1. Daugavgriva Latvian Riflemen Regiment I WW1

At the beginning of the First World War, Latvian officers repeatedly turned to higher-ranking Russian military institutions with proposals to create Latvian national military formations as part of the Russian army. However, these initiatives were rejected. At the end of 1914, two battalions of the joint labor ornaments of the Daugavgrīva Fortress National Guards were formed in the Daugavgrīva Fortress. The successful operation of the Latvian National Guard in the battles for the defense of Jelgava in May 1915 again raised the issue of the establishment of Latvian national formations. In the autumn and winter of 1915, both battalions of the National Guard were used to form Latvian rifle units.

The formation of the National Guard in the Russian Empire during the First World War was carried out according to the mobilization regulations approved in 1910. Men between the ages of 21 and 42 who had been discharged from the regular army were drafted into the National Guard. The National Guard was primarily intended for the rear service - the guarding of military and strategic engineering objects, the service of fortresses and city garrisons, as well as the replenishment of regular army units. The National Guard often used it in the construction of military facilities. For this reason, special work ornaments were even formed without arming them.

For the needs of Daugavgrīva Fortress, 13 national guard work ornaments were distributed. In the autumn of 1914, the ornaments of the Daugavgrīva National Guard were mainly employed in the construction of positions around the fortress. From the end of November 1914, intensive military training began to compensate the eight armed ornaments of the National Guard to make up for the lack of regular army units.

The formation of the first of the eight Latvian rifle battalions began in August 1915. It was given the name of Daugavgrīva. This was not an accident, as the Daugavgrīva fortress had become the home of Latvian units. Two battalions of the National Guard were formed from the working ornaments of the fortress garrison, in which the absolute majority were Latvians, who took part in the battles against the Germans in Kurzeme and Northern Lithuania in the spring of 1915. Assistant Commander of the Fortress K. Baltiņš was the Commander of the First Rifle Battalion and served on the Latvian Riflemen's Organizing Committee.

The first rifle battalions were formed in a great hurry. The front was located near Riga and the German attack could start at any moment. There was a lack of space for clothing, clothing and equipment. The rifles also received their weapons late. The 1st Daugavgriva Latvian Rifle Battalion received weapons a month after its establishment, but the uniforms and harness even later. There was also a lack of experienced instructors and officers. Without weapons and sufficient command staff, the training process was difficult. This caused unrest among both riflemen and officers. Training was also hampered by the frequent arbitrary absence of riflemen.

In general, it must be admitted that the work of the Latvian Riflemen's Organizing Committee was admirable. In a short time, under very difficult conditions and without previous experience, several combat-capable battalions had been formed. It was a great success and a testament to the self-organization of Latvian society.

In November 1916, all Latvian rifle battalions were renamed regiments.

More information sources

1. Šiliņš J. "Latvian Riflemen". National Encyclopedia. https://enciklopedija.lv/skirklis/31625-latviešu-strēlnieki [accessed 29.10.2021].

2. Dedumietis D. "Daugavgrīva Fortress National Guard Joint Work Battalions". National Encyclopedia. https://enciklopedija.lv/skirklis/58908-Daugavgrīvas-cietokšņa-zemessargu-apvienoto-darba-rotu-bataljoni [accessed 29.10.2021].

3. The blizzard of souls. Digital Museum. Available: https://www.dveseluputenis.lv/lv/laika-skala/notikums/74/pirmo-latviesu-strelnieku-bataljona-formesana/ [accessed: 29.10.2021.].


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Daugavgrīva Fortress

Daugavgrīva Fortress (entry from Birzes street) is located on the Daugavgrīva Island where Buļļupe river joins the Daugava river. The fortress was built in the 17th century to defend from enemies moving in the direction of Riga, which was an important administrative, trade and production centre. Later it became the main fortification of the Latvian Army coastal defence with several support points. This defensive fortification system is one of the most valuable objects of Latvia's military heritage. This fortress has witnessed Latvian military history. For example, during the Crimean War (1853-1856) Latvian and Estonian gunboat crews were trained here. The main objective of these units was to protect local ports and the coast from attacks by the British navy. During World War I Daugavgrīva militiamen companies were formed here. These were the first Latvian combat units, which came even before the Latvian Riflemen. Nowadays it is possible to see the territory of the fortress. ‘Komētforts’ and the Seaside Nature Park are located nearby and Mangaļsala fortifications are on the other side of the Daugava river.

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