- Book reviewer
- Book reviews, Royal Navy, Biographies, Biographies and personal histories, WWII operations
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- RAN Ships
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- September 2003 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Full Circle: Log of the Navy’s No. 1 Conscript
By John Gritten
ISBN 0 9535036 9 0.
6 Corpach Drive, Dunfermline, Fife, KY12
Reviewed by Ian MacKenzie
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.