Many thanks to Einar Ringen jr for translating this account.
Translated by: Einar Ringen jr
On the morning of Wednesday the 3rd of May, 1916 came the German zeppelin "L20" limped in to the Rogladscoast of the North Sea. Some dimensions of this aircraft were a length of 160m and 23m across. Inside the big beautiful silk holster was 25000-kbm of gas that insured that the aircraft could carry a crew of 16 men. 2 motors each had 600 horsepower and six propellers made sure that the L20 could hold a maximum speed of 75 km /h.
L20 had taken off from Schlesvig the 2nd of may with England as the goal. With seven other ships, the L20 had orders to drop their bombs over North England.
Because of bad weather forecasting, 6 of the German aircraft dropped their bombs over factories in the Middle Lands while the L20 and another aircraft went North over Scotland, where they were met by terrible weather.
The L20 was suppose to drop its bombs on a bridge in the Firth of Ford, (the fjord leads in past Edinburgh), but they never reached it because of strong SE winds.
Instead, the aircraft went to far North by Loch Ness, and from there, the Captain of the aircraft, Kapitänleutnant Stabbert, ordered a more easterly course. By the East coast of Scotland, where the bombs dropped, and at 6:00 on the 3rd of May, the L20 was in position east of the Orkney Islands.
Stabbert reckoned that he had not enough gas to get home to Germany. Over radio contacts, he asked for help and he got a message back that the German Marines were going to meet the aircraft in 10 hours more East in an expected position west of Jylland. But when Stabbert had found out that he had not enough gasoline for more than 5 fly hours, he did not take the chance to go to Denmark. Instead, he chose to take the shortest direction to the coast of Norway, and navigated his aircraft along that course.
Through a snow cloud, the L20 got landing permission by Feistein light tower just outside jaercoast which coastland by the farm "Haarr" on the Vigrestad (place) after he had got rid of secret papers and explosives. The German beast thereby flew unstably north of Jaeren.
The aircraft drew a lot of attention when the big gray/yellow holster passed Sandnes in low altitude. By Lura, the zeppelin turned off against the Fjord and laid a steadier course heading to Holmavik south of Dale Hospital.
The aircraft rose and sank sometimes before the forward gondola hit the Gandsfjorden, and Kapitänleutnant Stabbert and his next commander, Lieutenant Schirlitz, and six enlisted men jumped overboard. (The Zeppelin was part of the German Marines).
The six enlisted men swam in panic towards nearby fishing boats, , and there they were met with the words of Captain Jeremias Bykle, "You are not welcome in my living room". He did not take them into his living room.
While the enlistees swam to the fishing boats, Stabbert swam to Holmavik with his lieutenant. Stabbert was in great shape when he crawled onto land, but his lieutenant Schirlitz was not in the best of shape and was put into bed in Dale Hospital.
Bykle brought the enlisted men to land where there were Norwegian soldiers from Madla-moen who took care of them and in 10 days sent them to Trondheim for continuing internment for the rest of the war.
The Zeppelin, now 8 men lighter, lifted from the wet elements and sailed out with the water pouring out of the first gondola and with two tow cables hanging helpless toward the ground, one of them with an anchor on the end. The altitude was dangerously low, so the crew sought to throw all ballast overboard to gain altitude – but without success. The aircraft crashed sideways into Godesetnuten with great speed. L20 laid on its side and broke just forward of the aft gondola which fell off. 4 of the crew now fell out of the gondola. The farmer named Samuel Godeset (1875 – 1929) was a witness to this action up close. He lived just beneath the crash site and owned a portion of the Godesetnuten. It was he in 1927 who sold his property called "Folkvang" to Stavanger Sunday School Union for 3000 Kroners ($395). May day of 1916, the 40 year old farmer got in high gear. From the top of "hedda" he got his most dramatic experience. He told his story to the "Stavanger Aftenblad" (newspaper) he said:
I saw the zeppelin come down from the East side of Hoidedraget (little mountain?), and I ran fast as possible up on top to see where the proud ship was going.
When I came up to the top, the ship had risen from the Gannsjford and held silently in the air. Thereafter it bashed up West to my position. It had so far maneuvered well, so I did not think at all that it could come crashing into the hillside where I was standing. Now it came extremely close to the top of the hill called Nutens, where I was standing. Iit came closer and closer and it started to get very exciting.
It came within 15m of me, and I could hear the people in the gondola speaking.
So close was I to the beast that other witnesses thought that I was straight under the beast and was crushed when the ship hit the mountain.
Immediately, the front end of the forward gondola crashed up the hillside into stones and the field, but the aft part of the ship was lower and the aft gondola scaped with great power against the stones. Many of the stones just bounced away; but when the gondola went over a bigger rock, broke it into two parts.
I was standing in awe over what I saw. Will the ship continue? In the next moment, I saw one man after another jump or fall out of the broken gondola. Immediately, one of the men rose up and ran at me. He had blood on the back of one of his hands, but nothing else seemed wrong with him. The next one I found was sitting in the bushes holding his leg. I untied his shoe and examined his leg as good as I could, and thereby tried to tell him that no legs were broken.
The next one I found was holding a badly wounded arm that had skin injuries. He didn't seem to have any broken bones either. The third one's feet were badly wounded after the jump. I removed his boots and finally I removed his socks after the man asked, and then I tried to assure him that no bones were broken.
While I was doing this the first man who was not injured asked again and again for the Engineer. One of my people at that time was close by (my son Otto) and he got orders to go out and search for the missing one. The unwounded were with him. The Engineer was a little bit West of the others. He had been carried farther away and he had fallen from greater height than the others. He was badly wounded and tried to say to those that came for him to get him to a Hospital. I then sent my son home to get the horse and wagon while I helped the other ones that were left on the down. I drove the wagon to the badly wounded, and drove him to Hinna, where Captain Knap took charge him. While I was doing this, there were more people coming to the crash site. Some of them were with the unwounded men and looking for those things that were thrown out like clothing and such. The army came in and helped carry the other wounded to Hinna, and from there to Malde".
The person in charge, Lauritz Wilhelm Hansen, who was the leader for the traditional firm "Fred Hansen" had been a witness to the L20 crash. He had gotten himself up on the Godestenuten (hill) where he had spoken to the men that were in the accident. Hansen knew how to speak German, and in the interrogation of one of the Germans, he asked "what will happen now". Hansen answered that because of the war, there was little chance of the Germans being sent home right away. "Ach Dieser Krieg, dieser Krieg" ("Oh this war, this war") the germans moaned over and over. So now Hansen told the Stavanger Aftenblad
"A while later there came a medic with the owner of the farm (Samuel Godeset) we got to drive him down to Hinna, where from there to the hospital, but we met a patrol under the leadership of Captain Knap, so we transferred the wounded man to him and they then went on to Madla. The 3 others that were on Godset were transferred to Madla on bicyles".
After the 4 enlisted men fell off at Godesetnuten, the aircraft again took off and sailed West, where they later found it in Hafrsfjorden between Gran-nessletten and Liapynten.
When the L20 hit the surface of the water it broke in 2, and one of the enlisted men aboard threw himself out in the water by a small boat who was close by, while the 3 remaining were taken on by a torpedo boat “Trods" who were stationed by the military camp on Madla.
All the German soldiers were after a while brought together in Madla camp where they were interned for 10 days and then sent North and placed on the German help cruiser "Berlin" which was lying off Hommelvik in Trond-heimsfjorden. From there, kaptein-løytnant Stabbert managed to escape. He took the sea way home to Germany, where also the remaining 16 crew members from the L20 got to go when the war ended Fall of 1918.
But, back to the 3rd of May, 1916. The rumor of the zepplin spread like wildfire all over North Jaeren, Everyone wanted to get out of the area to high lying areas around Stavanger. When the people started to realize that that yellow gray beast had crashed in Hafrsfjorden, they came on cars, bicycles and horses, and set their sites on Madla. Those who did not get transportation just walked. Small offices and big firms were closed, and students vanished in crowds from the schools. Marshal Bærheim in Haland stood numbed by the crowds of farmers. They were witnessing a sight “inkje he vore sett her i tusen år”(that had not been seen here in a thousand years) as an old farmer pronounced the sight that all of Norway gathered to see.
“Stavanger Aftenblad”journalist writes:
"Cars would charge 20 crowns for a trip to Malde, and the wagon men were not charging anything. The weather got bad and a storm blew in and the sky got dark, but the worst weather didn't stop anyone because how does a wet t-shirt compare to a sight that has never been seen before. The bicyclist were traveling with great speed and there were many accidents. The cars were honked till their horns were hoarse and the people walking came with their tongues out of their mouths like they were hunted by wolves. In crowds, there were people standing there looking at the big thing that floated in Havsfjord. They were staring and waiting for something to happen. A bad storm came and bad it was. The rain poured down from the dark sky and the wind was going mad. People vanished and went back to their towns. Many mothers were taking their wet sons and daughters into the house. It was worth it because they had seen the zeppelin. The people were seeing something they never would forget while the L-20 took off on another adventure, this time by sea. It went out of the Havsfjord. The aircraft didn't reach land until Meling (place) where it crashed itself into a big rock. The soldiers were securing the hulk so it wouldn't go off again. Then the boss of IR8 Colonel Johannesen made the decision to blow up the aircraft when they found out it could blow up by itself. Norwegian soldiers were placed by Meling (place) to guard the hulk until morning.
At 9am, Thursday, the 4th of May, the Zeppelin got loose and got speed from the wind and big thick cables just broke.
"Then the big aircraft sailed out through the fjord and grounded on some shallows, but by the afternoon it got loose again and went to Sunde. Here they got to secure it when it struck land but they did not succeed with that because the big aircraft was going in and out. It crushed a gondola and the motor that was there crashed into the sea. After a while, the rest of the gondola broke loose and fell into the sea, but they got to save most of the "Forinden" (probably the main fusilage…) and they got to save most of what was left of the Gondola and some aluminum containers.
The clock has become 11:55, April 5th of 1916.
The solders from Madla had their hands full trying to keep people away from the zepplin. Many got to sneek by the gaurds and take a souvenier from the balloon. The day after, the kids could charge up to 1000 "etiketter" (money?) for a small piece of the balloon.
The L-20 had been stationed at the sea house of Adolf Fjelde (1893-1966). (Now the owner of the sea house in 1994 is his daughter in law Laura Fjelde). A stone monument in front of the sea house called “Dokken”still tells where the aircraft went in.
Photo of dock house p 254: "Outside this dock at south sunde, a zepplin came to dock for a short time in Meling. The same dock was used to welcome «Bergenshevd» (a boat) around 1900.