Dame Vera Lynn

Singer, songwriter and entertainer

She was a ‘national treasure’ with a comforting clear voice, a beacon of hope during the nation’s darkest hour and synonymous with the spirit of wartime Britain.

Dame Vera Margaret Lynn, was an British singer who famously boosted British troops’ morale during World War II, travelling thousands of miles to Egypt, India and Myanmar to entertain soldiers with her songs. She was known as ‘The Forces Sweetheart’ and her music and performances were enormously popular during World War II.

The songs most associated with her are “We’ll Meet Again”, “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “There’ll Always Be an England”.

In 1969, Vera Lynn was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) and the DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1975 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. In January 2020, a new painted portrait of her was unveiled at the Royal Albert Hall in connection with the 75th anniversary of the peace in 1945.

On 18 June, 2020, Dame Vera Lynn died at her home in East Sussex aged 103. She was given a military funeral, which was held on 10 July 2020 in East Sussex. Her hometown of Ditchling was decorated with poppies, a symbol of military remembrance. The White Cliffs of Dover had images of Lynn projected onto them, as ‘We’ll Meet Again’ was being played across the English Channel.



Name:   Vera  Lynn
Born:   20 March 1917
Star Sign: Pisces
Died:   18 June 2020
Birthplace: East Ham, Essex,
Country: England
DetailsOther Names
Margaret, Welch
Father:
Bertram Samuel Welch
Mother:
Annie Welch
Marriages:
In 1941, Lynn married Harry Lewis, a clarinetist, saxophonist and fellow member of Ambrose's orchestra.
Children:
Daughter Virginia was born in March 1946.


Childhood and Family
Dame Vera Lynn was born Margaret Welch on 20 March 1917 in East Ham, London, to Bertram Samuel Welch, a plumber and Annie Marti, a dressmaker. Neither of her parents were involved in show-business. At the age of seven, the talented Vera began performing in working men's clubs - an audience she described as 'great'.

When she was eleven, she adopted her grandmother's maiden name, Lynn, as her stage name. She had no formal singing lessons as a child - and just one as an adult.

Teenage Years
After leaving school, aged 15, Vera's talent was spotted while singing at Poplar Baths by local band leader, Howard Baker. He signed her up on the spot. At aged 18, Vera was singing with Joe Loss' orchestra, and also began recording for the Crown label. By 1933, Vera was performing as a soloist. With a sweet voice, a hint of vulnerability, she quickly got the attention of the British public. She said, "I was never a glamour girl. I was the girl next door."

We’ll Meet Again
In 1936, aged 19, Vera had her first solo record called, 'Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire.' This label was absorbed by Decca Records in 1938. She was being featured on records released by dance bands including, those of Loss and of Charlie Kunz. In September, 1939, Vera recorded 'We’ll Meet Again' - the month the war broke out, and it became a hit. She said, 'It was the perfect song for the times. It’s still my favourite of all the songs I’ve sung. It meant a lot to my generation, and it’s timeless.'

Wartime Classics
In 1941, Lynn was given her own BBC radio show, 'Sincerely Yours'. It was an instant success, not only in Britain but on every worldwide battleground the BBC reached via shortwave radio. She performed the songs that became emblematic of World War II: 'White Cliffs of Dover' and 'We'll Meet Again,' which became a wartime classic. The latter introduced by Lynn in 1939, with the Ambrose Orchestra, also became the title track of one of three films Lynn starred in during the war years .

World War II
Vera Lynn performed with the band until the war, during which she volunteered, becoming hugely popular as an entertainer for the troops. In 1944, with the global war at its height, Lynn undertook a tour to entertain British troops in Egypt, India, and Burma as part of ENSA.

The songs most associated with her are: 'We'll Meet Again', 'The White Cliffs of Dover', 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square' and 'There'll Always Be an England'. She said: “The words ‘We’ll meet again’ speak to the hope we should all have during these troubling times.”

After the War Performances
After the war, Lynn and Lewis had their daughter, Virginia. Later she toured all over the British Commonwealth. She also appeared in a Las Vegas cabaret and on radio in the United States as a guest on the Big Show program hosted by actress Tallulah Bankhead. She gave eight performances for the British royal family.

Her most successful single recording came in 1951 with 'Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart.' It became top of the charts in the United States, making her the first English performer to reach that level. She also recorded her UK Number one single , 'My Son, My Son'. Her last single, 'I Love This Land', was released to mark the end of the Falklands War.

Her philanthropic activities
Vera Lynn moved with her family to the small town of Ditchling in England's East Sussex region where Lynn threw herself into projects of various kinds including broadcast fundraising appeals. She remained interested in the problems of British war veterans, working in the 1990's for 'Tribute and Promise,' an umbrella group of 130 charities working to aid the war generation. In 1992, she founded the Dame Vera Lynn School for Parents and Handicapped Children.

Honours and Awards
Vera Lynn received numerous honors including: the Order of the British Empire in 1959 and to the rank of Dame of the British Empire in 1975, as well as such novelties as the Show Business Personality Award from the Grand Order of Water Rats. She was awarded Dame Vera the Variety Club International’s Humanitarian Award in 1985

She took tea with the Queen and celebrated her 80th birthday at a reception with Princess Margaret. In 2000, six decades after becoming the Forces' Sweetheart, she was named the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the twentieth century.

Her Legacy
In 2009, at age 92, Vera Lynn became the oldest living artist to top the UK Albums Chart, with 'We'll Meet Again'. She released the album 'Vera Lynn 100' in 2017, to commemorate her centennial year, making her the oldest recording artist in the world and first centenarian performer to have an album in the charts.

She penned three memoirs: Vocal Refrain (1975), We’ll Meet Again (1989; with Robin Cross and Jenny de Gex), and Some Sunny Day (2009). Hers was an incredible life, one that gave so much to so many.

Family and Marriage
In 1941 Vera married Harry Lewis, a clarinetist and saxophonist, and fellow member of Ambrose's orchestra, whom she had met two years earlier. They had one daughter, Virginia Penelope Anne Lewis born in March 1946. Lewis worked as Lynn's manager after the war, and joined her on her international concerts, overseeing lighting and production of her shows. They lived together in Ditchling, East Sussex, for 58 years until his death in 1999.

Facts
Dame Vera captured a nation's spirits... against the odds. She became the most popular British entertainer of the Second World War.

'Lynn' was actually a stage name. The singer's real surname was actually Welch but adopted her maternal grandmother's name before she embarked upon her wildly successful recording career.

Dame Vera's career in music started very early. She began singing at men’s clubs at the age of just seven years old. At 11 she took on the name Lynn and joined 'Madame Harris’s Kracker Kabaret Kids', a London-based singing troupe.

Dame Vera and husband were married for more than half a century. In 1941, Lynn married musician Harry Lewis, The pair remained inseparable until his death in 1998.

Dame Vera - a record breaker. In 2017, she became the oldest living musical artist to have an album in the top ten on the British charts. '100' was a record which featured new orchestrations of all of her classic hit songs and was released in honour of her centenary.

Vera was also (very briefly) a film star. She appeared In the film We’ll Meet Again, and also in Rhythm Serenade and One Exciting Night. All three films were produced and released during the war.

Dame Vera was a very highly decorated woman. She became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE); Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1975. Both decorations were of enormous pride to her and her family.

Dame Vera Lynn wrote three autobiographies. She penned three memoirs - Vocal Refrain (published in 1975), We’ll Meet Again (1989) and Some Sunny Day (2009).

She risked her life entertaining the troops. In 1944 Vera Lynn joined the Entertainment National Services Association (ENSA) and performing for troops in Egypt, India, and Burma. These very dangerous tours entertaining the troops - especially in Burma - were her proudest moments in life.

Dame Vera was an enthusiastic philanthropist. Her charitable activities were wide ranging, from ardently promoting veterans’ causes to establishing a fund for victims of cerebral palsy and The Vera Lynn Charity Breast Cancer Research Trust.

Quotes
"Be active to your full capabilities."

"You can't have it all one way - be on the telly and the radio and make lots of money - and not offer anything to your followers when they need you."

"There is always something we can be concerned about. The secret is to rise above it and do whatever we can to make the world a better place."

"Make up your mind what you want to do, and go and get it. Make sure it is not at the expense of anyone else, though."

"You've got to be nice to people when you're on your way up, because you never know who you are going to meet on the way down."

"Always arrive in plenty of time so that when you step on the train or sit down in the plane you're relaxed, not hassled."

"All young men should have a certain time in the Army, instead of going running around wild for a few years after school. They would learn discipline and they would learn a good trade. It would be a good opportunity."

"So many go into the business just to be famous, not because they are passionate about their craft."

"Take each day as it comes and focus on the present moment."

"People often ask me for the secret to success. Usually, they mean success in the music industry, but I think the answer applies to most things in life: always persevere and never give up."

Funeral

Dame Vera Lynn died on 18 June, 2020, at the age of 103, in Ditchling, East Sussex, England. She was given a military funeral, which was held on 10 July 2020 in East Sussex. The procession made its way from her home in Ditchling to the Woodvale Crematorium in Brighton.

Ditchling was decorated with poppies, a symbol of military remembrance and the public lined the streets to pay their respects. The cortege bearing Dame Vera's coffin was draped in a Union flag - with a wreath and accompanied by members of the Royal Air Force, Royal Army, Royal Navy, and the Royal British Legion. The Battle of Britain Spitfire flypast, followed the cortege and passed over Ditchling three times.(10 July 2020 was the 80th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain).

Tributes were led by Queen Elizabeth II with private condolences to the Lynn family, also from Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall; the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer who also led with tributes in Parliament. Musical legends like Sir Paul McCartney and Katherine Jenkins and public figures like Captain Tom Moore discussed her profound impact.


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