Seven Days in June Day 2 Part 1 - Briefing the Kaiser  

The first parts of the briefing are well documented. The materials used in the presentations have been preserved and many of the originals remain on display at the Memorial. Certified copies were later made widely available and have been extensively used over the years (see Appendix F for copies). Many reasons have been offered for why the Baron did not conduct all of the briefing himself. I believe my great-grandfather was indeed tired (as most have held) and was husbanding his strength for the later portions, but that would hardly have been sufficient a reason by itself. He had, indeed, spent much of the night on non-HSF matters (as others have accused), but my great-grandmother was his ally and partner, and no mere ornament. It seems to have escaped those biographers that the Baron met the first Lady Christine Letters on Konigin Louise during her somewhat ill-fated maiden voyage, let alone why my great-grandmother was aboard in the first place. Also, the Baron would have made quite sure that he remained cognizant of the state of his command. No, this historian believes that Baron Letters wanted certain outcomes from that briefing and saw a suitable way to achieve them.

---------- Lady Christine Letters, ibid, page 763

---- 9:45 AM, Wilhelmshaven

The baron remembered the last time he had been here before: January 25. That time, he had been brought into the room to explain his actions to Vice-Admiral Scheer and Kaiser Wilhelm. There had been just the three of them. This time, there were many around a great black oak table, and bustling around the row of chairs on the back wall. They would all be facing the Kaiser, whose chair was beneath the image of the Great Seal. There were also three other empty seats, presumably for senior admirals. Captain Theodor's voice could be heard as he continued to try to reason with several of the more senior members of Vice-Admiral Scheer's staff. Outside, martial music from at least one military band was reverberating off the granite buildings around the plaza. Inspiring as the marches might have been, the noise was distracting and the Baron wanted as little of that as possible. Captain Nik was supervising getting the open windows on that side shut, apparently offering suggestions to the lieutenant who he had up on the high sills stretching to reach the upper sections. The Baron was surprised to see an officer at the task, but the Seydlitz CO had said that he had just the man for the job.

"Baron Letters?" It was a senior Imperial Guards officer.

The Baron admitted his identity.

"Sir, I am to inform you that this is a flag-only briefing."

"I see. My aides? My flagcaptain?"

"I'm sorry, my lord."

"Very well."

He passed the word and a considerable number of disappointed officers began to file out. One of Scheer's staff approached the Guards officer, presumably to try to secure an exception.Scheer's flagcaptain had undoubtedly dispatched him to make the effort. The major just shrugged his shoulders, of course. Shortly, Scheer's staff joined the minor exodus.

The Baron noted Commodore von Hoban looking at him quizzically.

"No," decided the baron, "remain in your seat. I need you here, just as I needed you then. You're a commodore; your broad pennant should suffice."

Von Hoban said nothing, but appeared unconvinced.

"I take full responsibility. If necessary, I will ask the Kaiser directly."

There were now just the five of them. Besides himself and von Hoban, Admirals Rudburg, Necki, and Hanzik were getting documents from their juniors before they left. Necki was deep in discussion with Captain Skorpion and a towering lieutenant commander that the Baron had met only that morning. What was his name? Ah, yes, Tuerme. Fine officer. The three captains of the first division of Necki's squadron were deep in conversation as they made their way out. Grosser Kurfurst's CO had an amused expression at the other two captains' rapid exchanges, often finishing each other's sentences. He did manage one swift comment as the two paused at the same instant, probably to breathe.

At that moment, the Kaiser began his entrance. First, of course, came the guardsmen, but the Kaiser entered with little other pomp. In fact, he tarried for a few more moments, deep in discussion with someone in the hallway. Whoever that person was, he or she did not come in with him. The Baron felt an odd feeling, as though something was wrong. Flanking Wilhelm as he entered were three admirals, but Letters kept his eyes on Tirpitz. After a few moments of greetings and introductions, they sat down and began the briefing. At a nod from Tirpitz, seated at the Kaiser's right hand, Letters began.

"Sire, a great victory was won by your High Seas Fleet yesterday. I was privileged to be in command when the shots were fired, but the credit really belongs to you and to Grand-Admiral Tirpitz for putting superior tools in our hands."

Letters reached forward and gently slid three sets of documents to the others across the table. As their attention went to the papers, he sipped from the glass of cold water in front of him. The other pair of admirals, to the left of his monarch, eyed one set of copies together. The one furthest from the Kaiser frowned after a quick glance at the first plot of the dead reckoning tracks.

"I had hoped Vice-Admiral Scheer would be here. He drove the Main Body hard to get it into position only to fall ill just before the main bodies engaged. I tried to report to him this morning, but was told that he was still too ill to receive visitors."

There was no reaction from across the table. The Baron suddenly realized what was bothering him. The Kaiser was not enthusiastic. Not at all. Letters had been told that Wilhelm had taken to wearing an admiral's uniform. He was not, however, wearing one this morning, of all mornings.

"First Scouting engaged the enemy battlecruiser force just before 4:00 PM. They were 5 to our 4, but it did them no good. One of them, Australia, blew up from a hit from Captain Stang's Moltke, and two others were quickly crippled. The British tried to retire behind a smokescreen, First Scouting pursued and, I believe all the British battlecruisers were sunk. Four have been confirmed and the other is, in my opinion, likely sunk as well."

"Confirmed?" Kaiser Wilhelm asked, his voice level.

"Yes, sire. By identifying the hull or by getting their survivors out of the water. Sometimes both."

"Four battlecruisers, probably five. Confirmed," mused Wilhelm, beginning to show a hint of interest. "And after the Dogger Bank battle .... Do the British have any more?"

"No, sire. None." Letters did not even bother to try to keep the satisfaction out of his voice.

"Outstanding, continue." The Kaiser leaned back into his padded leather chair a tiny amount. The eyes of Tirpitz flickered to the monarch and back, then narrowed slightly.

"At that point, we sighted the British main body coming south at high speed, presumably to succor their scout force."

"But they were too late!" Now Wilhelm's voice contained a bit of enthusiasm.

"Yes, sire. It was then, while First Scouting was beating back their screen units, that I learned of Scheer's illness. The British were steaming south in divisions, so I ordered Rear-Admiral Rudburg, who was senior, to take tactical command of the main body and to deploy in Line to cross their T. The British must have learned of it at the last moment and deployed their own main body in Line to meet us.

"Just before 7 PM, the Lines began to engage with favorable results. I saw that the British were suffering heavily from Admiral Rudburg's fire, and took First Scouting across the vans. I feared they would break off, as indeed they shortly did, before a decision could be gained. There was the chance to cross their T with the battlecruisers if they tarried.

The British admiral opposed me with a large portion of his screen force. The meeting engagement was inconclusive, that was when First Scouting took the two torpedo hits. I turned back to deal them another blow, but the screen formations countered in force and I chose to break off after a few salvos at the flank dreadnought division. By then they were already attempting to disengage from Admiral Rudburg and the main body. Admiral Rudburg?"

"Sire, Vice-Admiral Letters ordered 'general pursuit" as soon as he realized they were trying to retreat. He engaged the Grand Fleet screen units, neutralizing them as we turned. We repulsed one attempted torpedo attack and finished off several slowed or crippled dreadnoughts before darkness and a massed torpedo attack made me order the pursuit terminated."


It was the admiral on the Kaiser's left, the one who had frowned. Wilhelm nodded at the man, who Letters remembered had been a close friend of Admiral Behncke.

"Sire, Admiral Letters is being modest. Too modest, Sire. These tracks tell a far different story."


"Sire, I call your attention to here," he said pointing at the third track chart. "And to here."

"These tracks show that the vice-admiral played the British bulldog like they were a bull and he the matador! Sire, the only way those torpedo boat flotillas could have been where First Scouting fought them is if they had already launched their own attack into the van of our Line."

The Kaiser studied the indicated tracks. Tirpitz did not, the Baron noted; he must have seen it some time ago but chose to say nothing.

"Sire," the other admiral closer to the Kaiser said, "First Scouting counterattacked before they were in sight, hit them, drew their charge, hit them again before they could reorganize, then drew them off and well away from where he had ordered the main body to advance in pursuit."

"Is this true, my lord Baron?"

"Yes, Sire. More or less. But it was not nearly so great a matter as the admiral suggests."

"This matter," retorted the Kaiser, "seems not at all small, Letters!"

The Baron nodded in thanks, then gestured to Rudburg. The rear-admiral related more of the events of the pursuit, giving Admiral Hanzik credit for saving the main body from a devastating torpedo attack by ambushing the British first. No one called them "Fighting Frau"s but they probably thought it.

"Sire, these sheets indicate our best assessment of the battle results," Rudburg concluded. "I have included the bases for each ship claimed sunk."

"The first one deals with the British capital ship losses and the second with their estimated screen unit losses."

The First Handout - (Letterstime - June 2, 1915)

British Capital Ship Losses

British Battlecruisers (5 Total Engaged)

Queen Mary - SUNK, Probable - no confirmation (6+ 12" hits + 2 torpedoes)
Australia - SUNK - Confirmed: hull sighted, 2 RN rescued
Indefatigable - SUNK - Confirmed: hull sighted, 3 RN crew rescued
Invincible - SUNK -Confirmed: hull sighted, 7 RN rescued
Inflexible - SUNK - Confirmed: hull sighted, 0 rescued

British Dreadnoughts (24 Total Engaged)

Iron Duke Class

- Iron Duke - damaged - 10+ hits observed (2 large fires confirmed)
- Emperor - SUNK - Confirmed: hull seen, 149 RN rescued
- Benbow - damaged - 3+ hits observed (2 large fires confirmed)
- Marlborough - 2 hits observed (no fires reported)

King George V Class (+ Erin)

- KGV - Heavily damaged - 10+ hits observed
- Ajax - SUNK - Confirmed: 11 RN rescued
- Centurion - SUNK - Confirmed: 91 RN rescued
- Erin - Damaged - 5+ hits observed (one large fire confirmed, apparently slowed)

Orion Class

- Orion - SUNK - Confirmed: seen to explode at 7:15 PM
- Monarch - SUNK - Confirmed: hull seen, 201 RN rescued
- Conqueror - SUNK - Probable - no confirmation (ship seen to explode, thought to be Conq)
- Thunderer - Damaged - 5+ hits - hauled out of Line listing

Older Dreadnoughts

- Dreadnought - SUNK - Confirmed: hull seen
- Temeraire - SUNK - Confirmed: 77 RN rescued
- Superb - SUNK - Confirmed: hull seen, 149 RN rescued
** 5+ other dreadnoughts seen to take hits **

Total Out of 29: 13 Confirmed SUNK, 6 Damaged, 6 Less Damaged, 4 No Damage

The Second Handout - (Letterstime - June 2, 1915)

British Screen Unit Losses

Armoured Cruisers

- Minotaur - SUNK - Confirmed: 13 RN rescued
- Shannon - SUNK - Confirmed: 62 RN rescued
- Cochrane - SUNK - Confirmed: 51 RN rescued
- Warrior (-) - SUNK - Confirmed: seen to explode (ship type but not name confirmed)

Light Cruisers

- Castor - SUNK - Confirmed: 69 RN rescued
- Royalist - SUNK - Confirmed: 71 RN rescued
- Fearless - SUNK - Confirmed: 44 RN rescued

Torpedo Boats

- 29 SUNK - Confirmed: 395 RN rescued
- 10+ Damaged

Total RN Screen Losses

- 4 AC
- 3 CL
- 29 TB


"Sire," Rudburg continued, "these are conservative estimates. I believe the British lost at least one more dreadnought, maybe two, and several more torpedo boats. Sire, we rescued over 1,400 British officers and men from many ships. So, these are not simply guesses, we were able, in all but a couple cases, to learn what ship each had been on."

The Kaiser looked at Tirpitz, looked long. The grand-admiral said nothing, but the Kaiser apparently saw what he was looking for.

"So, Vice-Admiral Letters," asked Kaiser Wilhelm, "when can you take the High Seas Fleet back out to sea to finish what you have so well begun?"

The Baron smiled, inside and out.

"Sire, thank you! The answer is sooner than the British may think! May I suggest a short break? I expect there are some people out in the hall. I will need them for my presentation."

"Very well, said the Kaiser.

jim (Letterstime)

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