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
---------- 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."
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
Von Hoban said nothing, but appeared unconvinced.
"I take full responsibility. If necessary, I will ask the Kaiser
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Castor - SUNK - Confirmed: 69 RN rescued
- Royalist - SUNK - Confirmed: 71 RN rescued
- Fearless - SUNK - Confirmed: 44 RN rescued
- 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.