British supply of small-arms ammunition to Latvia 1919

I found this whilst looking through some British Cabinet Papers. It is from the minutes (No 630) of full War Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister in London on October 14th, 1919. My apologies if it is a bit recondite but the Baltic States have always seemed quite interesting ammunition-wise.

The area was in ‘a state of flux’ with considerable German forces still operating there. The British had a naval detachment in the area actively engaged against Bolshevik Russia whilst the German forces were the best bulwark to prevent the irruption of Russian forces into the area, being well trained, well armed, motivated and on the spot. Quite why the British were trying to subvert them I can’t quite remember for now but I do recall that at least one delivery of ammunition was dumped into the sea at some point.

Interesting that they have the gall to put a monetary value on what were captured goods.

Happy collecting, Peter

NB edited twice, once for shoddy spelling and once for a gross misrepresentation of historical and geographic fact.

The use of “L” to define the currency is interesting. The Latvian Lats currency didn’t come in until 1922. In 1919 it was the Latvian Ruble.

It may be an archaic use of the British £ sign which is actually an “L” (latin, Lucre = money) but I would have thought 1919 would have been a bit late to still be using it in that form.

And I always thought the British £ (or L) sign was short for Lb., abbreviation for Pound, and that the monetary Pound started as a literal quantity of value, such as the value of a pound of silver. I learn something new every day.

The Use of the Stylised “L” ( whether in the “Pound Sterling” sign or the Italic L, is a short for the Latin “Libra” ( French Livre) meaning a Roman Pound-weight…used for value of Silver in Ancient times.

IN medieval times, the relationship to actual weight of bars of Silver was dropped, and Silver coins used to a set mass ( determined by the King) was used. ( proper Coinage). But this was subject to both “shaving” (filing off to reduce the actual mass, and recycling the shavings–done more often with Gold),and counterfeiting; thus “Money changers” also used scales to confirm the actual mass of Coins, so that a true exchange could be given.

The Livre/Libra/Pound symbol held over, and was used in British Coinage and Accounting; The French maintained the “Livre” until the French Revolution when the “Franc” on the Gold standard was adopted.
The Italians adopted the “Lira” ( corruption of “Libra”) only after the unification of Italy ( 1861); the Franc was equivalent to the Lira in Italy for the first years,( Murray’s Guide to Northern Italy-1866) and then
eventual devaluation etc led to a change in Exchange rate.

The anomaly in British coinage was the Gold Guinea ( 21 shillings, or One Pound one shilling) which was both Coined, and a figure of accounting. It was always a currency of the Higher classes, used for Buying Bloodstock, Professional services, etc. and although the coinage (in Gold) has disappeared, Fees of Doctors (Specialists) & Lawyers, and prices of Race Horses,( and Art) are still given in Guineas.

But getting back to the Italic L as a sign for Pounds Sterling…Typesetting in 1919 was still a developing art, and the interchangeable use of the Italic L and the properly Barred L was still common. Also the placement of the L at the end of the figures, rather than the Barred L at the beginning ( as is common today).

Getting back to the .303 etc ammo supplied to the Baltic States in 1919.

Britain offloaded thousands of Long Lee Enfields, P14s and Ross Rifles to the Three Baltic Staes, Estonia getting mostly the .303 calibre rifles, but Lithuania and Latvia also getting some. Lithuania and Latvia also got many Mosin Nagants and Mausers, ( From Germans and Russians);
Until the mid-1920s, when various Border area disputes were settled,
German Units were situated in the Baltic States Border areas, both to counter the Bolsheviks to the east, and to assure German Borders to the south( East Prussia) and the New Borders with Poland.
Most of these German Units were “FreiKorps” ( Free Corps) much like the modern “Military Contractors” ( ie, mercenaries) formed from disbanded regular German Units, with a strong Anti-Bolshevik sympathies.

Rather than Fight the Freikorps, the Ammo (7,9mm) was more to enable the National Forces of Latvia to replace the Germans, and maintain sovreignty.

AS with most matters of Eastern Europe, ( esp in the Post 1918 period) the British had very little information and less understanding of the Politics of the area.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

Peter, interesting information. I have a related document which describes how this order finally end up in Latvia and the amminition value is clearly described as £16,000. One million rounds were dispatched on October 18 on the H.M.S. Dunedin cruiser. It also says that a further consigment of 2.5 million round (from the first order) and 10,000 rifles, 1,400 machine guns and a new oder of 18 million rounds is awaiting shipment.