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Wrangel emerged from a technical education with a degree in mining in 1901, after which he embarked upon an initially short-lived military career.
Having resigned from the army to take up an engineering position in Siberia he nevertheless returned to serve with distinction during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05.
Remaining in the army he next attended the General Staff Academy. Upon the outbreak of war in August 1914 he was given command of a cavalry squadron in East Prussia and was later handed command of a Cossack regiment whilst being dispatched to Galicia in 1916.
Having risen to the rank of Major-General Wrangel led the 7th Cavalry Division during the notably unsuccessful Kerensky Offensive of July 1917.