Dame Vera Lynn, the endearingly popular “Forces’ Sweetheart” who serenaded British troops abroad during World War II, has died at 103.
During the war and long after, Lynn got crowds singing, smiling and crying with sentimental favorites such as “We’ll Meet Again,” and “The White Cliffs of Dover.”
“The family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers at the age of 103,'' her family said in a statement. “Dame Vera Lynn, who lived in Ditchling, East Sussex, passed away earlier today, 18 June 2020, surrounded by her close family.”
Lynn possessed a down-to-earth appeal, reminding servicemen of the ones they left behind.
“I was somebody that they could associate with,” she once told The Associated Press. “I was an ordinary girl.”
Lynn earned her nickname, “The Forces’ Sweetheart,” after coming top in a 1939 Daily Express poll that asked servicemen to name their favorite musical artists.
A plumber’s daughter, Vera Margaret Welch was born on March 20, 1917, in London’s blue-collar East Ham neighborhood.
She took her stage name from her grandmother’s maiden name. She started singing in social clubs at age 7 and dropped out of school by 11 when she started touring Britain with a traveling variety show. By 17 she was a band singer, and at 21 — when the war started — she was a known performer.
In 1941, Lynn started her BBC radio show, "Sincerely Yours", which would become wildly popular. On the 30-minutes programme, Lynn performed songs requested by the British troops abroad and sent them messages.
Because her show directly followed the Sunday evening news - a coveted slot - Lynn once declared: "Winston Churchill was my opening act."
During the war, she toured several countries with the Entertainment National Service Association (ENSA), including India, Burma and Egypt, where she would perform in outdoor concerts for the British troops.
Burma veteran Tom Moore, who won over the hearts of the nation when he walked 100 laps of his garden in the runup to his 100th birthday to raise money for the National Health Service during the pandemic, described her death as a “real shame.''
“I really thought Vera Lynn would live longer,'' he said on Twitter. “She’s been speaking so well on TV recently.''
She also appeared in films such as "We'll Meet Again" and "Rhythm Serenade".
Lynn retired from singing in the 1990s, but in September 2009 topped the British album chart again with a greatest hits collection, "We’ll Meet Again — The Very Best of Vera Lynn." It reached No. 1, despite competition from the release of remastered Beatles’ albums.