The family of Dame Vera Lynn, CH, DBE, LLD, M.Mus are deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers at the age of 103.
Dame Vera Lynn who lived in Ditchling, East Sussex, passed away earlier today (day/date), surrounded by her close family.
Further information regarding a memorial service will be announced at a later date.
Donations to the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust Registration
Dame Vera Lynn, CH, DBE, LLD, M.Mus, forever known as the ‘Forces’ Sweetheart’, was one of Britain’s best-loved and most enduring entertainers.
Born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March 1917 in East Ham, London, she began performing publicly at the age of seven, adopting her grandmother’s maiden name (Lynn) as her stage name.
Her first radio broadcast was with the Joe Loss Orchestra in 1935 and in the pre-war years of big dance bands, her winning looks, ready smile and pure voice – her natural East End vowels toned down with BBC radio pronunciation – put her much in demand.
Having recorded with Joe Loss and fellow band leader Charlie Kunz, among others, she released her first solo record on the Crown (later Decca) label in 1936 “Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire”, and a year later moved to sing with the aristocrat of British dance bands, Bert Ambrose.
But it was her 1939 recording of We’ll Meet Again, written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, which immediately cemented her as the nation’s favourite, that she would become most famous. It was during the Phoney War, between 1939 and April 1940, that the Daily Express asked British servicemen to name their top musical performer and Vera Lynn emerged as “the Forces’ Sweetheart”, a name that would remain throughout her life.
Vera Lynn stepped up her own war effort in 1941 when boosting morale was most needed. She broadcast her own radio programme, Sincerely Yours, in which she sent messages to British troops serving abroad and performed songs most requested by them, accompanied by her own quartet. Broadcast after the news and Mr Churchill’s Sunday address, ”Sincerely Yours” became the sound of the resistance for those fighting abroad. She also began visiting hospitals to interview new mothers and send personal messages to their husbands overseas. In 1943 she recorded the second of the songs for which she is best remembered – The White Cliffs of Dover – and in the same year appeared in the film We’ll Meet Again.
As part of the Forces’ entertainment service ENSA, Vera Lynn toured Egypt, India and, most notably, Burma at the height of the conflict, giving outdoor concerts for the troops within sound of the gunfire. In March 1944 she went to Shamsheernugger airfield to entertain the troops before the Battle of Kohima, prompting her host and lifelong friend Captain Bernard Holden to commend “her courage and her contribution to morale”. One of the few surviving major entertainers of the war years, in 1985 she received the Burma Star for entertaining British guerrilla units in Japanese-occupied Burma.
After Hitler and Churchill, Vera Lynn became, for generations, the name most readily associated with the Second World War and her songs, including “We’ll Meet Again”, “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “There’ll Always Be an England” never lost their appeal. In 2009, at the age of 92, she became the oldest living artist to make it to No. 1 on the British album chart with “We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn”.
During the immediate post-war years, she appeared frequently on radio and television in the UK and the United States, featuring regularly on Tallulah Bankhead’s US radio programme, The Big Show, and recording on both sides of the Atlantic, including in 1952 “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart”, the first single by a British performer to top the US charts where she remained for nine weeks. The same year, she had three singles in the first UK music chart compiled by New Musical Express and in 1954 made it to Number 1 with “My Son, My Son”, which she co-wrote with Gordon Melville Rees.
In 1960 she left Decca Records after nearly 25 years, and joined EMI where she continued to cut Top 10 discs.
Vera Lynn was the subject of the British TV show, “This Is Your Life”, on two occasions and in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a frequent guest on other variety shows, notably the 1972 Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show. In 1976 she hosted the BBC’s A Jubilee of Music, celebrating the pop hits of the period 1952–1976 to commemorate the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee year. For ITV she presented a 1977 TV special to launch her album “Vera Lynn in Nashville”, which included pop songs of the 1960s and country songs.
A close friend and favourite of The Queen Mother, Vera Lynn featured in the Royal Variety Performance on four occasions in 1960, 1975, 1986 and 1990.
Made a Dame of the British Empire in 1975, she lived in Ditchling, East Sussex, from the 1960s where she was an integral part of village life and became actively involved with numerous charities in the area. Notably, and the one of most importance to her, is the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, based at Cuckfield, West Sussex, which offers an early intervention service for babies and young children with cerebral palsy and other motor learning difficulties. Throughout her life Dame Vera also devoted much time and energy to charities connected to breast cancer and ex-servicemen. She was still held in great affection by veterans of the Second World War and in 2000 was named the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the Twentieth Century. Approaching her 100th birthday Dame Vera was honoured once again by being awarded the Order of the Companions of Honour in Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2016, and further honoured on the 8th May this year, VE Day, with a reminder by Her Majesty of the importance of the words in Dame Vera’s song “We’ll Meet Again”.
Dame Vera Lynn was one of the greatest ever British popular singers, not just because of her immaculate voice, warm, sincere, instantly recognisable and musically flawless. She will be remembered just as affectionately for her vital work in the Second World War and for her own Charitable Foundations in the 75 years since. A link with more certain times has been irrevocably broken. Sir Tim Rice
Dame Vera never lost her reality. The voice like a bell was a gift, which she shared so generously and bravely.
But the magic was that her personality was genuine, open, warm. Meeting her was one of the high points of my life.
She looked at you & SAW you. And connected. There is no one in our lives, except The Queen, who had the power to connect a nation.
For that, she will be remembered & always with love.
Dame Vera was an indomitable, distinguished, courageous and superlative artist from a very young age. An icon whose work lifted the hearts and souls of the British people and significantly contributed to Victory in our darkest days. My father adored the purity of her voice and we still have the tear stained music copy, as he wrote her arrangements he could hear her wonderful soaring tone. Personally, I will never forget the unannounced arrival of her Majesty the Queen at the celebration of Vera’s 100th Birthday at the London Palladium; a perfect and fitting tribute. It was the greatest joy and a privilege to have known her. Anthony Andrews
Dame Vera has been a dear friend since the early 1970’s and for many years a neighbour in the village of Ditchling. The world knows of her great voice that through the good and bad times has thrilled millions. My own father firmly believed that the Second World War was won by Sir Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn. As a friend she was the warmest and kindest of people, I never saw her angry or say a bad word of anyone, people would stop her in the street and she always found time for them. She cared particularly about our armed forces, ‘her boys’ as she called them. Her work for charity, especially young people with cerebral palsy was tireless and inspiring. There will never be anyone like her again. Roger Redfarn
We have been extremely honoured to have had Dame Vera Lynn as our President and she was always a very passionate and wonderful ambassador for this Charity. Moreover, she has always been hands on, enjoying participating in sessions, singing songs with the children and setting the tone with real determination to ensure that “her families” were never forgotten. She is very fondly regarded by all of the staff and families, and will be greatly missed by so many people. Pilar Cloud, Executive Manager of DVLCC
The Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity (DVLCC)
Around 1,800 babies are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year in the UK.
The Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity was set up in 2001 although Dame Vera first became involved with cerebral palsy since the 1950s when she and a group of showbiz friends decided that something needed to be done for babies with cerebral palsy as little was known about it. The original charity was set up 60 years ago. DVLCC offers early intervention for children under five, supporting families with weekly three-hour sessions, which are structured to focus on them helping their child achieve success.
A highly skilled and professional team use the principles of Conductive Education, an active programme of learning, to help a child develop physical, emotional, social and communication skills through play activities that are fun.
Children are taught through their parents, and the skills learned are then incorporated into the child’s daily routine at home to maximise their abilities and build confidence and self-esteem in both parent and child.
Until very recently, Dame Vera visited the Charity on a regular basis.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Susan Fleet, PA to Dame Vera Lynn
Lea Graham Associates
01444 235475/07885 373394