Dame Vera Lynn typing in World War Two CREDIT TOPFOTO PA
WWII

Dame Vera Lynn: The Singer Who Inspired The Wartime Generation

The Forces' Sweetheart's songs kept spirits up during times like the Blitz and also inspired troops fighting abroad.

Dame Vera Lynn typing in World War Two CREDIT TOPFOTO PA

Dame Vera Lynn, whose songs inspired troops fighting abroad and civilians at home during some of Britain's darkest days of the Second World War, has died aged 103.

Born in east London in 1917, Dame Vera was only in her early 20s when she began travelling thousands of miles, often at great personal risk, to entertain troops fighting on the frontline of the conflict.

This included visiting the 'Forgotten Fourteenth Army' which was still fighting the bitter Burma campaign after VE Day in May 1945.

Dame Vera became a national icon - songs such as 'We'll Meet Again' and 'The White Cliffs of Dover' spurred millions of Britons on in times of unparalleled uncertainty and fear. 

Her music inspired a spirit of optimism - vital during the war effort.

In 1939, she was awarded the title of 'Forces' Sweetheart' following a Daily Express poll among its readers when the Army went to France at the beginning of the war - helped by the release of We'll Meet Again.

She was just 22 when the war started and her career was starting to flower - she did some TV work and was doing regular radio broadcasts.

Vera Lynn, known during the Second World War as the 'Forces Sweetheart', brings back memories for ex-servicemen during a Garden Party held by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, London 030850 CREDIT PA
Dame Vera retained a close bond with military veterans after the Second World War (Picture: PA).

In November 1941, she was given her own radio programme slot after the Sunday evening nine o'clock news - a peak time which had much of the world listening in case the prime minister made an announcement. 

Her show's popularity soared, with thousands of servicemen writing song requests to her.

However, it came at a low point in the war.

MPs and BBC governors attacked her programme and others like it as having a bad effect on morale.

The programme, 'Sincerely Yours', was taken off the air.

It was replaced by a new show featuring a military band, male voice choir and an unknown tenor, only to sink into oblivion after a few weeks.

But by early 1943, Dame Vera was back and her music was very popular.

Dame Vera Lynn rehearsing at a microphone 300756 CREDIT PA
Dame Vera's music career continued to thrive after the Second World War (Picture: PA).

She was quoted as saying: "My songs reminded the boys of what they were really fighting for, precious personal things, rather than ideologies and theories."

In 1944, she made her famous tour of Burma to entertain troops fighting there.

She was stirred into action when she learned that few entertainers went to Burma, where the men of the Fourteenth had called themselves the Forgotten Army.

Dame Vera spent four months there, later describing it as "the trip of a lifetime".

She was later awarded the Burma Star and regularly attended the Burman veterans' annual reunions.

Following the war, Dame Vera continued to have a close relationship with the Armed Forces and Second World War veterans.

Singer Vera Lynn outside Buckingham Palace after being invested a Dame Commander of the British Empire 021275 CREDIT PA
Dame Vera outside Buckingham Palace after being invested as a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1975 (Picture: PA).

She was an outspoken supporter of military veterans and a humanitarian.

Vera was made a Dame in 1975, after receiving an OBE in 1969.

Her music career continued to flourish after the war - her best-selling record 'Auf Wiederseh'n, Sweetheart', became the first British record to top the hit parade in the United States, selling more than 12 million copies.

She toured throughout the world, to the US, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

While just last month, Dame Vera also became the oldest artist to reach the top 40 in the UK album charts.

Dame Vera Lynn by Spitfire with Battle of Britain Fighter Association members 170800 CREDIT PA.jpg
The singer poses next to a Spitfire alongside members of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association in 2000 (Picture: PA).

Recently, the Queen made reference to one of Dame Vera's lyrics in a speech to the nation amid the coronavirus crisis.

"We will meet again," Her Majesty said in the address.

It underlined how through the generations, Dame Vera's spirit has continued and is likely to continue to inspiring Britons through times of crisis. 

Speaking about the pandemic, Dame Vera said: "Our nation has faced some dark times over the years, but we always overcome."

Cover image: Topfoto/PA.