British Naval operations in the Baltic  in 1919

"While Britain celebrated the armistice in November 1918 the Baltic States continued to struggle for their independence.German troops remained in occupation folowing the cessation of hostilities in western Europe and both the Bolsheviks and the "White" Russians refused to recognise the independence of the three Baltic States.Britain and her allies had already accorded the Baltic states recognition but it was not until the Armistice that it was possible to take steps to assist them...........from the outset British Naval forces were to prove vital to Latvia's struggle for Independence."

The British Embassy in Latvia


 Chronology of significant events in  Latvia

Under the terms of the armistice German troops were allowed to remain in the Baltic.

By September 3rd 1917 General Roediger von der Goltz Commander of the Iron Division  had moved his troops into Riga .

On 18th November 1918 Latvia proclaimed its independance.

 In December 1918 the Bolsheviks entered Latvia and not recognising Latvian  independence proceeded to take  control of most of Latvian territory.

In January 1919 The Red Army took Riga initiating "red terror". Food shortages and famine occurred.

In March 1919 General von der Goltz was able to win a number of victories over the Red forces and "liberate" Riga.

The German Army/Freikorps units  however, envisaged  Latvia as being under German control,a German province and base of operation in the war against the Soviets.

On 16th April 1919 inspired by German military leaders and Baltic German Aristocracy a coup d'etat was staged in an attempt to overthrow the Latvian Provisional Government .President Karlis Ulmanis sought refuge upon the SARATOV  a merchant vessel under the protection of the Royal Navy .

In July 1919  the Germans were forced to abandon Riga and  the Ulmanis Government returned .In the meantime the Red Army finding itself attacked from the North by the Estonians had withdrawn from Latvia.

The Allies intervened again at this time again insisting that the Germans also withdraw their forces from Latvia.General von der Goltz turned his troops over to General  Bermondt of the White Russian Army.

In October 1919 HMS Dragon ,a light cruiser,was part of an Anglo French  fleet send to Riga to support Latvian troops in a counterattack against these forces.

Information taken from

1.notes available at The War Museum in Riga.


The following from the Commander of the First Light Cruiser Squadron,Rear Admiral Walter Cowan's account of events as published in a supplement to the London Gazette 1920

"Towards the beginning of October..the German-Russian treat against Riga became acute and a bombardment of the town commenced.

"Abdiel..Vanoc..were there at the time also a French destroyer L'Aisne..Dragon was on her way out from England and I therefore diverted her there.

...I requested Commodore Brisson,The French senior naval Officer take charge..and to open fire on all positions within range of the left bank of the Dvina River at the time of my expiration of the time given in my ultimatum to Prince Avaloff Bermondt who was ostensibly in command of the troops occupying those positions and attacking Riga.

This Commador Brisson most faithfully did at noon on the 15th October apparently to the surprise of Bermondt who had...stated he was friendly to the Allies and was only resisting Bolshevism and disowned all connection with the Germans ..whose forces were in position ..with little shelter in some places less than one thousand yards from ours and the French ships,Bermondt having evidently assumed that his statements and arguments were sufficient to hoodwink me and delay our offensive action...this enabled the Lettish troops to cross the river in strength and with great enthusiasm after twenty six days fighting to sweep away all these Russo-German force..."

It was during these  bombardments on 17th October 1919 that HMS Dragon was struck by shore based shells killing the 9 members of the crew and wounding 4 others.

I have more information about these events on my new blog which will be updated regularly.



At War with the Bolsheviks: Allied Intervention into Russia 1917-1920 Robert Jackson 1972 ISBN 0854682651

Baltic Episode.  A classic of secret service in Russian waters by Captain Augustus Agar V.C.1963.

Freeing the Baltic.  Geoffrey Bennett 2002 ISBN 1 84341001 X

Ironmaze. The Western Secret Services and The Bolsheviks. Gordon Brook-Shepherd 1998 ISBN 0 333729560

NB. I have only recently purchased Ironmaze and have not read it fully but I am quite fascinated by all the background information on pages 196- 212 about the role of  Bermondt-Avalov (the Military freebooter and  "loose cannon") and Roediger von der Goltz who having been appointed on a Allied Mandate proved to be a worse headache than the Bolsheviks he had been sent to deal with.

The above link to Bermondt-Avalov will take you to my new blog. I'm fascinated by this man's involvement in these events and what happened to him after his time in the Baltic. It does appear that he didn't retire and go on to lead a quiet life!