Poetry is another form of life writing people turn to when looking to record different moments in their lives.

Included at the end of a letter in the papers of Peter and Phyllis Wilmott is a poem penned by one of their friends, Winifred Pluckrose.

At the start of the Second World War, Winifred worked for National Provincial Bank in the City of London. She however swapped her abacus for an axe when she began working as a Lumber Jill for the Women’s Timber Corps in Somerset.

Throughout her time as a forestry war worker, she regularly wrote to Phyllis to share her experiences of wartime life. On 7 October 1944, Winifred was proud to share her joy at having a ‘socialist poem published in the Timber Corps magazine!’. The poem documents, in highly emotional terms, Winifred’s questioning of why the country is at war.

Youth’s Aim – 1944

And what are we fighting for?  Do they know

this tired work – worn youth, aged


to maintain a life that should be


in adolescent joys?

Source: WLMT 2/2/4, Churchill Archives Centre.

Find out more about:

    • Other poems and amusing doodles, penned by Winifred and published in Mavis Williams’ Lumber Jill: Her Story of Four Years in the Women’s Timber Corps 1942-45.
    • Women’s war writing, by reading: Plain, G. (2009). Women writers and the war. In M. MacKay (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of World War II (Cambridge Companions to Literature, pp. 165-178). Cambridge: Cambridge University.
      Acton, Carol. “Diverting the Gaze: The Unseen Text in Women’s War Writing.” College Literature 31, no. 2 (2004): 53-79.

Explore other poetry in our collection:

If we’ve whetted your appetite, then do get in touch to explore our collections.


Want to catch up with earlier posts in our series? Check out our blogs on autobiographies and biographies, letters, diaries, scrapbooks and comics.

Looking for useful introductions for working with life writing? Here’s some of our favourites:

    • – Dobson, Miriam, and Benjamin Ziemann, eds. Reading primary sources: the interpretation of texts from nineteenth and twentieth century history. Routledge, 2020.
    • – Barber, Sarah, and Corinna Peniston-Bird, eds. History beyond the text: a student’s guide to approaching alternative sources. Routledge, 2013.
    • – Summerfield, Penny. Histories of the self: Personal narratives and historical practice. Routledge, 2018.
    • – Saunders, Valerie, “Life Writing”. In Victorian Literature, (accessed 4 Aug. 2021).

By Cherish Watton, Archives Assistant.

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