Travers Island, Pelham, New York

The Royal Norwegian Gunnery School

During the German Occupation of Norway, the New York Athletic Club's "Travers Island" was leased to the United States Navy.  Through a land-lease agreement with German-occupied Norway, the facility was used as the "Royal Norwegian Gunnery School."  From June 1, 1943 to October 1, 1944, men in the Norwegian Navy and Merchant Marine were taught the art of anti-submarine gunnery off the coast of Pelham.  Norway's Crown Prince Olav and Princess Martha visited the facility on January 11, 1944 to inspect the facility and visit the Norwegian naval officers and sailors at the school.  Princess Martha was also present at both the commissioning and the closing of the facility. 

Video clips of Princess Martha's visits:

Princess Martha in 1943 decorates members of Norwegian Royal Navy at dedication of new anti-submarine gunnery school at Travers Island

Princess Martha at Travers Island in 1944 during decommissioning of the Royal Norwegian Gunnery


Life of a Norwegian in Pelham:

The Motor Corps of the Pelham Branch of the American Red Cross

Providing transportation for the Gunnery, women volunteers from Pelham drove a total of 25,975 miles moving equipment and personnel around the New York area in the 16 months that the school was in operation.  Three women especially recognized for their service were:
Lieutenant Audrey N. Smith (9472 miles);  Private Margo Brown (3780 miles); and Private Marjorie Driver (1457 miles).
From The Pelham Sun, Nov. 22, 1944

 Welcome to Pelham!

   Students at the gunnery were welcomed into the surrounding community:
the Church of the Redeemer Junior Guild invited the Norwegians to dances, invitations were extended to a block party on Harmon Avenue, a piano was donated to the Travers Island facility and the Lutheran Church on Lockwood Avenue in New Rochelle held a Christmas Service in Norwegian.
   The Norwegians, for their part, put on musical performances at Pelham events and the Norwegian Gunnery band played at war bond rallies.
   The welcome was temporal as the sailors spent just enough time at the school before being sent back off to fight for Norway's freedom.
   From June 1, 1943 to October 1, 1944: 1600 men from the Royal Norwegian Navy & Norwegian Merchant Marine passed through Travers Island and 500 men graduated from the Royal Norwegian Gunnery School.

The traditional Norwegian Independence Day ("Grunnlovsdagen" or "Constitution Day") celebrated at the Royal Norwegian Gunnery School at Travers Island May 17, 1944:

"Travers Island, New York. Norwegian Independence Day celebration at the Norwegian gunners' school,"  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives Travers Island, New York.