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:
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.