Conspiracy Theories  

The mysterious 31 of May sickness

If you ask people today to name two great admirals the most likely answers will be Nelson and Letters. But how did a complete unknown come to be known as the greatest admiral of our time? Are we to believe the stunning series of events that ended up with Letters in the position that he found himself in in1915? The deeper one digs in the events that led up to Letters assuming command of first the German battle cruisers and later the entire fleet the harder it becomes to believe that it simply happened by accident.

Were Scheer and Schmidt poisoned?

It is known that the day before the Skagerack sortie Baron Letters invited several of the commanders of the HSF to dinner at a local restaurant in Wilhelmshaven. It is also known that Letters recommended the fish for both Scheer and Schmidt but strangely enough chose the schnitzel for himself.

Admiral Schmidt ate his entire portion and became seriously ill later that evening, he was rushed to hospital where the doctors diagnosed him as suffering from acute food poisoning.

Unfortunately the records of Schmidt's medical examination was lost in a fire shortly after the HSF got back after Skagerack. Blame for this incident had been placed on the stressed conditions after thousands of injured men flooded the hospital and an investigation claimed that painting equipment had been moved out of the way and stored in the area where the fire began, but there was no maintenance ongoing in the hospital at that time!

Admiral Scheer did not finish his meal and thus didn't get the entire dose of poison, this was causing serious trouble to Letters plan to assume command of the entire fleet. Unfortunately just before the sortie Scheer let Baron Letters convince him to include Letter's co-conspirator the then Rear-Admiral von Rudburg (immediately promoted to vice-Admiral after the Kaiser's battle) as a replacement for Schmidt.

When Scheer was still able to command the fleet at the time of the sortie the conspirators played their last card, the Ottoman "observer" Abdul Hadi Pasha.
Hadi Pasha was brought into the conspiracy by von Rudburg who served in Berlin simultaneously with Hadi Pasha's stay there. Members of Scheer's staff reported after the battle that the Ottoman constantly pestered their commander and made sure he could get no rest until he finally collapsed as a result of exaustion and poisoning, once that happened the Pasha administered some drug during an unsupervised moment to make sure Scheer didn't recover in time to regain command. The ship's doctor was not able to do any serious investigation regarding V-Adm Scheer's condition due to the large number of injured crewmen he had to treat during the battle. With his co-conspirator in command of the main body the way to glory was now open for Baron Letters.

The Greek Connection

That Baron Letters would be able to mount an expedition only days after Skagerack is impossible, unless he was prepared and expected to be in command at that time. That the New York expedition could be launched in only days is the best proof of the conspiracy and the reason for including the Greeks in this expedition seems to indicate the paying back of a dept. The Greek connection runs through the all the events of May-June 1915.

The restaurant where Scheer and Schmidt was poisoned was the property of a N. Kallikantzari a second generation immigrant to Germany and also a distant relative to Constantine Kallikantzari who was claimed to have been killed by British shell fire onboard Imperator. It is also known through the waitress, Helga Bauer, that von Rudburg was a regular guest at this restaurant and that he was there and met in private with Mr. Kallikantzari only the day before the poisonings.

The inclution of so many Greek citizens and the unfinished Greek battleship Salamis in the breakout can only be explained if the Greeks had prior knowledge of Letters' plans. It would have been impossible for an operation of that scale to be started from scratch in so short a time. With Ballin to bankroll him, the Greek government to assist him and fellow officers to back him up in his conspiracy, Baron Letters managed to take over the German fleet, going from a virtual unknown to Germany's greatest hero in a few short months. But why take these risks? Why would anyone so desperately seek command of the HSF, unless he was sure he could defeat the British from the very beginning.

The Traitor in the Grand Fleet

How could a unknown German admiral engage the centuries old power of the Royal Navy with such complete confidence of success? The most likely explanation for this is probably found in England itself rather than in Germany. In a very strange twist of fate the commander of the Grand Fleet in the beginning of the war was a German, prinz Louis von Battenberg. In the opening stages of the war the British operated with reasonable success but the rising tide of anti German sentiment called von Battenberg's loyalties into question and ultimately forced him to leave his command. Although no clear evidence have ever been found that von Battenberg betrayed his adopted country it is clearly known that soon after he left the problems started for the Royal Navy and a very ambitious German admiral began to engage the British fleet with much greater confidence than the Germans had any reason to feel.

It is known that Letters met most of the high ranking officers of the Royal Navy before the war including von Battenberg and it is quite possible that he kept contact with a few of them over the years and that the embittered von Battenberg used Letters to avenge himself on the service and nation that had treated him so poorly. It is certain that if von Battenberg wanted to he could do serious harm to the British with his detailed knowledge of the strengths and more importantly the weaknesses of the Royal Navy.

Was Hipper murdered?

There is however evidence that Letters might have been prepared to go even further than incapacitating poisons and using von Battenberg's information to achieve his goal of personal fame and glory.

When Hipper accepted the request that the then almost unknown Baron Letters be allowed onboard SMS Derfflinger for the Doggerbank sortie he could hardly know that he set in motion a chain of events that would result in his own death.

The most damaging evidence that something strange and sinister happened on the bridge of SMS Seydlitz was the preliminary damage report regarding the bridge of SMS Seydlitz, it stated that:

  1. "There is no obvious way that the shrapnel should have been able to penetrate the bridge..."
  2. "The damage to the interior equipment do not seem consistent with the damage that would be expected from shell fragments."
  3. "There were some signs that equipment had been destroyed from the inside..."

This seems to indicate that what killed admiral Hipper and his flag captain on Seydlitz's bridge wasn't a British shell but rather a German bomb. Several witnesses onboard Seydlitz that day have reported that commander Nikademus for some reason wore his sidearm that day but that he had removed it later after Baron Letters had assumed command of the Battle cruisers. After Doggerbank Nikademus was promoted to command the second largest German BC by Letters despite not having the seniority or experience for a command as important as SMS Seydlitz.

Prior to the sortie commander Nik, as he was generally called, had often stated that the fleet should be used more aggressively and in the week before the sortie he had been overheard to argue that with different leadership the fleet would be able to accomplish much more. When this dissatisfied officer met a man who thought he could provide that leadership the first seeds of the conspiracy was sown that would place Baron Letters in charge of the German fleet during the war.

I guess I have been spending too much time reading strange conspiracy theories on the sceptic network.

by CJvR

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