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March 3rd, 1943 (WEDNESDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: London: People descending the steps to the shelter at Bethnal Green tube station in East London last night were crushed to death and suffocated to death in a tragic accident when not a single bomb has fallen. A middle-aged woman carrying a baby tripped near the bottom of the first flight of 20 steps.

Her fall brought down the man behind her, and others hurrying down to the shelter after the air-raid warning fell in their turn. Within minutes dozens of bodies were crushed on top of each other. Unaware, others pressed in from the street building up a wall of death. Out of 400 victims of the disaster, 173 died of suffocation, and 62 were badly injured. The woman lived. Her baby died.

In its largest daylight mission to date, VII Bomber Command dispatches a total of 566 B-17s and B-24s against Wilhelmshaven port area. A total of 434 B-17s and 105 B-24s drop a record 1,488 tons of bombs on the briefed target area between 1307 and 1335 hours. Seven B-17s are lost with 70 crewmen. This is also the first time that a bomb group goes out in double strength. The 90th BG (H) dispatches 50 B-17s. (Skip Guidry)

GERMANY: A tunnel is broken at OFLAG XXIB at Schubin which puts out 33 AF POW's led by the "Big X", Lt Cdr Buckley, who drowned on his way to Sweden. Buckley was the inspiration for Roger Bushell, who later headed up the Great Escape from STALAG-LUFT III at Sagan. None of the escapers make a home run. (Marc James Small)

U-545 is launched.

U-423, U-671 commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

U.S.S.R.: The Red Army captures the German base of Rzhev, and Lgov, west of Kursk.

INDIAN OCEAN: At 2322, U-160 made her first attack on Convoy DN-21 about 40 miles south of Port St John's, South Africa, sank the Harvey W. Scott and Nirpura and damaged the Tibia. The Harvey W. Scott in station #32 was stuck by one torpedo on the port side at the #2 hold. The ship settled slowly as the engines were secured and the radio operator sent a distress signal. 11 minutes after the hit all eight officers, 34 crewmen and 19 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 4in, one 3in and four 20mm guns) abandoned ship in the four lifeboats. The vessel sank just after midnight, plunging bow first. 16 survivors in one boat were picked up by the Argentine SS Ombu and landed at Durban on 6 March. On 3 March, the motorboat with 7 survivors, including the master and chief mate, made landfall near Port St Johns. They traded the boat to the natives for food and clothes and were taken by horse and wagon through the jungle to Umtata, Natal. The remaining two boats landed at Umtata on 4 and 6 March. All survivors were then taken by train to Durban. 38 men from the Nirpura were lost and 88 (including the master) were picked up by the SAAF crash launch R-8 and landed at Durban. Tibia was hit at 2322 by a torpedo on port side, which immediately caused a heavy list to that side. The engine was stopped and the starboard tanks were counterflooded. The crew (with the exception of most Chinese) had worked efficiently and at 2341, the ship set course for Durban at full speed, arriving at 1740 on 4 March. (Dave Shirlaw)

BURMA: The Chindits cross the Mu river, and cut the rail link between Mandalay and Myitkyina for a second time.

PACIFIC OCEAN: SHIRAYUKI IJN, Japanese Destroyer, Sunk 55 miles south-east of Finchharven by USAAF and RAAF air attack.

TOKITSUKAZE IJN, Japanese Destroyer, sunk along with Shirayuki. (James Paterson)


Light cruiser USS Amsterdam laid down.

Destroyer USS Gatling laid down.

Submarine USS Guavina laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

ATLANTIC OCEAN: MS Doggerbank was returning as blockade-runner from Japan. At 2153, U-43 torpedoed a steamer of the Dunedin Star type, but it was soon clear the she had sunk the Doggerbank, which was ahead of her scheduled arrival and was sunk in error. Built as British Speybank for Andrew Weir and Co, London 31 Jan 1941 captured by the German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis in the Indian Ocean. A prize crew brought the ship to Bordeaux. Taken over by the Kriegsmarine, renamed Doggerbank (Schiff 53) and converted to auxiliary minelayer. Laid mines off South Africa and proceeded to Japan. (Dave Shirlaw)

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