Matt reports on the Expedition - October 2022
Old trench lines are opened
Monday 3rd October
Everyone arrived in Riga at various times from various countries, and as usual all met up for a catch up before we head off to Saldus in the morning.
Sadly due to various reasons including, Steve who got covid the day he was supposed to fly to Latvia and Jonny who was still working for Legenda in Ukraine, plus other members who tried, but couldn’t join the expedition due to other issues. The International group was a small but excellent team.
Tuesday 4th October
Myself, Anton and Michael headed to the airport to pick up our hire car up and headed out in to Western Latvia to join our Latvia friends where we meet for our expeditions.
We were met by our wonderful host Kristine and so the expedition began.
Expedition Day 1 - October 5th
The day was clear but windy when we headed out towards our first searching area, which was a very large field, where there had been a lot of fighting and where a house and homestead had once stood.
There was a rumour that a Soviet General had been buried in this field in a bath tub so our anticipation was high. The field was searched for hours by all of the Legenda crew and various interesting items were found, plus the usual relics and debris of war.
Sadly no bath tub was found. Later in the day we moved to another field location where a huge battle had taken place during the Second World War, with many thousands of soldiers being killed in a relatively small area. Again all we searched the battlefield area but no soldier remains were discovered, just the usual debris of war filled the field.
Unexploded Ordnance is gathered for removal and disposal
Day 2 - October 6th
We headed out early under cloudy skies, it was hours drive from Saldus to our destination.
The location was well know to Legenda, as it was were Latvian legionaries had held off a Soviet advance from both sides.
A book about this engagement was written by one of the Latvian survivors. We we tasked with finding some of the still missing legionaries.
A Soviet Hand grenade
A road ran through the wooded high ground where the Latvians made their stand from the attack, Soviet infantry came up from one end of the road and the other end of the road infantry with tanks, so they were surrounded. Standing there it was easy to see how daunting it must have been for those legionaries facing such an onslaught.
The search started and for a few hours nothing was found but then remains were discovered in the wooded area.
It soon became clear this wasn’t the remains of the legionnaires, but a Soviet field hospital, most likely set up after the battle.We recovered and exhumed the soldiers we found there.
Soviet Soldiers Found
Many had battle damage, and evidence of surgical operations, We also recovered wire tourniquets, but as with other previous Soviet field hospitals we have discovered, little or no military equipment, personnel kit or identity items were found. But they are missing no longer.
Mortar Round - Dangerous Find
We continued searching for the rest of the day but no other remains, be it Soviet or Latvian were found. We stopped off at the field we visited on day 1 again for a few hours on our way back as that bath tub general was such an interesting story we had to have another look, but again sadly we couldn’t find him, however a German officers cutlery kit was found plus a few other interesting items and again more ordnance was recovered and disposed of.
Day 3 - October 7th
This was an interesting day.
Legenda had been asked by a local municipality to remove the remains of some Soviet soldiers who were lying in a forgotten and vandalised grave site.
We arrived at this remote location and could see why they had requested this action.
It was totally overgrown, a sad place to see. We were happy to be helping keep these soldiers memories alive. The first discovery was a wooden coffin, which was a surprise.
We assumed it may hold a high ranking soldier. Then another coffin was recovered and the sad truth was exposed.
After large battles the dead were collected from the battlefield the transported by trucks to mass burial sites such as this one. It appears from the contents of the coffins that they contained not one soldier but various soldiers remains, so the sad assumption it that the coffins were used to transport the most badly damaged solders more easily to thier final resting place. We did find intact soldiers in the same grave lending weight to this theory.
We recovered all the soldiers from this site including one soldier with a numbered medal making it possible to now identify him. This was a very sad but rewarding day for Legenda.
Day 4 - 8th October
We returned to the same grave site in the morning just to be sure we had found and recovered all the soldiers in that location. No other soldiers were found. But a Soviet PPsH machine gun was found in the field not far from the grave site.
We searched the area around this site and concluded that it was not a battlefield as no relics of fighting were found anywhere in the surrounding area. But we did recover a lot of German ammunition in a near site and one of or diggers also recovered a German Kettenkrad trailer nearby lending weight to the theory this area may have been a German ammunition dump during the fighting.
Around lunchtime we headed out in to the forest to a battle location were many bunkers scattered the area and spent the rest of the last day searching the area for soldiers.
Sadly none were found but again the relics or war are still everywhere in the bunkers and forests of Latvia.
Day 5 - 9th October
Me, Anton and Michael were up early as we had a flight to catch.
A beautiful morning for driving through the countryside back towards Riga airport.
Another successful and interesting International expedition completed and early next year we will be doing it all again.