by Shawn Bohannon

As the Allies increased pressure on Germany to withdraw its troops from the Baltic, Generalmajor Graf von der Goltz of Generalkommando VI Reservekorps stalled for time during the summer of 1919 as he sought a means of continuing the quest to carve out a German enclave in the region. He recognized just such an opportunity in Colonel Prince Pavel Mikhailovich Avalov-Bermondt. A Russian adventurer and self-styled aristocrat, Avalov-Bermondt had taken command of the White Russian forces in Courland from Prince Anatolii Pavlovich Liven (who had commanded a battalion in the Baltische Landeswehr) when that officer left in late June 1919 to join the Northwestern White Army based in Estonia. By transferring the German volunteer units to Russian command, Graf von der Goltz reasoned the campaign could continue while, at the same time, placating the Allies and his own government. Despite the utter transparency of the scheme, the German government agreed it would have no authority over a private, Russian controlled army.

Faced with the prospect of economic sanctions, the German government finally bowed to Allied demands and ordered its Baltic volunteers home. However, the reaction amongst German “Baltikumers” to the recall order from Reichspräsident Friedrich Ebert (whose government had accepted the despised Treaty of Versailles) was not, in retrospect, entirely surprising. On 24 Aug 1919, the Eiserne Division revolted in Mitau and refused to return to Germany. The next day, various Freikorps leaders gathered in the city and established the Deutsche Legion. On 21 Sept 1919, Generalmajor Graf von der Goltz officially handed over command of the German volunteers to Colonel Prince Avalov-Bermondt. Thus, the unique Freiwillige Russische Westarmee (also Freiwillige Deutsch-Russische Westarmee) was born with a Russian colonel in titular command and Graf von der Goltz continuing to pull the strings in the background.


Colonel Prince Pavel Mikhailovich Avalov-Bermondt (Sep 1919-18 Nov 1919) (1)
Generalleutnant Walther von Eberhardt (19 Nov 1919-Dec 1919) (2)

Chief of Staff

Colonel Tchaikovsky

Order of battle (25 October 1919)

Stab Freiwillige Russische Westarmee
- Stabskompanie
- Eskorten-Eskadron (mounted)
- Kommandeur der Flieger
-- 1. Flieger-Abteilung
-- 2. Flieger-Abteilung
-- Fliegerpark
- Bau-Abteilung Mauritius
- Armee-Fernsprech-Kommandeur/Armee-Funker-Kommandeur
-- Bau-Abteilung
-- Betriebs-Abteilung
-- schweren Funker-Abteilung
- Gruppenführer der Kraftwagen
-- Armee-Kraftwagen-Kolonne (10 x trucks)
- Armee-Kolonne 1
- Geschirr-Depot
- Waffen- und Geräte-Depot
- Geheime Feldpolizei
- Proviant-Amt
- Feldpost 383
- Instandsetzungs-Werkstatt
- Pionierpark
- Munitions-Depot
- Feldbäckerie-Kolonne 1203
- Aa-Flottille
- Bekleidung-Depot
- Sanitäts-Depot
- Gouvernement Mitau: Oberst Schneidemann
I. Russisches Westkorps (Korps Graf Keller): Colonel Polocki (Generalstabs-Offizier: Colonel Bolecki)
- 1. Plastunsche-Regiment (I.-III. MG-Abteilung Kraft): Major General Bilinsky (1)
- 2. Plastunsche-Regiment (1 x battalion, unnumbered): Katshanov
- Artillerie-Kommandeur: Colonel Kolman
-- 1. leichten Artillerie-Division (1.-3.): Barishnikov
-- 2. leichten Artillerie-Division (4.-6., MG-Abteilung): Gamrat-Kureck
-- schweren Feldhaubitze-Batterie
- 1. Eskadron/1. Kavallerie-Regiment
- Kommandeur der Pioniere
-- Pionier-Kompanie
- Gruppen-Nachrichten-Kommandeur
-- Korps-Fernsprech-Abteilung
-- Korps-Funker-Abteilung
- Panzerwagen-Abteilung (in transport)
- Korps-Kolonne
- Pferdelazarett
- Sanitäts-Kompanie
- Feldlazarett 1
- Feldlazarett 2
- Proviant-Amt
- Munitions-Depot
- Artillerie-Depot
- Kreishauptmann Talssen: Kapitänleutnant Wendt
-- Wirtschafts-Kompanie
- Kommandeur der Ersatzformationen: Colonel Belewitz
-- I. Ersatz-Bataillon + Ersatz-Pionier-Kompanie
-- II. Ersatz-Bataillon
-- Kavallerie-Schützen-Eskadron
II. Russisches Westkorps (Korps Virgolich): Colonel Virgolich
- Nachrichten-Zug
- Wirtschafts-Kompanie
- 1. Offiziers-MG-Kompanie
- 1. Schützen-Regiment (I. & II.) (4)
- 1. Reiter-Regiment (1.-3., Kavallerie-Zug von Petersdorff)
- 1. Artillerie-Regiment (1. & 2., Infanterie Begleit-Batterie d. Gruppe von Petersdorff)
- 2. Pionier-Kompanie
- Flieger-Abteilung (6 x aircraft)
- Kraftwagen-Kolonne (5 x trucks)
- Kolonne Bienenstamm
- Kolonne Kopermann
- Kolonne Schubert
- Sanitäts-Abteilung
- Feldlazarett
- Polizei-Eskadron (mounted)
Eiserne Division: Major Josef Bischoff (Generalstabs-Offizier: Hauptmann Biese)
- 1. Kurländisches Infanterie-Regiment (I.-III.): Major von Lossow
- 2. Kurländisches Infanterie-Regiment (I.-IV.): Major von Bomhard
- 3. Kurländisches Infanterie-Regiment (I.-III., MG-Bataillon): Hauptmann Kiewitz
- Kurländisches Jäger-Battalion: Oberleutnant Büchner
- MG-Scharfschützen-Abteilung 1
- Kurländisches Kavallerie-Regiment (1.-5.): Major Graf von Kanitz
- Artillerie-Kommandeur: Major Sixt von Arnim
-- Kurländisches Feldartillerie-Regiment (I.-III.)
-- Kurländisches Fußartillerie-Bataillon (Batterie Baden & Zug Feuerherd)
- Kommandeur der Pioniere: Hauptmann Damitz
-- 1. Kompanie
-- 2. Kompanie
-- Brücken-Bau-Abteilung
-- Brücken-Train
- Eisenbahn-Betriebs-Kompanie
- Flieger-Abteilung 429
- Divisions-Nachrichten-Kommandeur
-- Divisions-Fernsprech-Abteilung
-- Divisions-Funker-Abteilung
-- Abhörstelle
- Panzerwagen-Abteilung
- Divisions-Kraftwagen-Kolonne 097
- Staffelstab der Eiserne Division: Rittmeister von der Lancken
-- Fuhrpark-Kolonne Werner
-- Fuhrpark-Kolonne Körner
-- Feldschlächterie-Abteilung
-- Feldbäckerie-Kolonne 1208
-- Pferdelazarett
-- Pferde-Depot
-- Feldlazarett 1201
-- Freiwilligen Feldlazarett 130
-- Krankentransports-Abteilung 201
- Polizei-Bataillon: Hauptmann Fuhrmann
- Bahnschutz-Kompanie (Eisenbahn-Kompanie Mitau)
- Eisenbahn Gendarmerie-Trupp (mounted)
- 2. Wirtschafts-Kompanie
- Fluß-Flottille
- Munitions-Depot
- Geräte-Depot
- Bekleidung-Depot
- Proviant-Amt
- Ersatz-Depot: Major Goez
- 9 x Ortskommandanturen (I-IX)
Deutsche Legion: Charakter als Kapitän zur See z.D. Paul Siewert (5) (Generalstabs-Offizier: Hauptmann Otto Wagener)
- Stabskompanie
- Nachrichten-Kompanie Worter
- Melderreiterzug (mounted)
- Infanterie-Kommandeur: Major Götze
-- Badisches Sturm-Bataillon
-- MG-Scharfschützen-Abteilung Damm
-- Regiment Baltenland
-- Detachement von Weickhmann
-- Abteilung von Jena
-- Detachement von Brandis
-- Abteilung von Medem
-- Detachement Stever
- Kavallerie-Eskadron von Brandis
- Kavallerie-Eskadron Baltenland
- Kavallerie-Eskadron von Weickhmann
- Artillerie-Kommandeur: Major Mielentz
-- (Artillerie-Abteilung) von Medem (2 x batteries, unnumbered)
-- (Artillerie-Abteilung) von Brandis (1.-3.)
-- (Artillerie-Abteilung) Stever (1.-3.)
-- (Artillerie-Abteilung) von Weickhmann (1.-3.)
-- (Artillerie-Abteilung) von Jena (3 x batteries, unnumbered)
-- Batterie Schröder
- 2. Flieger-Division
- Kraftwagen-Kolonne (3 x trucks)
- P.K. 1
- P.K. 2
- Proviant-Amt
- Feldintendantur
- Panzerzug Siewert
- Gendarmerie-Abteilung (mounted)
- Feldpost der Deutsche Legion
- Feldpost 3075
- Feldbäckerie-Kolonne 311
Gruppe von Plehwe (Freikorps Plehwe): Hauptmann der Reserve Karl von Plehwe
- 2. Garde-Reserve-Regiment (I.-III.)
- Freiwilliges Jägerkorps Goldingen: Hauptmann der Reserve Berding
- Kavallerie-Zug von Plehwe
- Kavallerie-Eskadron Schw. Jägerkorps
- Kurländische-Abteilung (4. & 7.)/1. Garde-Reserve-Feldartillerie-Regiment
- 2. Batterie/Garde-Fußartillerie-Regiment
- Fuhrpark-Kolonne 1204
- Polizei-Kompanie
- Geheime Feldpolizei (mounted)
- Depot-Kompanie
- Proviant-Amt
- Reserve-Artillery (2 x batteries, one of which was Russian)
- Panzerzug V
Freikorps (Freiwilligen-Sturmabteilung) Roßbach: Leutnant Gerhard Roßbach (6)
- 1 x infantry battalion
- 1 x MG detachment
- 1 x cavalry squadron
- 1 x pioneer platoon
- 3 x 77mm guns
- 1 x 150mm howitzer
- 1 x searchlight platoon
- 1 x armored car

Notable members

Generalleutnant Alfred Kurz (in the Deutsche Legion)
Karl von Plehwe (holder of the Prussian Pour le Mérite Order)
Leutnant der Reserve August Raben (fighter pilot with four victories to his credit in World War I; served on the staff of the Kommandeur der Flieger of the Freiwillige Russische Westarmee)
General der Fallschirmtruppe Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke (in Freikorps von Brandis/Deutsche Legion)
Generalmajor z.V. & SA-Gruppenführer Dr. phil. h.c. Otto Wagener (in the Deutsche Legion)
(the ranks are the highest ranks reached in the Third Reich era)


Members of the Freiwillige Russische Westarmee wore a distinctive white metal Maltese cross, covered with matte lacquer or black enamel, pinned to the left upper breast. Additionally, the Russian Orthodox Cross in white was worn on the left uniform sleeve above the elbow.

The I. Russisches Westkorps (Korps Graf Keller) and the II. Russisches Westkorps (Korps Virgolich) had an eight-pointed white cross worn on the left sleeve below the elbow. It is unknown if this insignia continued to be worn after the corps were integrated into the Freiwillige Russische Westarmee.

At least some German officers serving in the Freiwillige Russische Westarmee are known to have worn Imperial Russian uniform accouterments: shoulder boards of rank and oval hat cockade bearing the Romanov colors of white, orange and black.


1. Although Avalov-Bermondt surrendered tactical control of the army to the Germans, he apparently remained, at least on paper, in titular command. In his post-war memoirs, Avalov-Bermondt notes he formally resigned command of the army in Berlin on 24 Dec 1919. Perhaps typical of the man, he had also promoted himself to the rank of Major General on 1 Dec 1919.
2. Generalleutnant Walther von Eberhardt (19 Nov 1919-Dec 1919) (Succeeded Generalmajor Rüdiger Graf von der Goltz to command of the VI. Reservekorps on 12 Oct 1919. Upon Avalov-Bermondt’s resignation from field command, von Eberhardt assumed de facto, if not titular, leadership of the fractured Freiwillige Russische Westarmee.
3. III. Abteilung composed of German troops under Lütkenhaus or Lütgenhaus (formerly Freiwilligen Bataillon Lütkenhaus/Lütgenhaus of the Baltische Landeswehr).
4. II. Abteilung composed of German troops under von Petersdorff (formerly MG-Scharfschützen-Abteilung Petersdorff). This volunteer unit had served in the Baltic since Feb 1919 with the 1. Garde-Reserve-Division and then the Eiserne Division.
5. Siewert was killed by a Latvian civilian near Zoden on 16 Nov 1919. His chief of staff, Hauptmann Otto Wagener, assumed command of the Deutsche Legion.
6. Arrived in Latvia in Nov 1919 after a forced march of over 1,200 miles from Germany. Freikorps Roßbach broke through to the encircled Eiserne Division near Thorensberg and held off the Latvians until Bischoff’s men could escape the cauldron.

Sources used

Research by Shawn Bohannon

Reference material on this unit

Forschungsanstalt für Kriegs- und Heeresgeschichte/Reichskriegsministeriums – Darstellungen aus den Nachkriegskämpfen deutscher Truppen und Freikorps. Band 3: Die Kämpfe im Baltikum nach der zweiten Einnahme von Riga (Juni bis Dezember 1919)
Prince Pavel Mikhailovich Avalov-Bermondt – Im Kampf gegen den Bolschewismus (memoirs)