GRAN, Tryggve (1888-1980). Medals and awards, comprising:
Polar Medal, George V, with clasp reading 'Antarctic 1910-13', incused 'SUB. LIEUT. T. GRAN, TERRA NOVA’ on the rim, with original white ribbon [mounted as worn with the next];
Military Cross, George V, with original ribbon and presentation box;
Legion of Honour, Third Republic, 1870, Chevalier, with original ribbon and presentation box;
Order of the Crown of Italy, Commander, with original ribbon, box.
Provenance: by direct descent from Tryggve Gran.
Medals and awards commemorating the extraordinary life of the Norwegian explorer, aviator and distinguished First World War combatant, Tryggve Gran. Born into an important shipbuilding family in Bergen, Norway, the teenage Tryggve Gran was inspired to become a naval officer after meeting the German emperor, and naval reformer, Wilhelm II: Gran entered naval college in 1907 and graduated in 1910. That same year, the young Norwegian was recruited by Scott as a skiing expert for the Terra Nova expedition on the recommendation of the explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen. As well as playing a valuable role on the research team, Gran was part of the 11-man search party that set off from Cape Evans in October 1912 in search of Scott, discovering the tent containing the frozen bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers. For the part he played in the Terra Nova expedition, he was awarded the Polar Medal by the English king George V on 24 July 1913.
It was on the return journey from Antarctica that Gran met the pioneering Irish pilot Robert Lorraine, an encounter that sparked an instantaneous passion for aviation: just one year later, having trained to become a pilot at Louis Blériot's flying school in Paris, Gran became the first person to fly across the North Sea in a heavier-than-air aircraft – manufactured by Blériot – on 30 July 1914.
Just five days after Gran set his record, Britain entered the First World War. As a first lieutenant in the Norwegian Army Air Service, Gran volunteered to serve with the Royal Flying Corps: when his application was rejected on the grounds of Norway’s neutrality, Gran – undaunted – joined as one ‘Captain Teddy Grant’ of Canada. By 1917 he was able to commission under his own name and was posted to the Western Front, flying Sopwith Camels, where he distinguished himself, winning his Military Cross the same year (the citation read: ‘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’). Having risen higher in the ranks – while also claiming to have shot down Hermann Göring in a dogfight – Gran remained with the British air services past the end of the war, finally retiring in 1921, and devoting the rest of his life primarily to lecturing and writing.