King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Constantin Silvestri

The Gritten Archive

Tape recordings of John Gritten’s interviews on Constantin SilvestriTape recordings of John Gritten’s interviews on Constantin SilvestriManuscripts of John Gritten’s interviews on Constantin SilvestriManuscripts of John Gritten’s interviews on Constantin SilvestriContact sheet for photographs showing Constantin Silvestri at a party receptionContact sheet for photographs showing Constantin Silvestri at a party receptionSolitude, by John Gritten (s.d.)Solitude, by John Gritten (s.d.)The John Gritten archive was transferred to King’s College London in 2019 by his widow, Anda, and comprises a wide variety of material, including manuscript notes and drafts of his writings, diaries, photographs, audio tapes and press clippings, along with numerous copies of his own publications. It charts his career as a journalist, and describes his wartime experiences, not least during the Norwegian campaign and at D-Day and preserves some of the papers of Gritten’s late father, the MP, Howard Gritten. John Gritten was a chronicler of the life and times of the composer and conductor, Constantin Silvestri, and the archive also contains research for his biography, A Musician Before His Time. Constantin Silvestri conductor, composer, pianist​ (1998), celebrations marking the life of Silvestri including recitals and exhibitions, festivals, competitions for young musicians, orchestral concert tours, memorial CD set, and interviews with his contemporaries.

The archive remains uncatalogued. Its extent is 11 records management boxes. Highlights include:

John Gritten’s personal correspondence and diaries from his childhood in the 1930s, notably with family, friends, journalist colleagues and veterans.

Relating to the World War Two Norwegian Campaign and annual commemoration at Namsos marking the anniversary of the evacuation of the town by British forces in April 1940 following the ill-fated Allied intervention in Norway. John Gritten served aboard HMS Afridi, that helped evacuate British soldiers and was bombed and sunk during the engagement. This series includes letters with veterans, wartime publications, and photographs of annual reunions and remembrance activities at Namsos from the year 2000, when John Gritten, together with a local Norwegian historian, secured the Namsos’ British War Memorial. The collection includes photos and videos with the unveiling in May 2000 by Sir Richard Dales - the British Ambassador to Norway. 

Gritten’s other wartime career was as an Official Naval Reporter (Lieutenant RNVR) for the Admiralty Press Division (1943 – 1946). Towards the end of the war, he became the British East Indies Fleet’s ONR covering sweeps in the Indian Ocean under Admiral Mountbatten’s command. This series includes a scrapbook, correspondence with veterans, interviews with contemporaries, photographs, wartime periodicals and manuscripts, drafts, and final copies of his autobiographical Full Circle: the Log of the Navy’s No 1 Conscript (2003).  

After the war, John Gritten resumed his career as a journalist in public relations for Professor Joliot Curie’s World Council of Peace. 

Papers relating to Gritten’s father, the Conservative MP for Hartlepool, Howard Gritten, for the memoir, Howard and Son (2012), including original correspondence from constituents and political colleagues, 1907-1917, the German bombardment of Hartlepool, research for the book including press clippings, and letters from members of the extended family.

Newspaper and magazine articles by Gritten, notably from the Daily Worker and Morning Star and African news magazines on which he worked, including Africa Now. Also, other publications about the British Empire (notably India), and the theory, history, and currency of communist ideology. This series also includes drafts of unpublished books and articles.

Material relating to Constantin Silvestri compiled during the writing of his biography, including recordings of his work, scores, press clippings, concert programmes, drafts of the book, research notes and audio recordings of interviews with Silvestri’s contemporaries, tours and exhibitions that celebrated Silvestri’s life.  

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