Tryggve Gran

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Tryggve Gran
Tryggve Gran 1923.jpg
Major Tryggve Gran in 1923
Born(1888-01-20)20 January 1888 [1]
Bergen, Norway
Died8 January 1980(1980-01-08) (aged 91)
Grimstad, Norway
MonumentsMemorial plaque at Cruden Bay, Scotland
Nationality Norwegian
Known forAviator, explorer and author
Lily St. John
(m. 19181921)
Ingeborg Meinich
(m. after 1923)
Margaret Schønheyder
(m. 19411980)
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Military Cross
Aviation career
Full nameJens Tryggve Herman Gran
Famous flightsFirst heavier-than-air flight across the North Sea (Scotland to Norway, 30 July 1914)
Air force Norwegian Army Air Service
Royal Flying Corps
Royal Air Force
Battles Western Front (1917)
North Russia Campaign (1919)
Rank Major (Squadron Leader)

Jens Tryggve Herman Gran DSC , MC (20 January 1888 – 8 January 1980) was a Norwegian aviator, explorer and author. [2] He was the skiing expert on the 1910–13 Scott Antarctic Expedition and was the first person to fly across the North Sea in a heavier-than-air aircraft.



Tryggve Gran was born in Bergen, Norway, growing up in an affluent family dominant in the shipbuilding industry. His great-grandfather Jens Gran Berle (1758–1828), had founded a shipyard in the Laksevåg borough of the city of Bergen. His father, the shipyard owner, died when Tryggve was only five years old. In 1900, after school in Bergen and Lillehammer, Gran was sent to a school in Lausanne, Switzerland for a year, where he learned some German and French. Three years later, he met the German emperor, Wilhelm II, a common guest with the families of Tryggve's friends. Meeting the emperor made an impact on the then 14-year-old boy, who from that moment on wanted to become a naval officer. At this time, he had several years behind him as a member of the Nygaards Battalion, one of Bergen's buekorps. He entered naval college in 1907 and graduated in the spring of 1910. [3]


Tryggve Gran in Antarctica (1911) Tryggve Gran.jpg
Tryggve Gran in Antarctica (1911)

Gran took an interest in science and exploration which in 1910 led to Fridtjof Nansen recommending his services to Robert Falcon Scott, who was in Norway at the time preparing for an expedition to the Antarctic and testing the motor tractor he intended to take with him. Scott was impressed with Gran, who was an expert skier, and Nansen convinced Scott to take Gran as ski instructor to Scott's men for the Terra Nova Expedition.

Arriving in Antarctica in early January 1911, Gran was one of the 13 expedition members involved in the laying of the supply depots needed for the attempt to reach the South Pole later that year. From November 1911 to February 1912, while Scott and the rest of the Southern party were on their journey to the Pole, Gran accompanied the geological expedition to the western mountains led by Griffith Taylor.

In November 1912, Gran was part of the 11-man search party that found the tent containing the dead bodies of the past South Pole party. After collecting the party's personal belongings the tent was lowered over the bodies of Scott and his two companions and a 12-foot snow cairn was built over it. A pair of skis were used to form a cross over their grave. Gran travelled back to the base at Cape Evans wearing Scott's skis, reasoning that at least Scott's skis would complete the journey. Before leaving Antarctica he made an ascent of Mount Erebus with Raymond Priestley and Frederick Hooper in December 1912, an occasion which nearly ended in disaster when an unexpected eruption caused a shower of huge pumice blocks to fall around him. On 24 July 1913 Gran was awarded the Polar Medal by King George V. [4]

Bleriot XI-2, the type flown by Gran Bleriot XI-2.JPG
Blériot XI-2, the type flown by Gran

On his return voyage, Gran met aviator Robert Loraine, the first pilot to cross the Irish sea, and immediately took an interest in aviation. Gran became a skilled pilot at Louis Blériot's aviation school in Paris, and on 30 July 1914, Gran became the first pilot to cross the North Sea. [5] Taking off in his Blériot XI-2 monoplane, Ca Flotte, from Cruden Bay, Scotland, Gran landed 4 hours 10 minutes later at Jæren, near Stavanger, Norway, after a flight of 320 miles (510 km).The restored, but complete and original plane is on display at the Norwegian Technical Museum in Oslo, Norway. [6]

Only five days later, the United Kingdom entered the First World War. Gran, now a first lieutenant in the Norwegian Army Air Service, volunteered for service with the Royal Flying Corps. He was rejected because of Norway's neutrality. However, the rejection did not stop Gran. Under the identity of "Captain Teddy Grant" of Canada, he was admitted to the RFC, serving in 1916 with No. 39 Squadron on Home Defence.

Gran was commissioned into the Royal Flying Corps under his own name as a probationary temporary second lieutenant on 1 January 1917, [7] confirmed in the rank and appointed a flying officer on 1 March 1917, [8] and was posted to No. 70 Squadron, flying the Sopwith Camel on the Western Front.

He was appointed a flight commander on 1 January 1918 with the rank of acting-captain, [9] and in March his seniority as second lieutenant was backdated to 1 January 1917. [10] Soon after he was awarded the Military Cross. [11] His citation reading:

T./Capt. Tryggve Gran, Gen. List and R.F.C.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He bombed enemy aerodromes with great success, and engaged enemy searchlights, transport and other targets with machine-gun fire. He invariably showed the greatest determination and resource. [12]

He was promoted to acting-major on 10 September 1918. [13] and commanded various Royal Air Force units in Arkhangelsk and North Russia during the Allied intervention in 1919. Gran was temporarily transferred to unemployed list on 26 April 1919, [14] but on 1 August was granted a permanent commission in the RAF with the rank of captain, [15] however, this was then cancelled on 2 December 1919. [16] Gran finally relinquished his commission on 6 August 1921. [17]

Gran himself claimed to have shot down German ace Hermann Göring in a dogfight on 8 or 9 September 1917. He discovered this when he became acquainted with Göring after the war, and compared his flight logs with Göring's. It could however not be verified that it was Gran who shot down Göring's plane.

After the war, Gran started holding lectures on aviation and his journeys to the polar areas, as well as writing books. In 1919 he was the first man to fly from London to Stockholm. In 1928, he led a search party to find polar explorer Roald Amundsen, lost flying while trying to discover the fate of Umberto Nobile's North Pole expedition on board the Airship Italia .

During the Second World War, Gran was reportedly a member of Nasjonal Samling (NS), Vidkun Quisling's collaborationist party. The NS used Gran's hero-like status in their war propaganda, and in 1944, a commemorative stamp was issued to mark the 30th anniversary of Gran's flight across the North Sea. It has been speculated Gran feared reprisals from the pro-German fascist party because of his commitment to the Royal Air Force in the First World War. Others have speculated that his friendship with Göring and bitterness over not being offered a full-time job in the Norwegian Army Air Service may have been reasons for Gran to support the NS during the Nazi occupation of Norway.

After a trial in 1948, Gran was found guilty of treason and sentenced to a prison term of 18 months. The remainder of his life was devoted principally to writing books.

Personal life

Memorial to Tryggve Gran in Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland Tryggve.jpg
Memorial to Tryggve Gran in Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Gran was married three times. Firstly, on 29 April 1918, in London, to actress Lily St. John (Lilian Clara Johnson), [18] marriage dissolved 1921; secondly in 1923 to Ingeborg Meinich (1902–1997) with whom he had two daughters, the marriage dissolved; lastly in 1941 to Margaret Schønheyder, a renowned portrait painter. With his last wife, he had a son, Hermann who was born in 1944.

Gran was also a gifted football player, earning one cap for Norway in 1908. This was Norway's first ever international match, and was played against Sweden in Gothenburg. Sweden beat Norway 11–3.

Tryggve Gran died in his home in Grimstad, Norway on 8 January 1980 aged 91. A memorial was unveiled in Cruden Bay during 1971.


Polar medal after taking part in Robert F. Scott's Antarctic expedition 1910–1911.

Légion d'honneur, France

Italian Crown


See also

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  1. "Church register no. B 7 (1888–1903), Domkirken i Bergen". National Archival Services of Norway . 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. "Tryggve Herman Gran". Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. Barr, Susan (2014). "Tryggve Gran". Norsk biografisk leksikon (in Norwegian). Retrieved 29 September 2014.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. "No. 28740". The London Gazette. 25 July 1913. pp. 5322–5323.
  5. The Abbeville Press and Banner, 5 August, 1914, p. 1.
  6. "Lieut. Gran's Flight To Norway". Flight . VI (293): 837. 7 August 1914. Retrieved 29 September 2014.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. "No. 30058". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 May 1917. p. 4449.
  8. "No. 30257". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 August 1917. p. 8968.
  9. "No. 30562". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 March 1918. p. 2956.
  10. "No. 30582". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 March 1918. p. 3400.
  11. "No. 30597". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 March 1918. pp. 3744–3745.
  12. "No. 30862". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 August 1918. p. 9910.
  13. "No. 30905". The London Gazette. 17 September 1918. p. 11093.
  14. "No. 31352". The London Gazette. 23 May 1919. p. 6367.
  15. "No. 31486". The London Gazette. 1 August 1919. pp. 9867–9868.
  16. "No. 31669". The London Gazette. 2 December 1919. p. 14924.
  17. "No. 32413". The London Gazette. 5 August 1921. p. 6175.
  18. "Married". Flight . X (488): 488. 2 May 1918. Retrieved 29 September 2014.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

Further reading