The Landeswehr War

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05. June 1919

Because Latvia's national defence was in a even worse state than Estonia's, the Provisional Government of Latvia, led by Kārlis Ulmanis, made a deal with Germany, according to which the German forces would defend Latvia from the Bolshevik invsion.

The German VI Reserve Corp, lead by Major General Rüdiger von der Goltz (see image) was battling in Courland. This corp also included the Baltic Landeswehr in their ranks, consisting of local Baltic Germans.

The Germans managed to drive the Red Army further and further away from Courland, and on May 22, 1919, they captured Riga.

During the first days of June, German scout squads encountered, to their surprise, the Estonian units near Võnnu. Because of the diplomatic failure on both sides, the potential allies against the Bolsheviks became enemies instead.

On June 3, General Laidoner gave out a directive, which demanded the retreat of the German forces by June 5. When the Chief of Staff of the 3rd Division of the Peoples Force, Lt. Colonel Nikolai Reek, went to seek out the positions of the German troops on the deadline date, a firefight broke out on the bridge near the Amata river.

The Landeswehr War had begun. Initially, the Germans were successful and captured the city of Võnnu on June 6. Then, the Triple Entente interfered, and a ceasefire was made on June 10. Both sides used this time improve their reserves.

On June 19, the second stage of the Landeswehr war began with the battle of Võnnu. The Estonians managed to resist the fierce attacks of the Germans near Lemsalu (Limbaži), Roopa (Straupe), Stalbe, Volmari (Valmiera) and Rauna. As the Germans troops had not accomplish anything significant, General Goltz gave the order to retreat.

On the morning of June 23, 1919, units of the Peoples Army entered Võnnu without any fighting. The Germans had left. To celebrate the victory, the Major General Ernst Põdder ordered all the counties that were under his supervision to hoist flags and hold parades. Since 1934, June 23 has been the official Victory Day.

Source: Eesti ajalugu. VI, Vabadussõjast taasiseseisvumiseni. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2005
Eesti ajaloo atlas. Tallinn: Avita, 2006.                                                                                                      

Image source:                                                         

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