Week 13: 28th March – 3rd April 1943


Here’s what’s going on in the world this week in 1943

  • The munitions ship Caterina Costa exploded in Naples harbour. Initial reports were that 72 people were killed and 1,179 injured, while later sources set the death toll at 600 or more. The fire on the ship had burned for hours, but no action was taken on fighting the blaze or towing the ship away from the harbor, because government approval could not be obtained.
  • Food rationing began in the United States following the announcement of limits on beef, pork, lamb and mutton, as well as butter, cheese and canned fish. 
  • UK Prime Minister John Major, Monty Python comedian, Eric Idle, and Vangelis (Evangelos Papathanassiou), Greek musician best known for his Chariots of Fire, were born on the same day – 29th March.
  • Oklahoma!, the musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, opened on Broadway. The show went on to become Broadway’s longest-running musical up to that time, closing in 1948.
  • The X System vocoder went into operation to secure phone conversations between U.S. President Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Churchill. The system electronically encrypted speech that could be decrypted at the other end, permitting the two leaders to talk to each other in secret. The terminals for transatlantic calls were at The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and in the basement of Selfridges department store in London.
  • A riot in Wellington, New Zealand between American servicemen and New Zealand servicemen and civilians, known as the Battle of Manners Street, occurred when some of the Americans refused to allow Māori soldiers from entering the Allied Services Club. Dozens of people were injured but news of the riot was censored at the time.
  • Shipwrecked sailor Poon Lim was rescued by Brazilian fishermen after being adrift for 131 days as the sole survivor of a British merchant ship, the Ben Lomond, which had been torpedoed on November 29, 1942.

And here’s what was keeping Peggy busy in the ATS:

Sunday 28th March 1943
Have changed on rota to 24hrs as we’re short. So – not on duty today – but out again tonight. Picked some primroses. Went along the beach to Stubb. Very tiring. Quite nice.

Monday 29th March 1943
On duty till 0800 tomorrow. Pretty bloody. Capt. Vessly came but we were O/A. Wrote to Jim. Very busy all day. S/P at night. One call out.

Tuesday 30th March 1943
Terribly tired today. Went to bed. Slept like a log. Got up at 13.45 for a lecture & missed it. Did a lot of washing. Concert in Naafi at night.

Wednesday 31st March 1943
Heard from Reg! He’s marrying someone else. So I’m finis?? Very hurt & sad about it all. Words can’t describe how I really feel – B-y awful day. O/a in afternoon.

Thursday 1st April 1943
Had a half day to celebrate Battery Birthday. Smashing Party in the evening Sgt. Morgan took my shirt off & gave it to Capt. Nicholls in one game! On duty at 22hrs.

Friday 2nd April 1943
In bed up at 1345 to go to C/P for CP. duth! Capt. Vessly came to test us. Sos BACK! Went out to drown my sorrows in the evening. Grand time came home with Bdr. Matthews!

Saturday 3rd April 1943
Not feeling very well this morning! Not eating! On duty. Joan O. came over. Had a walk with Sos. Supposed to see him on Monday.


Week 12: 21st March – 27th March 1943


Here’s what’s going on in the world this week in 1943

  • The second attempt on Hitler’s life in the space of eight days was made. Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff had been given the opportunity to escort Hitler through an exhibition of captured Soviet war equipment. Gersdorff expected Hitler to spend at least thirty minutes by his side and set a ten-minute fuse on a bomb, planning to kill both himself and Hitler. Instead, Hitler rushed through the viewing and left after two minutes. Gersdorff went into a restroom and defused the explosive.
  • Deportation began of 4,000 Jews in the Nazi-occupied France. All but 15 were sent to gas chambers upon their arrival at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland, and only five of the 4,000 survived World War II. On the same day, deportation began of the Jews of the Yugoslavian (now Macedonian) city of Skopje, as 2,338 people were loaded onto freight cars for the week-long train trip to the Treblinka death camp. The first executions of Gypsies by the Nazi SS were carried out at the Auschwitz concentration camp, with 1,700 being sent to gas chambers after being diagnosed with typhus.
  • The entire population of the Belarusian village of Khatyn was attacked by German soldiers of the 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS in retaliation for the killing of four Nazi officers. Only three children and one man survived.
  • U.S. Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, submitted a proposed charter for a “world security association” to be set up by the world’s nations after the end of World War II. The proposal anticipated the United Nations that would be created in 1945.
  • The British escort carrier Dasher was destroyed by an accidental explosion in the Firth of Clyde, killing 379 of the crew of 528 An investigation concluded that the cause had been a carelessly dropped cigarette that had ignited fuel from a leaking valve.

And here’s what was keeping Peggy busy in the ATS:

Sunday 21st March 1943
In bed. Very cold. Didn’t get up  until 16.00 hrs. Went down to Titchfield ?? of International Commandos about.  Nothing exciting!

Monday 22nd March 1943
On duty. No 1 today. Out of action for fitting of new modification. Lovely day. Mum heard from Jim. Rob going on okay. Feel on top of the world.

Tuesday 23rd March 1943
Jolly good, in fact, smashing  concert by “Stars in Battledress”  Don Carlos, Alan Clare – got all their autographs after the show. ?? colder today. On night duty with Sgt E.


Wednesday 24th March 1943
Cold. Picked primroses in the afternoon.  Went to the Savoy. Saw Whispering Ghosts and a Wallace Beery. Quite good. Went on to a dance at Stubbington. Met Marine – Vic. Came home with him. Quite nice.

Thursday 25th March 1943
On duty. No. 1 again.  In the square. Gave Mr Palmer tuition. In the afternoon and evening Capt. Nicholls. Dance at night. Had a lovely time. Mac was here.

Friday 26th March 1943
Wonderful. Went up to see Capt. Vessey. Coming back down a truck pulled up and there was Sos! Lovely surprise.  Hoping to see him tomorrow.  On duty. D/S

Saturday 27th March 1943
In bed until 17.20 hrs. Laziness. Went to dance – big disappointment Smudger said Sos was only down for a day. Been posted. Had a good time at dance. Came home in car with ?? (end of Saturday appears on the following diary page)

Week 11: 14th March – 20th March 1943


Here’s what’s going on in the world this week in 1943

  • The British submarine HMS Thunderbolt was sunk off Sicily by the Italian corvette Cicogna, killing all on board. On June 1, 1939, as the Thetis, the submarine had been lost during sea trials with all 99 people on board before being salvaged and relaunched as the Thunderbolt.
  • Joseph Stalin sent a letter to President Roosevelt urging that a second front be opened in Europe. Stalin wrote, “The Soviet troops have fought strenuously all winter and are continuing to do so, while Hitler is taking important measures to rehabilitate and reinforce his Army for the spring and summer operations against the USSR; it is therefore particularly essential for us that the blow from the West no longer be delayed, that it be delivered this spring or early summer.”
  • Bulgaria, an Axis power allied with Germany, refused to comply with a German demand that Bulgarian Jews be deported to Nazi concentration camps. The Parliament voted unanimously to revoke plans that had been made by government minister Alexander Belev to arrest Bulgaria’s Jewish citizens (although deportations had taken place in the conquered territories of Macedonia and Thrace). As a result of the vote no Bulgarian Jews were deported to the gas chambers from Bulgaria itself.
  • The Japanese Navy ordered its submarine forces to leave no survivors on the sinking of any merchant vessels, “Do not stop at the sinking of enemy ships and cargoes. At the same time, carry out the complete destruction of the crews of the enemy’s ships.”
  • The first of 19 transports of 46,000 Greek Jews to Nazi death camps began, as a train left Salonika for the Auschwitz extermination camp. By August 18, the removal of the Jews would be complete.

And here’s what was keeping Peggy busy in the ATS:

Sunday 14th March 1943
Nice day. Went in the wood and picked primroses. Quite a lot too. On duty at night. D.S. Did a lot of washing. Nothing happened.

Monday 15th March 1943
In bed. Badly squashed my finger when Watty’s bed collapsed on it. M.O. sent for. Was in a bad way. Nearly conked out. Ensa at night. Bed early.

Tuesday 16th March 1943
On duty. No. 1. Finger very painful! Saw M.O. have to go again on Friday. Forgot we fired yesterday. Did a lot of work on new diesel.

Wednesday 17th March 1943
Didn’t do much work on account of finger which was rather painful. Went for a walk down to beach after tea. Picked flowers. Went on duty. S/P 23-0300.

Thursday 18th March 1943
In bed, glorious bed! Up for pay at quarter to three. Had a pretty good sleep. Nice bath – going to dance tonight. Joan S. back. Dance quite good fun.

Friday 19th March 1943
On duty. Very busy cleaning up for Sat. Inspect. SawM.O. with finger. Had F.F.I. S/P 13-19. Letter from Jim Millar. Played Housie in Naafi and lost!

Saturday 20th March 1943
Fatigue day. Didn’t do much cause of finger. Went primrose picking. Our Diesel won competition. On duty.

Week 10: 7th March – 13th March 1943


Here’s what’s going on in the world this week in 1943

  • The Polish government-in-exile reported for the first time about the executions of prisoners in a Nazi German “murder camp” at Oswiecim, known in Germany as Auschwitz.
  • The entire Jewish population of the Yugoslavian cities of Skopje, Štip and Bitola – all three now part of the Republic of Macedonia – was deported to the Treblinka II death camp by the German SS with the assistance of Bulgarian soldiers. 7,240 people in total were taken. The community in Bitola had been warned the day before by the local Communist Party about the impending raid, though only a few people were able to escape.
  • The British destroyer HMS Harvester was sunk by the U-432, a German submarine. U-432 was then rammed and sunk by a French ship, the corvette Aconit, which rescued the few survivors of the Harvester. The day before, the Harvester had sunk another German sub, the U-444. There were 41 men lost on U-444, 26 on U-432, and 145 on the Harvester.
  • In a plot called Operation Spark, German officer Henning von Tresckow attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler by arranging for an unwitting officer to hand Hitler a parcel thinking it contained a gift when it actually contained a bomb. All went according to plan and Hitler’s plane took off from Smolensk to Rastenburg with the parcel aboard, but it failed to explode due to a faulty detonator.
  • The Canadian Pacific Ocean liner RMS Empress of Canada, converted to war use, was torpedoed and sunk by the Italian submarine Leonardo da Vinci, 400 miles off of the coast of Africa. The ship had been carrying 1,800 people, including Italian servicemen who had been captured as prisoners of war. While 1,400 people survived, 392 were killed, half of them Italian POWs.

And here’s what was keeping Peggy busy in the ATS:

Sunday 7th March 1943
Grand day. On duty. Out of Action. R.O. Came. Had ?** hostile. Picked up planes 5000ft(?) e/p. 9000ft Didn’t fire as one of our girls (B-Collins) put off CP Switch instead of alarm. Very fed up.

Monday 8th March 1943
Terrific lot of Jerries over in the night. Barrage put up was also terrific but Rig didn’t fire. G.L. o.o.a!!! S/O only 16 rounds. Hayling I. put up 195!! Lovely day. Hoping to play hockey. Played.

Tuesday 9th March 1943
Stayed in bed and slept until 16.00! Just s hours hour (?) I needed it! We didn’t even bother to go out. Played hockey & then cards with with REME in Naafi.

Wednesday 10th March 1943
On duty. Got into a filthy state cleaning the sump. Had test in the afternoon. Rather difficult. Joan went suddenly on course to ?Bolhtey

Thursday 11th March 1943
Nothing much happened. Dance tonight. Hung about for pay until about 20.00 hrs. Came on duty – Bulls Eye from 2015 – 2150. So didn’t go to dance until 2300hrs. Saw…

Friday 12th March 1943
…Mac and several Commandos. Heard from home. Robin in hospital with Scarlet Fever. Had to go on Route March to Fareham! Very poor legs. Saw Robert Young in ‘Cairo’ – Awful.

Saturday 13th March 1943
On duty. Nick & Sgt. Hughes unexpected course everything wrong Worked very hard. In the evening 209 Cst. BIG played darts & won.