Windmill Girls Boosted the Spirits of Servicemen and the British Public During World War II

Photo Credit: Fox Photos / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Fox Photos / Getty Images

Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the Second World War, a group of women emerged as beacons of light and resilience. Known as the “Windmill Girls,” they played an essential role in boosting the morale of servicemen and the British public, all while defying societal norms and pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

The Windmill Theatre, located in London’s West End, became home to the famous Windmill Girls. Initially, it showcased various forms of entertainment, but, as the war escalated, it transformed into a hub of patriotism and escapism. The Windmill Girls, led by their determined and charismatic manager, Laura Henderson, brought forth a new era of entertainment that lifted the spirits of the nation.

What set the Windmill Girls apart was their unique show – called Revudeville – which blended classic revue-style acts with tasteful nudity. Contrary to the conventional norms of the time, their performances focused on select naked women who were required to stand still. In doing so, they found a workaround for the United Kingdom’s strict censorship laws.

Sometimes dancers, props or costumes were used to hide certain parts of the women. In other instances, they weren’t.

Windmill Girl sitting in full costume in her dressing room
Windmill Girl, 1941. (Photo Credit: Tunbridge / Tunbridge-Sedgwick Pictorial Press / Getty Images)

While their shows were appealing for many, what really set the Windmill Girls apart was they performed for the duration of the Blitz. They only closed during a mandatory 13-day shutdown of theaters across London, but were back up and running soon after. They used the slogan “we never closed,” which patrons morphed into “we never clothed.”

The Windmill Girls’ performances weren’t merely a form of entertainment – as aforementioned, they also served as a means of boosting morale. Many servicemen, preparing for battle or recovering from the horrors of the front, found solace and respite in the glamorous and enchanting theater.

The Featured Image of this article is a photo of an unidentified sailor doing just that. On August 9, 1941, during a break in one of the performances, he spent time with some of the famous Windmill Girls, sharing some “National Wheatmeal Bread.”

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These courageous women left an indelible mark on London and the entertainment industry as a whole. Their courage, resilience and unwavering dedication to their craft served as a testament to the power of art and its ability to lift spirits, even in the darkest of times. These women were more than performers; they were symbols of strength, defiance and the triumph of the human spirit.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.