Some bits and pieces which don't quite fit into the other pages but are perhaps worth a mention.
the Freikorps vs the Soviets
Once the Freikorps got
themselves organised the Reds seem to have put up little fight. From a
gaming point of view it would seem that only the last Soviet offensive
around Jelgava in May would offer a large scale battle with realistic
competition from both sides. Other than that, the most promising games
would be small Freikorps attacks (a few companies only) against
stationary Soviet defenders in a small town. Some of these attacks
included Latvian and White Russian allied units.
the Battle of Cēsis
One faces a problem when gaming this conflict right at the start
– the poor performance of
the Iron Division compared to their opponents flies somewhat in the
face of the usual expectation that the Freikorps were excellent troops.
But let us ignore the generalist literature's classification of the
Baltikumers as "veteran" or "élite" (and its confusion
them and entirely different Freikorps defending against Spartacists or
insurgent Poles) and look at the facts in the Baltic.
Firstly, a lot of the men were not ex-veterans at all, or at least not
ex-front line veterans, and the units as a whole had not seen very much
real action. Motivation was lacking during the battle, since the Iron
Division's men did not see the Baltic Germans' political differences
with the Estonians as their fight (this is regardless of whether the
individual Germans were there to crusade against the Soviets, protect
Germany's borders, keep an army in being to oppose the Allies or merely
seeking their promised farms).
The Baltic Landeswehr in contrast did not lack motivation but too many
of their men were new recruits and in action they seemed to have the
classic signs of "green" troops – brave in the attack but
irresolute in defence.
Since the Estonians were able to hold their own, either they have to be
promoted to élite, or one has to accept that the Freikorps
just not that good. There is no doubt that the Estonian Army was
extremely motivated to beat the Germans and Balts, but they were
labouring under many disadvantages – their equipment was
sub-standard, many of their men were recently raised and their officers
and units had not been working together for very long. Taking that into
account, I cannot grade the ordinary line units, short on training and
experience, as “veteran”,
“crack” or whatever
your system goes up to, although I accept that the more experienced
units might rate as above average. The landing units from the trains were first rate.
Therefore I grade the Iron Division as average troops, with experience
partly compensating for poor morale. The more one raises the skill
level of the Freikorps, the more one has to down-grade the morale to
The Balts on the other hand should be graded as brave on the attack and
only average on the defence. The Reich German units mixed in with the
Landeswehr seem to have been the best troops and might justify veteran
status all round.
The Latvians were inexperienced troops, placed in an exposed position,
and subsequently broke, but enough of them remained to fight on that I
think they can reasonably be graded as average.
It would be hard to rate the Estonian artillery, and even more so the
Latvian, as much better than poor, given the handicaps they laboured
under. The Freikorps artillery would be a much higher grade, as
veterans manning familiar equipment, albeit not necessarily that
the Battle of Riga
By now that time it was clear,
despite later protestations to the contrary, that the Freikorps were
unwilling soldiers and only their desperate situation drove them on.
They cannot be classified as more than average troops, with the White
Russian units being worse (since any motivated men had long since transferred to Iudenich's army).
The bulk of the Latvians in contrast were highly motivated but lacked
anything other than rudimentary training. Some of the older units,
dating back to the Cesis campaign, would have a much higher skill level.
See the "Wargames"
section of this site
, where there are some notes on
the general organisation of the involved parties.
The Baltic states are ideal for
the operation of armour, since they are mostly flat and have a full
road network. The Freikorps, Latvian and Estonian armies all used a few
armoured cars in Latvia in 1919, often improvised ones made from truck
chassis and bristling with MGs. The huge difficulties of obtaining fuel
and replacement parts tended to reduce operational effectiveness, but
they could be decisive when they did appear. There is no indication
that any of the participants used tanks (the Estonian army had a few
FT-17s, lent by the Finns, but not when fighting the Freikorps).
Armoured trains were also used, but as with the Russian Civil War they
were not primarily assault weapons. Instead they were mobile artillery
platforms which could be rushed to the most threatened location, with
or without a "landing party". Although sometimes used in the front
line, the dramatic attack of the German improvised train during the
Battle of Cesis shows just how vulnerable they were to artillery.
Gamers tend to regard the destruction of an armoured train with rather
more equanimity than a historical general would and victory conditions
should heavily punish the loss of such a valuable weapon.
Do not believe the fanciful
reports of the Freikorps having squadron after squadron of air support.
It seems that after the Great War armistice that a large number of
from the Allies in Latvia, but this was
with the intention of avoiding their destruction for the impending
resumption of the war against the Allies. Pilots and support crews also
hid out, but it seems that most of them returned to Germany fairly
early, when it became clear that the war was over for good.
Reports of duels with Soviet planes should also be taken with a grain
of salt: it is clear that the Freikorps had total air superiority and
it would have been a very brave Red flyer who would have risked
tangling with the enemy, even assuming the Soviets sent any planes to a
Later it is clear that the Freikorps' ability to put serviceable planes
in the air was increasingly reduced by their inability to get decent
fuel, lubricant and parts. The Estonian accounts make it clear that all
through the period of the Cesis fighting the German planes were used as
spotters and for message delivery, but not much else other than an
occasional nuisance bomb. Even then they kept crashing. The Estonian
versions credit this to ground fire, but if that is the case then the
Estonian infantry must have been about the best anti-aircraft shooters
ever seen, and I believe we can safely blame the crashes to poor
airworthiness. Similarly, during the battles around Riga there were
German planes, which even harassed the Allied warships, but they were
unable to exert any decisive influence on the fighting.
Only very late were the Latvians able to field a few planes.
The odds of enemy planes meeting over a land battle were vanishingly
small, so dogfights can be ruled out of tabletop games.
Strafing was also not common on the battlefield: the difficulty of
identifying friend from foe was too great, even supposing the pilot was
brave enough to fly an unreliable plane low enough to shoot his
Yes I know that this spoils what seems like a good chance to use WWI
planes in your games, but the fact is that the few planes were not used
much in ground attack, especially while the sides were actively