioved the request, desperated for any support to help stop the Germans. Formation of the Latvian Rifles began (August 1915). The Latvian Rifle units were assigned to the 12th Russian Army with Tsarist generals. [Latvian War Museum] The Riflemen fought in positions along Daugava River. There during Christmas Battles (December 1916 - January 1917), the Latvians experienced very heavy casualties. [Latvian War Museum] It was at this time the Russian Revolution erupted in Petograd and the Russian Army began to desintegrate (February 17). The Germans occupied Lithuania and most of Latvia (Febuary 1917) but at the time that the Tsar had been deposed had not yet occupied Riga and Estonia further north. The Russian Provisional Government attempted to continue the War. The Russians and Latvians tenatiously held on to Riga. The Germans finally entered Riga (September 3, 1917). The Bolsheviks seized control of the Revolution (November).


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Created: 12:15 AM 8/22/2011
Last updated: 12:15 AM 8/22/2011