WWII

Dame Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again – The Story Of The Song, Lyrics And Other Hits

The background of the Forces Sweetheart's greatest song

The lyrics of Dame Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ – perhaps the most poignant wartime song of all time – captured the hearts and feelings of a nation under siege and offered a melodic message of hope to families whose loved ones were far away fighting the war effort.

Dame Vera was known for a string of hits, including iconic tunes such as The White Cliffs Of Dover, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square and There’ll Always Be An England – but it was her rendition of We’ll Meet Again that seemed to sum up the mood of the age and deliver a moment of comfort to all those who worried that they might not see their loved ones again as the Second World War raged over Europe.

The song was written and composed by Ross Parker and theatre promoter and song-writer Hughie Charles at the onset of the war, and it was the recording by Dame Vera Lynn that soon ensured it was cemented into the hearts and minds of the British public – becoming one of the Allied nations’ best-loved wartime tunes.

We’ll Meet Again was originally released in 1939, produced by pianist Norman Keen, but the fact that it was frequently played on radio wartime broadcasts to boost morale as the war developed, meant that it earned popularity far and wide among Allied troops and their families back home.

The song, with its uplifting message and soothing melody, resonated with soldiers, both British and American – and even earned a place in the US charts.

A film musical, which starred Vera Lynn in the lead role, was released in 1943 with the same title: We’ll Meet Again. It was loosely based on the life of the Forces Sweetheart, portrayed as a young dancer in a music hall who goes on to entertain an audience by singing during an air raid to comfort them.

In an oddity of Stanley Kubrick’s filmmaking, the song also featured at the end of his film Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, but has also featured in many film and television war dramas over the years, such is its place in the story of the war.

Sheffield pub - shutterstock image

The We’ll Meet Again message still resonates today: A closed Sheffield pub during the COVID-19 pandemic. Picture: Kristin Greenwood / Shutterstock.

We’ll Meet Again Lyrics

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

Keep smiling through, just like you always do, 'til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So will you please say hello to the folks that I know, tell them I won't be long.

They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go, I was singing this song

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

Keep smiling through, just like you always do, 'til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So will you please say hello to the folks that I know, tell them I won't be long.

They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go, I was singing this song.

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

Dame Vera Lynn with life-size cutout of herself after being named personality of the century 230300 CREDIT PA
Credit: PA Images

Dame Vera – A Star From The Beginning To The End

Dame Vera Lynn’s chart success dates back to the very beginning of UK chart history – she had three songs in the UK’s first-ever singles chart following the war in 1952.

Her success continued throughout her life, even to the age of 92 when she became the oldest living artist to make it to Number One in the UK albums chart when the album We’ll Meet Again – The Very Best of Vera Lynn was released to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II.

Incredibly, she stormed the charts again in March 2017 on her 100th birthday when her greatest hits compilation album made it to Number 3 in the UK album charts.

That album was still in the charts at Number 30 following the 75th anniversary of the VE Day celebrations – when Dame Vera reached the age of 103.

Saga Magazine quoted Dame Vera in 2009, saying: "I always tried to choose cheerful songs, that soldiers missing their wives and sweethearts could relate to. We weren't psychologists, but we understood that it was important to express the right meaning, and we put a lot of effort into getting the songs right."

Here Are Some Of Her Other Best-Loved Hits

– (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover

On a clear day, Britain’s towering white coastline could be seen by servicemen across the English Channel fighting in France.

Composed in 1941 by Walter Kent to lyrics by Nat Burton, The White Cliffs Of Dover was an ode to those cliffs that symbolised home.

Dame Vera popularised the song with her version, and it became one of the best-known Second World War standards.

Its lyrics refer to pilots “braving those angry skies” and describe the “light of hope in their eyes”.

– A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square

Stars including Sir Rod Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and even Twiggy have recorded versions of this popular love song.

But it was Dame Vera’s version that captured the hearts of the British listening public, indelibly linking it with the Second World War.

The tune was written in the small French fishing district of Le Lavandou, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, and refers to one of Mayfair’s large leafy squares.

It was sung by Petula Clark at the 60th anniversary of the end of the conflict, and again by Katherine Jenkins at a star-studded concert celebrating the 70th anniversary of VE Day in 2015.

– There’ll Always Be An England

Written by the duo behind We’ll Meet Again, There’ll Always Be An England is perhaps Dame Vera’s most overtly patriotic song.

With lyrics that reference the Empire, country lanes, and cottages tucked beside fields of grain, it carried a message of hope to servicemen abroad.

In a satirical twist, 70s punk rockers Sex Pistols came on stage to the tune and named one of their live DVDs after it.

– Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart

With this song, Dame Vera became, in 1952, the first foreign artist to reach number one on the US Billboard charts.

It was written by German composer Eberhard Storch in around 1950, for his wife who was confined to hospital with a long-term illness.

The story goes that Dame Vera was on holiday in Switzerland when she heard people singing the song in a beer parlour.

When she returned home to England, she recorded the track with the soldiers and airmen of HM Forces and the Johnny Johnston Singers.