Full Circle. Log of the Navy’s No. 1 Conscript
The Royal Navy probably could not believe their luck when one of their first recruits after conscription was introduced early in 1939 turned out to be a young journalist. But after enrolling him as Special Reservist No. 1 and telling him his role would be to give the Navy publicity, when he chose to become a stoker after training he disappeared off the Navy’s radar for quite some time.
Although the book has been titled Full Circle it might have been more accurately termed Two Semicircles. Its first two sections covering the evacuation from Norway and a shore based posting in England are written from diary notes made while John Gritten is serving as a stoker. The story is autobiographical and written with a reporter’s eye and attention to detail. It vividly conveys the sense of unknowing urgency which existed in the engine room. We also see the reactions of the stokers and ratings, hear their thoughts and can fully appreciate their muttered questioning the actions taken by the commissioned ranks.
By the second half of the story the Navy has caught up with the author who has now been plucked out of the engine room to serve as a Press Liaison Officer. For better or for worse his perspective of the action changes. The D-Day Normandy landings and service in the South East Asia Command are written from the more detached viewing platform of a commissioned officer but what this section loses in realism is made up for by the more global picture it brings.
The final chapter goes back to the evacuation of troops from Norway, joining the semicircles of the reader and realistically describing the horrors of the aerial attacks on the North Sea evacuation convoys. This book will be welcomed by students of human behaviour under stress, and also provides comprehensive references for any who may be more interested in the historical events. Naval Historical Society of Australia
AMAZON UK Top customer reviews:
5.0 out of 5 stars
An absolutely amazing read! The real McCoy!! A brilliant first-hand account of life both onboard and occasionally off the tribal class destroyer, HMS AFRIDI. The book is illustrated with a generous handful of contemporary photographs as well as Gritten’s ability to lead his readers through beautifully woven words down into the real action below-decks in the massive boiler rooms. The narrative is amazingly descriptive, in some parts funny and others sad and shocking as Gritten accurately depicts the real horrors that face those at war.
WARNING! A delightfully detailed account which cannot be read in a hurry, but put the book down and it will you lure you back before too long!
5.0 out of 5 stars
Gritten describes an eventful few years in the RN during WW2, Easy to read, and at times humorous, he describes his awakening from a relatively comfortable middle class English upbringing to an awareness of how other classes, cultures and nationalities view the world. With a journalist’s skill and flair, he describes his physically unscathed emergence from over 6 years of naval service, at first as a stoker, then as an official RN journalist. I recommend it to not just aficionados of WW2 literature, but also people who enjoy reading about the human condition. To those of us who are too young to have lived through WW2, this book is a valuable account of some of the sacrifices that our elders made to resist the spread of the scourge of fascism.
A Musician Before His Time – Constantin Silvestri conductor, composer and pianist
Silvestri became a British citizen shortly before his soaring reputation was cut short by cancer at 55. In the words of the eminent specialist who tended him: ‘The world has lost a great musician.’
A Musician Before His Time was used for reference in several BBC Radio 3 programmes on Silvestri.
Aside from purely factual discoveries, the strength of Gritten’s book – the first substantial writing about the conductor in English – is its selection of quoted descriptions as to what Silvestri’s music-making actually sounded like (all too rare in many conductor biographies). . .This story is well worth telling and reading. BBC Music Magazine
John Gritten’s painstakingly researched and generously illustrated book must be welcomed, especially as a reminder of Silvestri’s achievements wih the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra . . . Absolutely indispensable to anyone who admired this brilliantly individual musician. Classical Music
In John Gritten, Silvestri has found a sympathetic, fluent advocate who brings out the colour and warmth of the conductor’s personality as well as providing valuable insights into Silvestri’s qualities as a musician…Gritten’s book is at its best in discussing the personal and musical details of Silvestri’s years in Bournemouth…Connoisseurs of conductors will find much of interest in this absorbing book. Journal of the Conductors Guild, US
John Gritten has revealed a complex and dynamic person … The book is written in a readable, journalistic style, clearly aimed at the general music-lover rather than the specialist – yet even the latter will find valuable information here. International Record Review
AMAZON UK Top customer reviews:
Howard and Son – rebels of a kind
Slagmark Trøndelag, De alliertes første Dunkirk
Co-author with Norwegian journalist Ola Flyum