Background and Overview
Letterstime is the name of an alternate history whose point of departure occurs at about 11:00 am on January 24, 1915, during the Battle of Dogger Bank. At that point, a shell is postulated to strike down Admiral Hipper, his senior staff, and the CO of Hipper's flagship. Baron Letters (an admiral and unspecified kinsman of the Kaiser) assumes command of the German force and changes history. All historical events of the Dogger Bank until then are assumed to have occurred. Based on the results at Letterstime Dogger Bank, Baron Letters is given Hipper's post. The battle outcome also provides the German navy with higher morale and so the Jutland battle is fought precisely one year earlier than historical (thus on May 31, 1915, instead of on the same date in 1916). The two fleets were adjusted to keep the basic historical numbers, though the actual ships involved reflect that some ships were not yet in service. The historical Jutland meeting conditions, initial decisions, and weather were duplicated. Both battles were gamed out and the results posted as they occurred. The gaming system used was the "jj"— an empirical system developed by the author over the last 25 years.
The Battle of Dogger Bank
Historically, the two forces encountered each other when the light cruisers (CLs) met and fired at each other. Shortly after that, Hipper headed for port with his force: the battlecruisers (BCs) Seydlitz (flagship), Derfflinger, and Moltke had the armored cruiser Blucher in their formation like another BC. The German force also had a two flotillas of torpedo boats, split into four half-flotillas led each by a CL. The RN force was comprised of the BCs Lion (Beatty's flagship), Tiger, Princess Royal, New Zealand, and Inflexible. The British also had several CLs and torpedo boats destroyers.
The chase lasted for several hours, with Blucher (reciprocating engines, not turbines) lagging and the British slowly getting into gun range. The slower New Zealand lagged behind the newer RN BCs and the older Inflexible lagged considerably more. A hit on Seydlitz destroyed her two aft turrets in a pillar of fire and smoke (a connecting hatch between the two turrets was left open) and, later, hits on Lion left her slowed and eventually stopped (historically, Beatty transferred to another ship and Lion was towed). The distance between the flagship and the those continuing the chase contributed to a misunderstanding of flag-directed orders and the RN force turned aside to finish off Blucher, by then seriously damaged.
In Admiral Scheer's post-war account, it is asserted that Hipper began to turn back around 11:15 to face his pursuers, but upon seeing that the RN force had diverted to finish off Blucher, he aborted the maneuver and continued to safety. Admiral Moore, on New Zealand, once he caught up to the other BCs, continued the pursuit of Hipper's force with just New Zealand and Inflexible, but could not regain gun range.
In Letterstime, Baron Letters makes the turn mentioned by Admiral Scheer and fights to a conclusion.
Jutland - May 31, 1915
By fighting Jutland a year earlier, the High Seas Fleet (HSF) does not have the Lutzow, but the Grand Fleet (GF) does not have either Revenge or Royal Oak of the Royal Sovereign class. Also, with only one Queen Elizabeth available, there is no detached squadron under Admiral Evan-Thomas to back up the BC force. Beatty was lost at Dogger Bank, Moore was sent to the Canary Islands (as historical), and Admiral Sturdee (the hero of the Falklands battle) is given command of the detached scout force with the BCs. All BCs in the GF are recalled to give Sturdee the numbers advantage over the German BC force.
The earlier Jutland begins identically to history, including the time of day, visibility, and weather.