Men were not the only accomplished nose artists of WW II, continuing the artists mini series may I introduce you to Anne Hayward…

Half Austrian and half English, Anne Josephine Hayward had been painting since she was a toddler and spent two of her formative years being tutored by French and Austrian governesses in Austria before attending a finishing school in Suffolk, England. With her love and talent for art she had initially planned to study art in Paris after leaving the Ruskin school of drawing and fine art (known as the Ruskin) in Oxford. Anne had even won the accolade of the Prix de Rome art scholarship which would have stood her in very good stead. However with the onset of war, plans were changed for most people. Activities such as studying art would have seemed some what frivolous in these perilous times. Many women in Britain choose to seek work to aid the war effort. With this in mind Anne too wished to be apart of the war effort and applied to join the British Red Cross though due to her mothers nationality (Austrian) she was denied. This did not deter young Anne though and she went on to apply to and join the American Red Cross. Anne worked at the 385th Bomb Group base at Great Ashfield in the Aero Club where she served a seemingly endless supply of coffee and doughnuts and became an unofficial Samaritan to the airmen whose woes she listened to whilst serving their refreshments.

It was not long before her artistic prowess was recognised, one of her first painting assignments being to paint murals on the walls of the Aero club and then the Officers club. From these auspicious beginnings to the world of war-time art she went on to paint the nose art on to the groups Fortresses. Though based on requests by the crew, all her designs came from her vivid imagination. Her designs included “Dragon Lady” which sported a fearsome dragon being ridden by a naked raven haired beauty, “Off Spring” had a whimsical cartoon baby, “Madam Shoo Shoo” featured a sexy blond in a black negligee and “Homesick Angel” featured a lady with angel wings appearing down cast, “Blue Champagne” sports a scantily clad young lady with legs draped over a champagne glass, surrounded by bubbles.

Her most famous art piece was for her namesake “Haybag” on which she painted a caricature of herself sporting her Lapcap head-gear, in it she had a sketchbook, paintbrushes and a steaming cup of tea, alongside the epitaph “Good Ole girl” in a speech bubble. The airplane ground crew, under M/Sgt Ed Hallisay, added Annie to the title, she was now officially named “Haybag Annie” and was welcomed as one of the group. “Haybag Annie” was assigned to 550th BS with which she completed 105 operations between 1944 and 1945 with no aborts or casualties. During her war service she accumulated 1300 hours in the air. On top of that she also flew 5 food drop missions over 3 days in may 1945 in support of operation Chowdown.

It may have upset the apple cart to see a woman not only accomplishing such things but doing so with such blatant sexuality, however Anne herself challenged the objections of the time to nose art as degrading to women and its social acceptability – “Its purpose was worthy, to bolster military morale in a terrible time. The members of each crew came to feel that their plane and their painting were somehow special and would bring them luck, a safe return from hostile skies. The art may have been frivolous at times, but it was never anti-social” . Though much of Anne’s art was highly sexual it was also free-spirited. Definitely daring but never appearing crude.

In addition to these fantastic examples of nose art, Anne also used her extensive talents to embellish dozens of A-2 jackets with miniature versions of her masterpieces.

One can imagine that the rare view of an attractive 24-year-old young lady roaming around the airfield must have been a distracting sight for the many GI’S and I’m sure she experienced many admiring glances as did her nose art paintings. Her work was considered of such high importance as a morale boost and form of camaraderie for the group and the war effort as a whole, that the group CO, Lt.Col. Elliot Vandervanter wrote to the local Labour Exchange. The letter expressed how much her work bought to the group and requested that she be allowed a deferment from her other war work to allow her time to complete her art work. As she was not allowed to use the base bus, she was driven by an MP in a jeep to the many remote handstands and collected after she had completed her work.

After the end of the war, with the GI’s all returned home, Great Ashfield  was left almost deserted and so Anne also returned to her previous life. She went back to her art studies in Oxford and continued to paint throughout the rest of her life until her unfortunate death in 1999, becoming revered as an accomplished artist. Anne left behind a daughter, who owns a B and B in Suffolk called the Pink Cottage where a lot of Anne’s art is displayed. Before her death Anne appeared on ‘Time Team’ for Chanel 4. After the team unearthed a ditched American Bomber in Readham Marshes, Norfolk. Anne was asked to create a new piece of nose art for it, she created “Sleepy time gal”.

Anne Haywards war-time endeavours will forever be remembered not just for their beauty but also due to the rarity for the time of them being produced by a female. Girl Power in one of its earliest and most victorious forms.

Please check out and like our Facebook page and group: