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Peggy Martin, the last of the wartime Windmill Girls, who died age 94 in December 2019

.1925-2019.

An article by Jill Millard Shapiro

A Pin-up photo of Windmill Girl Peggy Martin during the war years - Courtesy Jill Millard Shapiro. When 17 year old Peggy Martin walked through the stage door of London's Windmill Theatre in 1942 and auditioned for impresario Vivian Van Damm she could never have imagined that she would go down in history as part of the war effort. But, that plucky little troupe of Windmill girls, tin hats at the ready, did as much for morale as Vera Lynn. They too were "The Forces Sweethearts" answering letters from servicemen posted in far flung stations across the world and signing photographs at the stage door despite the ever present threat of another bombing raid. Young men in uniform, so far from home, pinned pictures of the Windmill Girls on the barrack room walls, they were the pin-ups gazed at so wishfully night after night by boys who didn't know if they would be alive the next day.

Right - A Pin-up photo of Windmill Girl Peggy Martin during the war years - Courtesy Jill Millard Shapiro.

Peggy could sing and dance and had perfect comedic timing. She would often find herself paired with the Theatre's resident comedians feeding lines to Jimmy Edwards and Alfred Marks so that they could get the laughs. Just as often she would be on a pedestal in one of the Windmill's nude tableaux vivants. A few years ago Peggy recalled her first pose "I thought oh my god... I'm sitting in a bowl at the back of the stage wearing nothing more than a Grecian wig. I loved my job!"

Throughout the war years, six shows a day six days a week the "We Never Closed" Windmill kept on turning. On Sundays if the troops couldn't come to them the Windmill Girls went to the troops performing in aircraft hangars, drill halls, canteens and even improvised stages lit by the headlights of army trucks. They performed in R.A.F and American U.S.A.A F stations and even on a submarine where Peggy went missing and Mr Van Damm searched frantically for her fearing she had been whisked away by some handsome submariner. But no, Peggy had taken a wrong turn and got lost. At least that's what she told Van Damm.

When Peggy died on the 4th of December 2019 it marked the end of an era. She was the last of those glamorous, bright, wholesome pin-up girls who sang and danced their way through the Second World War and who leave behind the enduring legacy of a most extraordinary piece of theatrical history.

Jill Millard Shapiro 2019.

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