Willis Gelbe (also Ģelbe, 1890-1919), lieutenant general
I WW1 & Wars of Independence

Avots: "Mazāk zināmais ziemeļnieks Vilis Gelbe", Sargs.lv

Vilis Gelbe was born on November 8, 1890 in Zemīte. He graduated from a local school, Talsi City School, then Engure and Pēterpils Maritime Schools. He obtained the diploma of long-distance helmsman and, after graduating from the Oranienbauma Naval Academy in July 1918, also the master's diploma. During the First World War, he was the commander of the ships "Kotka" and "Argun", participating in operations against the Germans.

At the end of 1918, he arrived in Latvia and joined the Latvian Armed Forces. At the beginning of 1919, Vilis Gelbe worked in Northern Latvia, which had been liberated from the Bolsheviks, where he had to assume the duties of the commander of Valmiera district. He was one of those who practically worked in the establishment of the Northern Latvian Brigade, which was formed under the auspices of the Estonian Army under an agreement with Estonia. At the end of May 1919, Vilis Gelbe was sent to Limbaži, which had already been occupied by Estonian soldiers without a fight, as the Communists had fled to Valmiera. He was the first commander of the Limbaži and surrounding war. The formation of the first military units from Limbazi, including senior students, began. Commander Vilim Gelbe had to work in Limbaži and its surroundings at a very difficult time, when preparations were made for war with the German Iron Division and Landesver in the vast territory of Vidzeme, known as the Battle of Cēsis. The work was often hampered by daily conflicts between the local population and Estonian soldiers.

During the battles in Cēsis, Vilis Gelbe and his commanders took part in battles with the soldiers of the German Iron Division. On June 19, 1919, at the Vidriži manor, Gelbe and his team attacked the German forces, and with their courage encouraged the soldiers to fight, thus ensuring the right wing of our forces. During this battle he died a hero and after his death in 1921 he was awarded the 3rd class of the Lāčplēsis War Order. Vilis Gelbe is buried in Limbaži cemetery.

The monument to Vilius Gelbe was unveiled on September 10, 1922 by the then President of Latvia Jānis Čakste. A memorial has also been erected at the site of the last battle of Viļa Gelbe in the park of Vidriži manor.

More information sources

Jānis Ulmis "Love for the Fatherland…: Knight of the Lāčplēsis War Order, Lieutenant General Vilis Gelbe in the Establishment of the Armed Forces of Northern Latvia and the Battle of Cēsis in the Latvian Liberation War". Limbaži: Limbaži Museum, 2018.

Jānis Ulmis. Knight of the Lāčplēsis War Order, Lieutenant Commander Vilis Gelbe in the establishment of the Armed Forces of Northern Latvia and in the battles of the Latvian Liberation War in Cēsis. (Excerpts from the book): https://limbazi.lv/novads/vesture/cesu-kaujas/6841-lacplesa-kara-ordena-kavaliera-juras-virsleitnantavila-gelbes-loma-ziemellatvijas-brunoto-speku-izveide-un-latvijas -re-liberation-war-cesu-battle-landesvera-war

Biography of Viļe Gelbe, Knight of the Lāčplēsis Military Order: http://lkok.com/detail1.asp?ID=533

Related objects

In Vidriži, a memorial sign at the place where LKOK Vilis Gelbe and two soldiers of his team fell

In Vidriži, at the turn to Lēdurga, during the Freedom Struggle on June 19, 1919, Marine First Lieutenant Vilis Gelbe and two soldiers fell in battle.

Vilis Gelbe is buried in the Limbaži cemetery. Vilis Gelbe was awarded the III class of the Lāčplēš War Order (No. 895) for his heroic deed at Vidrižu manor.

Currently, three commemorative crosses installed in 1989 can be seen at the battle site.

On June 22, 1934, a bronze commemorative plaque made by the artist Stefan Berc was unveiled near the maple growing in the manor park. Already at the beginning of the communist occupation, in the fall of 1940, the memorial plaque disappeared. The maple to which it was nailed also died. At the beginning of the Revival, on June 19, 1989, on the 70th anniversary of the death of Gelbe and two soldiers of his team - corporal Krustiņš and soldier Krūza - at the crossroads where a memorial plaque used to be, on the initiative of the Environmental Protection Club and Latvian People's Front branches of Limbažu county, installed three wooden crosses made in folk style by Jānis Eglīš. By the decision of the executive committee of Limbažu district in April 1991, this memorial place was included in the list of historical monuments of local significance.

Monument to the sea lieutenant, L.k.o.k. Vilis Gelb (1890-1919)

Located in Limbažu Jūras iela cemetery, Jūras iela 56, Limbaži

The monument opened on September 10, 1922 by the then President of Latvia Jānis Čakste, on which the dedication of the poet Viļas Plūdonis to Vilis Gelb is read:

"Compatriots who pass by me, light up in the love of the fatherland,
for the beloved fatherland, I pledge my life."

Vilis Gelbe (1890-1919) was born in Kurzeme, Zemīte parish, but he is also closely related to the Limbaži side, because at the beginning of the Latvian War of Independence, he returned to Latvia from St. Petersburg and joined the North Latvian Brigade.

In May 1919, V. Gelbi commanded Limbaži, he became the military commandant of the area and was able to inspire local men and also very young guys to join the army.

V. Gelbe's activity at that time in Limbaži and its surroundings was very important, his duties included not only maintaining order in the city and its surroundings, but also mobilization, providing food for soldiers and horses, and solving many other issues that cannot be included in orders and instructions. The Commandant's team organized by him acted as a coordinated mechanism to provide the North Latvian Brigade with the most effective assistance possible. The commander's team went to the aid of the regular army in special cases, and he set an example for the new soldiers. V. Gelbe was the first Latvian army officer who proposed to award his subordinates with the III class of the Order of Imanta. There was no order yet. Imanta's name appeared in the open only on March 20, 1920, when the minister of defense, Karls Ullman, was presented with an outline of the establishment of the military order. However, the name of Lāčplėš was chosen for the order.

Vilis Gelbe died during the battles of Cēsis - on June 19, 1919, during a reconnaissance. Later, Gelb was awarded the Láčplēš War Order, however, historians believe that his contribution has not been properly appreciated until now. This is mainly explained by Gelbe's membership in the Northern Latvian Brigade.

The so-called Southern Latvian brigade, which was initially commanded by Oskars Kaplak, later Jānis Balož, competed with the Northern Latvian brigade, which was commanded by Jorģs Zemitāns.

Monument in memory of the fallen soldiers of the Latvian Liberation War

The monument is located next to Limbaži Sv. St. John's Lutheran Church, Lībiešu Street 2. There is a memorial to the fallen soldiers of Limbaži and the surrounding area and to Lieutenant General Vilis Gelbe (1890-1919), who fell in the battle against the Germans on June 19, 1919 in Vidriži.
The monument of Lieutenant General Viļis Gelbe can be seen in the Limbaži cemetery in Jūras Street.

Related stories

About the National Patriot Chief Lieutenant Vili Gelbi

The fate of Senior Lieutenant Viļa Gelbe (1890-1919) reflects the difficult situation in the formation of our country and army, as well as in the evaluation of these events.
With the proclamation of the Latvian state on November 18, 1918, the War of Independence and the work of forming the armed forces also began. Vilis Gelbe, a naval lieutenant born in Kurzeme, was in the front ranks of Latvian volunteers.

The beginning, course and end of the battles of Cēsis

The victory in the battles of Cēsis was destined to become a turning point in the struggle of Latvians and Estonians for the independence of their country. This victory crossed the line between Andriev Niedra's government and German General Riediger von der Goltz's plans to conquer the Baltics. Instead, the Provisional Government of Kārlis Ulmanis resumed its activities in Liepāja.