LITHUANIA DURING WORLD WAR I
GERMAN FIELD POST : INTRODUCTION
The fieldpost offices - 'Feldpoststationen' - were established more or less at a fixed place. Wolf Röttger gives in his articles an overview of these numbered field post offices, located in present Lithuania.
Other than the stationary 'Feldpoststationen' there were also mobile 'Feldexpeditionen' for the divisions. Postmarks of these 'Feldpostexpeditionen' are more difficult to locate: you have to know where the military unit was at that time. For Lithuania there is an overview of thes units in the Handbook of Fugalevičius.
A level higher than the divisions were the 'Feldpostämter'.
German Fieldpost office marks included the number of the fieldpost office or a indication of the unit.
For the enemy this was too helpful, so from 15 February 1917 is decided to give the fieldpostoffices new postmarks and numbers (650 - 1021). These postmarks must be used for registered letters, value-sendings.
For the other post were used the old postmarks with the data removed by punching it out:: only 'Kais. Deutsche Feldpost' or 'K.D. Feldpost' or 'D. Feldpost' or 'Feldpost', and the date.
Sometimes even the 'punching'-postmarks could located, so from oktober 1917 postmarks were also changed between units and fieldpost offices.
From beginning 1917 new postmarks were also introduced in the fieldpost-offices: at the top 'Deutsche Feldpost' and date, sometimes 1-3 stars and a character.
GERMAN FIELD POST : VILNIUS
Outside the post for the civilian population -Postgebiet Ob. Ost. - the German Field-post for the army functioned also. Many troops had been stationed in Vilnius. Also the provisioning of the
10th Army went by way of Vilnius and so also the post. The field-post of the 10th Army was established October 1915 in Vilnius.
Further three field-post-stations, of which more data are known, has functioned in Vilnius: No. 166, 171 and 282.
After the occupation of Vilnius also the Armee Ober Kommando of the 10th Army - AOK10 -, the Army Headquarters, moved on September 18, 1915 from Kaunas (Kowno) to Vilnius (Wilna) and the address in Vilnius became: Uferstrasse 4.
On June 13, 1918 the staff moved to Minsk.
About the Army Headquarters of the 10th Army:
- Das Oberkommando der 10. Armee / W.D. Röttger. - In: Postgebiet Ob. Ost 1987-88 ; Nr. 18-19. - p. 11-17
Original print size of this image: 14,029 x 9,305 cm (is something more as the postal item).
This picture and all pictures below on this page, if not mentioned otherwise: scanned about 300 dpi. Then set right and cut out - noted the actual print size-, resized 25 % of this image and saved as jpg.
The unit-postmark - a unit of the 10th Army,
The fieldpost-stations 166 and 171 had been employed by the 40 th Reserve-Corps and with this marched from the area Wilkowischki-Mariampole. The 40th Reserve-corps was one of the four corpses of the 10th Army. The 10th Army was composed of the 1th Army Corps, the 3th Reserve Army-corps, the 21th Army corps and the 40th Reserve Army-corps.
Field-post station 166:
The first (known) postmark from Vilnius is 30-9-1915, and the latest is 25-12-1918.
The picture-side of the card.
Other fieldpost-stations in Vilnius:
Field-post station 171: From the end of September to the end of October in Vilnius (no exact data). In the weeks before this Field-post station was in Kaunas, after that in Soly.
Field-post station 282: This is the field-post office of the Etappen-Inspection 10', which in April 1916 came to Vilnius, and with that also the field-post. The first postal item from Vilnius is with the date 10-5-1916. This Etappen-Inspection 10 has been incorporated in the Militär-Gouvernement Litauen in the beginning of August and changed then in Feld-Intendantur. Also field-post station no. 282 went to the Gouvernement, and stayed in Vilnius. The last known postal item is with the date 4-12-1918.
Further many field-post offices for the marching troops were short or long in Vilnius, but about this I have not found exact data.
Other field-post stations, which (temporarely) functioned in Vilnius: No. 74: last half 1917 to the end of the war
No. 169 en 173: short time in 1915
No. 226 en 229: last half 1917 to the end of the war
From beginning 1917 new postmarks were also introduced in the fieldpost-offices: at the top 'Deutsche Feldpost' and date, sometimes 1-3 stars and a character. Here a card with the new postmark, but the sender has written 'Wilna d. 12.10.17, so it is clear a card from Vilnius.
The sender-indication: Res.In.Rgt. 103 I.Komp. (?)
On the picture-side of this card the statue of Michail Nicolajevitsj Muravjev in Vilnius.
On May 1, 1863, he is appointed to Governor-General of the North-West territories with authorities for put down the Polish-Lithuanian rebellion of 1863.
The Russians were very proud on him and on may 1, 1901, the Russian city МОЖЕИКИ [MOZHEIKI], Mažeikiai in present Lithuania is in renamed in МУРАВЬЕВО [MURAVEVO].
Before the occupation of Vilnius by the Germans, the statue is dismantled and transported further in Russia (St. Petersburg ?). After that the track is not (yet) to find back.
About the statue of Michail Nicolajevitsj Muravjev in Vilnius in Baedeker 1914 (p. 38):
"The Palace (Pl. B,3), occupied by the archbishops in the 16-18th cent., is now the residence of the Governor-General. Here also is the Muravyév Museum, with reminiscences of Count M. Muravyév, who was Governor of Vilna in 1863-65 and suppressed the Polish revolt (entrance through the office of the Governor-General, Dvortzóvaya 6, first floor). In front of it is a bronze statue, by Gryaznov (1898), of Count Muravyév (Pl. 2)."
Another card, now with fieldpostmark one star and serialletter a.
The card is clearly sent from Vilnius: written placename Wilna by the sender.
The picture is also Vilnius: marching into Vilnius by German troops.
2th INFANTRY DIVISION
No postmark on this card, but -with a picture from Vilnius- apparent yet field-post from Vilnius.
Original print size of this image: 14,486 x 9,178 cm
(is something more as the postal item).
We know that Vilnius is conquered by the 10th Army, that was divided in four Army-corpses, under these the First Armycorps.
The composition of this First Armycorps, just before the war- I have find on Internet
Every Army-corps was composed of two divisions. Every division was composed of two brigades, and every brigade was composed of two regiments.
The 1th armycorps:
| 1th Army-
|1th Division||1th Brigade||1th Regiment|
|2th Brigade||43th Regiment|
|2th Division||3th Brigade||4th Regiment|
|4th Brigade||33th Regiment|
The indication of the army-unit of the sender, resized 50 %.
When we look to the hand-written indication of the unit, we see on the end 'I Korp', above this 'II Division'. At the top you can read 'R. 44' (Regiment), and then Brigade- is not clear to read. So the Brigade must be 3th Infantry Brigade. The 44th Regiment was a part of 3th Infantry Brigade, which was part of 2th Infantry Division. This division -a part of the first Armycorps- was a unit withhin the 10th Army, the Army which conquered Vilnius.
Germany was before the war divided in 24 Army-Corps-Districts and the 1th Army-Corps was quartered in the Army-Corps-district Eastern Prussia, with Headquarters in Königsberg and garrisons Insterburg, Memel and Tilsit. With the start of the war the first Armycorps belonged to the 8th Army under command of Generaloberst Paul von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg.
Front of the card, the 'Grüne Brücke,
Wilno' (Green bridge, Vilnius).
Information about the military units is also in a table from: Der Weltkrieg 1914-1918. - Achter Band. - Berlin, 1932. - p. 524.
In the table you see that in the beginning of september 1915 the 2nd division (I.D. = Infanterie Division, Infantry Division), in peacetime part of the first Armycorps, was placed in the 10th Army (10. Armee). This division was active in the battle of Vilnius and was involved then in operations north of Vilnius
Also -according the table- part of the 10th Army:
- 31th and 42th Infantry Divisions: both belonging to the XXI th Army-corps
- 42, 58, 87, 89 and 115 Infantry Divisions
- 3th Reserve-division, 76th Reservedivision, 79th Reservedivision and 14 th LandwehrDivision: all belonging to the XXXX th Reserve-corps under command of general Litzman
- 77 Reserve-division
- 10, 14, 16 Landwehr-Divisions, ugraded with 6 Landwehr-Brigade
- Divisie Senfer upgraded with Brigade Monteton, Abteilung Gsebed (?)
The here mentioned 'Infantry-divisions' numbered from 83 to 89 were not formed by active troops.
31th INFANTRY DIVISION
According the table also the 31th Infantry Division was a unit of the 10th Army. From 1912 the 31th Division was subordinated to the XXI th Army Corps. This XXI Armeekorps was between 4-4-1915 and 2-1-1917 under command of Generalleutnant von Hutier. The XXI Armeecorps was composed of the 31 th Infantry Division and the 42 Infantry Division.
With the Armycorps the 31th Infabtry Division passed the river Nemunas near Prienai, and marched north of Vilnius.
Here a card, sent via the 'Feldpostexpedition der 31 Infanterie-Division'.
Original print size of this image: 14,867 x 9,610 cm (is something more as the postal item).
The picture side of the card.
On the card:
Antokol is an old suburb of Vilnius, eatern part of the city along the right bank of the Neris river.. Antokol is the Polish name, in Lithuanian Antakalnis, 'the place on the hills'.
From 2 august 1914 the 31th Division is redesignated the 31th Infantry Division, with the folowing composition:
- 32. Infanterie-Brigade with as component parts the 8. Rheinisches Infanterie-Regiment nr. 70 and 10. Lothringisches Infanterie-Regiment nr. 174
- 62. Infanterie-Brigade, with as component parts Infanterie-Regiment Markgraf Carl (7. Brandenburgisches) nr. 60,
and 2. Unter-Elsässisches Infanterie-Regiment nr. 137, and Infanterie-Regiment Hessen-Homburg nr. 166
- Ulanen-Regiment Grossherzog Friedrich von Baden (Rheinisches) nr. 7
- 31. Feldartillerie-Brigade with as component parts 1. Unter-Elsässisches Feldartillerie-Regiment nr. 31 and 2. Unter-Elsässisches Feldartillerie-Regiments nr. 67
- 1. Kompanie/2.Rheinisches Pionier-Bataillon nr. 27
76th RESERVE DIVISION
Card with the postmark of 76th Reserve Division, mentioned in the table above as unit of the 10th Army.
Original print size of this image: 14,258 x 9,356 cm (is something more as the postal item).
The 76th Reserve Division -belonging to the XXXX th Reserve Corps- was also unit of the 10th Army (according the table above) and take part in the battle of Kaunas and then marched along the river Neris (Wilija) and take part in the battle of Vilnius.
Thereafter, from november 1915 to september 1916, the Division was near Riga. Then the division moved from the Baltic to Romania.
The picture side of this card.
The text on the card:
'From the Eastern battlefields. Vilnius. The first colums cross the Wilija-river.
The XXXX th Reserve Corps was in the period 24-12-1914 to 6-8-1918 under command of General der Infanterie Litzmann.
During the war the composition of the divisions changed, but on 29 december 1914 units of the 76th Division were:
- the 76th Infantry--Brigade with as component parts the Reserve-Infantry-Regiments nr, 252, 253 and 254 (the whole period to 1 january 1918). Also the 76th Reserve-Radfahrer-Kompagnie (Bicycle) (later 76th Reserve-Radfahrer -Abteilung) was a unit of this Brigade.
- 76th Reserve-Kavallerie-Abteilung
- 76th Reserve-Feldartillerie-Brigade with as component parts the 56th and 58th Reserve-Feldartillerie-Regiments
- 76th and 77th Reserve-Pionier-Kompanie
14th LANDWEHR DIVISION
Card with the postmark of the fieldpostexpedition of the 14th Landwehr Division, also unit of the XXXX Reserve Corps and subordinated to the 10th army according the table above.
The 46 th Landwehr Brigade, subordinated to the 14th Landwehr Division, was the first German unit marching into Vilnius, under command of count Pfeil.
It was also the last unit, leaving Vilnius in 1919.
Belonging to the 40th Reserve Army Corps within the 10th Army:
3 rd Reserve Dision, 76 th Reserve Division (see above), 79 th Reserve Division and 14 th Landwehr Division.
Original print size of this image: 14,131 x 9,280 cm (is something more as the postal item).
The other side of the card, the picture side: Infantry passing the cathedral, Vilnius.
FIELDPOSTOFFICE 209 IN KAUNAS
In Kaunas fieldpostoffice 209 was stationed from September 1915 until December 1918: September 15, 1915 (early date) and December 31, 1918 (last date). The postmark on this card is 20-12-1916.
Original print size of this image: 13,953 x 8,975 cm
(is something more as the postal item).
Kaunas is occupied on the evening of August 17, 1915. The Armee Ober Kommando of the 10th Army - AOK10 -, the Army Headquarters, moved after the occupation of Kaunas (Kowno) to Kaunas on August 23, 1915. Here it was established until September 28, then it moved to Vilnius.
The postmark on this card has serial-letter b, the next card has serialletter a.
Another card, sent via fieldpost office 209 in Kaunas.
Also the cachet of the unit is clearly Kaunas: 'Deutsches Eisenbahnerheim Kowno', Railwaymen Home Kaunas. During the First World War there is no question of railway post in the strict sense in occupied Lithuania, part of Postgebiet Ob. Ost, yet railway constructors still left their philatelic marks. During the First World War railways were also of great military importance. The construction and recovery - and at retreat the destruction - of the railways in the war zone was entrusted to the 'Eisenbahntruppen' (Railway Troops). Details in the special issue of Het Baltische Gebied (2010; 56).
The card is sent to Hamburg and on the picture-side is to see the Peter an Paul Cathedral, a church in neo-byzantine style.
This church is completed and consacrated under this name as Russian Orthodox in 1895, largely for the use of the Russian Orthodox garrison in the Kaunas fortress.
After the upraising of 1831 the government started with the construction of "military" or "garrison" Orthodox churches. So the construction was financed by the Military Ministry and donations from army serviceman. Details: see Wikipedia. With the German occupation the bells were transported to Germany. The church was closed until 1919 and in the interwar period the church becane a Roman Catholic Church for the Lithuanian garrison of the fortress. With the Soviet occupation the chuch became an art gallery, but now it is again a Roman Catholic Church . The present name is St. Michael the Archangel's Church or the Garrison Church.
In Kaunas there is also a Gothic Church of SS. Peter and Paul, at that time the largest Roman Catholic church in Lithuania, build in the 15th century.
WILHELM KRAUSER IN KAUNAS
Fieldpostletter to Mrs. Krauser in Niederlößnitz bei Dresden, Schulstraße 9. Lößnitz is in present Germany an indication for the landscape between Dresden and Meißen in Saxony. In the postmark is not indicated a fieldpost office, but in the unit-postmark is clear from where it is sent: Militär Kreisamt Kowno.
The date is 3-6-17.
The postmark and cachet, resized 50 %.
The counties of administration in Lithuania (1915-1918), according the handbook of Fugalevičius:
- Etappe 8: Verwaltung Litauen, with Stadtkreis Kowno and 24 Landkreise
- Etappe 10: Verwaltung Wilna-Suwalki, with Stadtkreis Wilna and 14 Landkreise
The Handbook gives also a list of German offices, units, etc.with locality and cachets of offices and units with locality. This cachet of the Militär Kreisamt Kowno Gewerhliche Anlass... is not reported in the Handbook.
On the backside of the letter on the last line there is place for the number of the fieldpost-station, but it is not given. The sender gives the indication Kowno.
Wilhelm Krauser received post via the fieldpost office. Here a card to 'den Landsturmmann Wilhelm Krauser', sent -7-5-1916- by Elsa Krauser from Niederlößnitz bei Dresden, Schulstraße 9. The address is 'Kowno, K.D. Feldpoststation No 209, Civilverwaltung'.
Another letter from Wilhelm Krauser to his family, 1917. New postmark without any indication of the place (fieldpost-station).
The postmark, resized 50 %.
Wilhelm Kraus gives no indication of the fieldpost office, but gives the indication Militär Kreisamt Kowno.
FIELDPOSTOFFICE 210 IN ŠVENČIONĖLIAI
A fieldpostcard, written in Wilna, Vilnius, and sent to Magdeburg.
Original print size of this image: 13,902 x 9,152 cm
(is something more as the postal item).
The fieldpostmark is the postmark of Fieldpost Office 210.
Fieldpoststation 210 was located in Novo Swenzjany, in Lithuanian Švenčionėliai from September 25, 1915 (early date) to November 1918 (late date). Before it was located in Grodno (September 1915).
Švenčionėliai is occupied on September 13, 1915. The date of transition from Grodno to Švenčionėliai is not clear.
Now it is a very little place in the district municipality Švenčionys. But was a crossroad of railways: the railway Petrograd-Warsaw was built through the town and in 1899 narrow railway from Lentupys to Panevėžys was built in the town.
FIELDPOSTOFFICE 216 IN PANEVĖŽYS
In Panevėžys, German name Ponewesch, was established field post office 216: September 5, 1915 (early date) and November 21, 1918 (last date). This place was occupied July 25, 1915, by the German army. January 9, 1919, Panevėžys is occupied by the Bolsheviks.
The cachet of the unit: 'Evangl. Etappenlazarettpfarrer der 8. Armee', Evangelical Etappe-lazaret-pastor of the 8th Army.
AOK 8 (Armee Oberkommando 8, Army Supreme Command 8) has the command of the units in Courland from May 26, 1915, and get a new name Njemenarmee. This names is used between 26 May and 30 December 1915.
On December 30, 1915, is formed a 'new' 8th Army: units of the old Njemenarmee. The AOK 8 is moved Oktober 4, 1916, to Macedonia, and the command of the 8th Army then goes to AOK 12.
The headquarters of the new 8th Army was from January 4, 1916 in Schaulen, Šiauliai in present Lithuania. The fieldpost office 216 in Panevėžys is located something southeast of Šiauliai.
On April 1 (1916) the headquarters of the new 8th Army moves to Milau, Jelgava in present Latvia, and on Sepetember 15, 1917, to Riga.
On the cover the pastor has also placed his personal cachet, the letter is sent to his family.
In the cover is also still the letter itself: something difficult to read.
FIELDPOSTOFFICE 225 IN DŪKŠTAS
In Dūkštas - now in eastern Lithuania- was stationed fieldpostoffice 225 from February 1916 until December 1918: February 14, 1916 (early date) and November, 1918 (last date). The postmark on this card is 12-7-1916.
The place is also known as Dukschty or -in Polish- Dukszty. Probably the place is occupied September 20, 1915, and Mid-December 1918 cleared.
In WWI here was a railway station, on the line Vilnius-Turmantas.
Original print size of this image: 13,293 x 9,026 cm
(is something more as the postal item).
The 'Briefstempel' is from a unit of the 87th Infantry Division. About the 87th Infanry Division is some information on Wikipedia.
In the table of Military Units above, you see that the 87th I.D. is part of the 10th Army.
The division fought in the battle of Lake Njemen and the battle of Vilnius in September 1915. From October 1915 to September 1917, -date of the card is 12-7-1916- the division occupied the line between Lake Narac and Lake Drukšiai.
In November/December 1917, it occupied the line near Daugavpils.
The unit 'Fuhrpark-Kolonne': Supply Column.
GERMAN GOVERNMENT, TO AN INDEPENDENT LITHUANIA, TRANSITION
The German Government
Outside the postmarks of Postgebiet Ober-Ost and the field-post, we find from this time also the postmarks of the German Government. The administrative division of the Land Ober-Ost was something complicated and changed more times.
After the conquering a municipality was formed in Vilnius (Stadtverwalting), but this did not coincide with the Verwaltung (Administration) Wilna and the new Gouvernement Wilna.
The 'Verwaltung Suwalki' was discontinued on 1-3-1916 and joined with the 'Verwaltung Wilna' in the 'Verwaltung Wilna-Suwalki (25-4-1916). Vilnius became the seat. This 'Verwaltung' has been joined on 4-3-1917 with the Deutsche Verwaltung für Litauen in the Militärverwaltung Litauen, established in Vilnius. On 27-1-1918 the junction of this followed with the Militärverwaltung Bialystok in Militärverwaltung Litauen, divided in region North and South.
To an independent Lithuania
On 11 November 1918 the armistice was in force and from half Novenber the Germans began withdrawing out Lithuania. Before, on 16 February 1918, the declaration of independence had been taken, which was recognized by the German emperor on March 23. Russia had ceded Lithuania by the Peace of Brest-Litowsk (3 March 1918).
With the German capitulation on 11 November 1918 Lithuania became really independent with Vilnius as its capital. Ober-Ost finished its activity on 26 December 1918, and then the first Lithuanian postoffice is opened in Vilnius. On 27 December the first Lithuanian stamps makes one's appearance. Hoever the area around Vilnius was claimed also by the again independend Poland.
During a war it comes often to -also postally- transitionsituations. Probably the postcard here is used provisional.
A postcard from 1916, with the German cancellation Wilna, 27-9-1916. Further the card is Russian, although the Russians were away and Vilnius had been occupied.
For cancellation here is used Type I, with three stars at the bottom. Original print size of this image: 14,258 x 9,203 cm (is something more as the postal item).
Maybe more strange is this card.
The card is completely Russian, with an reasonable unknown postmark of Vilnius, 1917, during the German occupation.
Via Internet a number of collectors have sent solutions for this mystery. A possibility should be that - similar as in Latvia- postal authorities have taken with them stamps and used somewhere else. But the card comes really from Vilnius, as appears from the text, which Antanas Jankauskas for me translated: "July 5, Dear mommy, Concerning Petja, no news, but probably …. (unfortunately, unreadble). I’ll leave Vilno on July 6. Kissing you – Petja and me."
Original print size of this image: 13,978 x 8,695 cm (is something more as the postal item).
The card is send to Petersburg. Because of the wrong postage (10 kop. instead of 3 kop.) it could be a falsification. Also the date could be simply wrong, but that is something too easy.
Finally: it is a real railway-postmark of the Railway-post Department of the railway station Vilnius. It can be provisional, because there was no German postmark.