Joan Jay: Windmill Girl


Daily Mirror (1941) ‘Bombed Dancer is Back Again Cured’ 17 January, 6

Bombed Dancer is back again cured - DMirr 17 Jan 1941 p5

Joan Jay was one of many women who performed at the Windmill theatre and was particularly well-known as the performer who was injured during the Blitz. As is typical, when it comes to the Windmill narrative, misunderstandings and mistakes are rife when it comes to the media’s portrayal of the incident.

As the 1942 Life article ‘London’s Windmill Theatre‘ states, ‘Joan Jay was badly injured when hit during raid in a pub near the Windmill. Her brother who was with her was killed.’[1] Elsewhere, Jay’s daughter, Vivien Goldsmith states that actually:

‘My mother, a Windmill girl for 11 years, was caught by the bomb that hit the café opposite the theatre and killed a Windmill electrician.’[2]

Presumably though, it is this incident that forms the basis of the tragic sub-plot in Heart of a City, Tonight and Every Night and Mrs Henderson Presents. The injuries, to Jay’s legs, were serious enough to require skin grafts and four months off work. However once recovered she did return to the Windmill & can be seen in the 1946 Pathé newsreel story Show Girl (see below), whereby our narrator, a new member of the Revudeville cast, describes her as being ‘tops at helping a girl out’ during rehearsals.

As such Jay became a symbol of glamorous ‘beauty as duty’, stiff upper lip and that notion that the show must go on. This made her particularly newsworthy in the British media, even after the war and meant that she appeared in a number of newspaper articles, such as the Daily Mirror article ‘Bombed Dancer is Back Again Cured’[3], which claims that ‘it was thought she would never be able to dance again’ that ‘Joan had eleven wounds, the most serious in the thigh, into which she put her fist to stop the bleeding’ and that in his usual paternal style, ‘Mr Van Damm, Windmill’s manager called in a special skin-grafter.’

On March 19th, 1942, Jay was an early castaway on the BBC radio light entertainment programme Desert Island Discs. However, so far I haven’t found a copy of the broadcast.

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[1] Life (1942) ‘London’s Windmill Theatre.’ 16 March, 60

[2] Goldsmith, V.  (2005) Windmill: Always Nude but Never Rude. The Telegraph. 24 November. Available from [accessed 14/04/2017]

[3] Daily Mirror (1941) ‘Bombed Dancer is Back Again Cured’ 17 January, 6