Dame Vera Lynn, the singer whose voice inspired and comforted millions during the Second World War and for decades afterwards, has died at the age of 103.
Dame Vera was best known as the Forces’ Sweetheart, whose recordings of We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover became so famous that they’re instantly recognisable even today by people whose parents (and even grandparents) weren’t born when she first sang them.
Born in 1917 to a plumber and his wife in East Ham, London, her stage career began at the age of 11 when she joined a music hall revue as a dancer and singer. It was then that she left behind her old name — Vera Margaret Welch — to become Vera Lynn.
Within five years she was a star soloist, and by 1935 she was enjoying regular radio appearances with the Joe Loss Orchestra. Speaking later in life she admitted that she though the outbreak of war in 1939 would end her career; instead, she became more famous than ever as the troops’ favourite entertainer. We’ll Meet Again was recorded that year, capturing the national sentiment perfectly as thousands were mobilised. The song remains so much a part of the national consciousness that it was echoed by the Queen in her recent coronavirus address to the nation a few weeks ago.
She remained in the public eye thereafter, rubbing shoulders with everyone from Bing Crosby to the Queen Mother, helping raise millions for a number of charities — not least the Dame Vera Lynn School for Parents and Handicapped Children — and still selling records well into the 21st century.
An album released for her 100th birthday even re-entered the charts recently thanks to Dame Vera’s part in the VE Day remembrances.
Tributes and memorials to the singer have already begun to flood in. Here are just a few of them: