BriedisKārlis Lobe, 1963—David Guild, 1993


2 | The Germans attack

On 28 September the Germans made an unexpected attack in the region of Jelgava, breaking through the front and reaching the vicinity of Olaine Station. On the second day we managed to throw them back across the River Misa and restore the line. In general, however, the situation at Riga was still uncertain. Every soldier was important, and, since the first Latvian battalions were close at hand, although still not completely equipped (a shortage was particularly felt in horses and transport), they were transferred from Mühlgraf to the Hussar barracks at Riga. The first 17  battalion had received weapons only on 26 September. The transfer to Riga took place on the 13th but the departure for the front came on 23 October, when only 59 days had elapsed since the arrival of the major party of volunteers. Smaller groups were still coming in, none had seen service. Not only were weapons lacking for fully adequate training but also the major assistance of instructor-trainers.

Briedis decorates his first heroes.
First St. George's Cross recipients with Bangerskis and Briedis.

The Russian troops on the Riga front did not want to give up an important centre and feverishly prepared to defend it themselves. If a direct frontal attack on Riga was hardly conceivable, yet a manoeuvre across the Daugava to the south of Riga threatened the city with outflanking. There was therefore nervousness in the Russian staffs, among the troops, among the inhabitants. The events of October only increased this anxiety. The Germans came across the Misa at Plakani. To the south-west of Mangaļi they showed, a tendency to dig themselves in on an 'island' in the middle of the marsh. They had seized this as a stepping stone for a further advance.

On 23 October the commander of the 1st battalion was summoned to the Army HQ where the 2nd battalion commander, Lt.-Col. Francis, had been earlier. The Chief of Staff first of all enquired about the readiness of the battalion. The shortages in all branches had not decreased. Field kitchens were lacking, sets of warm underclothing were lacking; the rifles had been received only recently and there had not been time to complete the musketry drills. The 2nd battalion had even more shortages and it was decided to leave it behind; but the 1st battalion had to go up in the state that it was. Informed of the situation at the front, the Chief of Staff now said that activity could be anticipated in different directions. The most dangerous just then was at Plakani, from which it was approximately 10 kms to the Daugava, but to the Riga bridge 20 kms. It was essential to make a thorough reconnaissance in that direction. In the other direction between the Klīve forest area and the farmstead of Annas Muiža10 was also one of the shorter routes to Riga. The enemy tried to occupy the driest places in the marsh to the north of Mangaļi. The enemy's strength here, and also his aims, had to be ascertained. The Chief of Staff envisaged sending off a Latvian battalion in both directions, but since the 2nd was not ready for action the first would have to be divided, with two companies sent out in each direction. The companies were transported by rail to Pūpe or Olaine. 18  The divisional HQ would give further instructions and would try to eradicate the battalion's defects in equipment.

When the Colonel had returned and informed the commanders, he decided to send to Olaine the companies of Briedis and Ilziņš, while the companies of Burins and Dardzāns were to go off in the direction of Lake Babite, because Briedis and Būriņš, who was senior in rank, did not get on.

'You had to see with what delight the riflemen received the news of being sent to the front and how unhappy were those who had to stay in Riga', said the battalion commander. A year later it would be otherwise. But then the composition of the units would be different. In the evening Briedis' and Ilziņs' companies set out by train which was sent to the barracks, while the companies of Būriņš and Dardzāns made for Torņkalns Station. About an hour after their departure from the barracks a Zeppelin flew over Riga and dropped some bombs on the bridge of which one each fell at the ends of the bridge. The bridge itself and several passers-by were untouched. Since this was the first of such flights and coincided with the departure of the Latvian battalion for the fronts everybody, including of course Captain Bangerskis, considered that the Germans were remarkably well informed of what was happening on the Russian side and that the bombs had been aimed directly at the Latvians. Already during their training smoke had been seen coming from a chimney in Cize's Shipyard - a clear signal to the Germans that here were the Latvians . . . There are, of course, spies in wartime and the Germans would not be short of them. But of greater significance is the spy mania which pictures the enemy as much wiser and quicker to react than he is in reality. When Bangerskis appeared before the divisional commander in the Olaine region, the latter was pleased with the arrival of the Latvians and promised to use them in reconnaissance tasks.

Because of a roundabout route Bangerskis was delayed in his arrival at the divisional commander's HQ at Pūpe Station. To his great surprise the battalion commander was congratulated on the brilliant successes of the Latvian riflemen. When Bangerskis said to the divisional commander that the riflemen were intended only for reconnaissance, that their transport was not up to battle standard and that losses could have a bad effect on them, the general answered that he had indeed sent them out on a reconnaissance mission but, whether they had met a similar German patrol by chance, or whether it had been a German attempt to consolidate in a drier area, the Germans had attacked and the Latvians had beaten back their attack. Bangerskis hurried in the direction of Mangaji to his companies. When he arrived there after several hours, he was cheerfully informed: 'The Germans attacked us but we threw them back. We've had some losses, but in return we took a prisoner.'

Under Swedish copyright law, "Briedis," including all derivative works, remains under copyright by the original rights holder until 2067, regardless of copyright by Taylor and Francis of David Guild's translation. Our corrected and annotated version of that translation is reproduced by express permission of the late author's wife, Heather Guild. Without prejudice to other rights accorded, "Briedis" is presented here for informational, educational, and research purposes under §20. and §21. of Latvian copyright law and as a protected derivative work under §5. The Goppers archive resides in the Latvian National Library.

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