Riflemen’s Christmas battles remembered

Saturday marked 98 years since the Latvian riflemen’s battalion showed the world its incredible courage and valor in one of the largest and most decisive operations in Latvia during the First World War.

The Christmas battles are significant not just to Latvian but to Europe’s history as a whole. The fighting was some of the heaviest in all the period from 1915 to 1917. The battlefields of Babīte district were the site of some of the dramatic and deadly confrontations now commemorated with a memorial to the fallen of the Latvian Riflemen’s Battalion at Antiņi cemetery in the Tīrelis bog.

This tranquil spot preserves the events of 98 years ago. “These riflemen continue to serve in their duty. Here is where the spirit of the Latvian soldier was born,” said National Armed Forces (NBS) commander Raimonds Graube.

Though the outcome wasn’t to their hopes, the Latvian riflemen proved their heroism, willpower, fearlessness and love for their homeland and people, Minister of Defense Raimonds Vējonis told the gathered crowd.

Home Guard candidates from the Jelgava area also took part in the memorial events, solemnly declaring their oath of service.

In honor of the riflemen who gave their lives here, salutes were fired, candles lit and red roses laid at the memorial stone. Hundreds of people assembled here today, including members of the diplomatic corps affirming that Latvian soldiers no longer have to fight on their own.

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