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Post Info TOPIC: Latvian tanks


Legend

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Latvian tanks
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The enclosed photo shows a parade of Latvian tanks (supposedly in the late 1930s). The tanks are one Mk V and two Medium Bs. Has any one an idea about how and when these reached Latvia? The Mk V could have been one of the tanks used to support the Estonians ( as some of these were passed to Latvia after the conflict) but as far as I know all those tanks were heavies - so where did the two mediums come from? I thought that these were only deployted in Russia.

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Brigadier

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Hello Robert,

Here are some quotes from an article by Thorleiff Ohlsen, which should shed some light on the Mk V and Mk B histories in Latvia.

QUOTE:
In August of 1919 a British tanksquad arrived to Tallinn, consisting of 6 Mk V "Composite" tanks. These were provided to support General Nikolai Judenitsj White Russian army's attack on Petrograd. The left sponsor were armed with a 57mm gun, and the right sponsor with a machinegun on all 6 tanks. The tanks were named; "Brown Bear", "Brown Bear II", "Capt. Cromie", "Deliverance", "First Aid" and "White Soldier". The training of White-Russian tank crews had begun, but when the tanks first saw combat in September/October of 1919 they had mostly British crews. The British tanks played an important role in General Judenitsj offensive on Petrograd and saw intensive combat, however they were often abandoned by the following White-Russian infantry supporting them.
Later, some Swedish volunteers replaced the White-Russian infantry and performed very well.
Quote from Einar Lundborgs memoirs: "...the 6 British tanks operated with precision and had an enormous morale and combat effect on both sides during the offensive on Petrograd..."
However, on October 25th of 1919, Judenitsj offensive on Petrograd collapsed and the whiteguardist troops fled. As the offensive failed, the tanks were quickly transported back into Estonia by rail. Estonia were later allowed to keep 4 tanks, while the 2 remaining vehicles were handed over to Latvia. The 4 Estonian tank were named: "Uku", "Vahtula", "Valdaja" and "Päälik".

After the collapse of General Judenitsj offensive on Petrograd (see Estonian section), 2 of the British Mk V Composite tanks were sent to Latvia. Shortly thereafter, Latvia was provided with another Mk V and 2 Medium B tanks. This was in late 1919.
None of them saw any action in the freedom fight. Later on, a Tank Department was established and training of crews began. When the Tank Department was formed, it was commanded by Captain Sirokome-Vasilevich.
The tanks were named as follows:
Mk V Composite #9116 "Minstr. Pres. Ulmanis."
Mk V Composite #9369 "Generalis Balodis."
Mk V Composite #9147 "Generalis Burt's."
Medium Mk B     #1209 "Latgalietis."
Medium Mk B     #1615 "Vidzemnieks."
UNQUOTE.

Here's a picture I shot in the Riga War Museum of the Generalis Balodis.

all the best,
Michel.


 



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Legend

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Michel Boer wrote:


 Shortly thereafter, Latvia was providwith another Mk V and 2 Medium B tanks. This was in late 1919.

Thanks Michel. Do you know if they were supplied direct from the UK or were they survivors from the Noth Russia campaign?

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Brigadier

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I'm not very much believing the option that they came from the British army in the North (Murmansk/Archangelsk region); they would have had to be moved through Finland or Red army territories. Both were likely to have kept/confiscated them, so I'm not betting on that one.

They were neither mentioned as being used by Yudenich and after that taken by the Estonians (who disarmed Yudenich's army upon it's retreat from the Petrograd fighting). It's most likely that they were delivered by the British. They might have been intended for Yudenich army's use and simply arrived too late. During late 1919, the Latvians were fighting off German forces and were supported actively on land by Estonian forces (hence the two ex-Yudenich mk V's from Estonia) and on sea by the British navy. The Royal navy was in Riga port and the Riga gulf, using naval artillery to shell the Germans in support of Latvian offensives. This makes it probable that the Mk B's were discharged in Riga and handed to the Latvians, although I have no firm data on that matter.

all the best,
Michel.



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