In September 1943, the Training and Replacement Battalion for the Latvian SS Legion was relocated to the city of Jelgava (Mitau), where it was renamed the SS Grenadier Training and Replacement Bn.15 (SS-Ausbildung und Ersatz Btl.15).
Up to the end of the year its primary function was to handle convalescent soldiers who had been released from hospitals but were not yet fully recovered. Once the 15th SS Division left for the front in late 1943, the battalion took over the job of training recruits as well.
Since there were large numbers of Latvian recruits and recovering wounded to take care of, the battalion quickly expanded to brigade strength and was reorganized to include the following elements:
- Training Regiment
- Replacement Battalion
- Truck Transport Company
- Vehicle Drivers (Training?) Company
- Light Infantry Gun (close support artillery) Company
- 2 cm Light Flak Battery
- Light Mortar Company
- Anti-Tank Company
- Communications Company
- Engineer Company
Ostubaf. Garthe became the brigade commander; he had previously commanded the Escort Bn. „RF-SS“ in the 2nd Brigade during 1941/42. In the summer of 1944 he would be replaced by Staf. von Bredow and the brigade title would be changed to „Latvian SS Training and Replacement Unit 15.“ As such it soon became engaged in combat following the Soviet breakthrough near Vitebsk and the rapid advance of the Red Army into Latvia. Following a penetration by the communists into Lithuania, terrorist activity along the Lithuanian-Latvian frontier began to develop in earnest. So on 18 July 1944, the T. & R. Brigade formed an emergency battalion to help deal with the partisan threat along the Lithuanian border.
But the overall military situation continued to deteriorate and on 26 July 1944, Staf. von Bredow was ordered to form a battle-group from his command and place it at the disposal of Lt.Gen. Koeller. This task force was formed from the Emergency Bn. and several other Latvian SS companies and was sent to Janiski in the night of 26/27 July. Here it received orders to retake the enemy-held town of Sauli. In the morning of the 27th the battle-group advanced towards Sauli. Enemy artillery fire was received about 5 km from the town, but the troops managed to elude any direct hits and began a full-scale attack along both sides of the road leading into Sauli.
The Soviets were slowly driven back, but the Latvians were hindered by a lack of heavy weapons and machine guns and took heavy casualties. Towards noon their ammunition ran out and the Latvian soldiers fell back for resupply purposes. This completed, the assault was renewed in the afternoon, but the village was set on fire by Lithuanian partisans assisted by some of the villagers. As a result, another withdrawal had to be conducted. The only problem was that the retreat route to Jelgava was now occupied by enemy forces and had to be cleared!
Following much fierce fighting in which fully two-thirds of the battle-group was lost, the Latvian troopers reached Janiski at 21:00 hours. Out of the Kampfgruppen original 32 officers, 25 had been killed or wounded. But the worst was yet to come. In the course of the night a communist tank force overran the small Latvian SS contingent, completely scattering it. Staf. von Bredow and his entire staff became missing-in-action in this engagement.
The Latvian troops from the brigade that had remained behind in Jelgava now came under the control of Army Lt.Col. Jurko. On 27 July 1944 the city was declared a „Fortress“ by Lt.Gen. Pflugbeil, who ordered it held „at any price.“ Lieutenant Colonel Jurko was instructed to form his Latvian troops into some sort of combat force. He was able to assemble them into two companies, which on the surface at least appeared to be of dubious value, since they were chiefly composed of either sick soldiers or raw recruits. Nevertheless, they had to get ready for action.
On 28 July, Soviet motorized troops began their attack on Jelgava. Lieutenant Colonel Jurko’s Latvians were joined by assorted German units and another full battalion of Latvian soldiers and they fought like tigers! Throughout the day, numerous tank-supported Red attacks were shattered and the defensive lines held despite the fact that the city had been turned into a blazing inferno by enemy air raids. The Soviet onslaught died off during the night and did not resume again until 14:00 on 29 July. During the break in the action, the Latvian battalion that had joined the Latvian Training Brigade troops was pulled out of the lines and sent to join another German division.
When the communist attack began again, the weakened defenders found themselves hard-pressed and were forced to give ground, albeit grudgingly. The Latvians and Germans were pushed back into the city center where they continued to hold out in small groups. They kept up the fight in the heart of the burning city until 30 July, when they were compressed into a tight defensive zone around the Aa River bridge. Orders to evacuate Jelgava were finally received in the night of 31 July/1 August 1944. The battle proper ended at 02:00 on the 1st with the destruction of the Aa Bridge after the last defenders had passed over it.
The surviving Latvian soldiers were then ordered to return to their original units. Recruits and others who had gotten detached in the battle for Jelgava were shipped to Germany to serve as a nucleus for a new Latvian SS Grenadier Training and Replacement Bn., that was to be formed in Berent, West Prussia. This new unit was able to rapidly expand to roughly regimental size, and in February 1945 part of it was used to form another emergency battalion that consisted of eight officers and 375 NCOs and men.
This battalion was deployed for the defense of Marienburg and the combat engagement that ensued proved to be both its first and last. It was almost totally destroyed in the action with the survivors going into Soviet captivity. In the meantime, the troops from the Latvian SS Grenadier T & R Bn. that had stayed behind in Berent were marched to Gotenhafen and from there they were shipped to Denmark via Swinemuende. They finished the war here and went into English captivity, eventually winding up at the Zedelghem POW Camp in Belgium. A few of the Latvians (chiefly officers), who were on a KGB „wanted“ list were obligingly extradited to their deaths in the Soviet Union by the accomodating English, but most of the rank and file troops were eventually released to immigrate to various countries in the „free“ world. On the whole, the story of the Latvian SS Training and Replacement Brigade mirrored that of the Latvian Waffen-SS in general: a continual round of courage, calamity and ultimate catastrophe!