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WWII

Why Dame Vera Lynn Nearly Cancelled Her D-Day 50th Anniversary Appearance

The British Government had planned sandcastle-building contests and a Spam fritter cooking competition to mark the anniversary.

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Dame Vera Lynn celebrated her 101st birthday in March (Picture: MOD).

Dame Vera Lynn, also known as the 'Forces’ Sweetheart', nearly pulled out of an appearance at the 50th-anniversary celebrations of D-Day because she thought the proposed programme lacked suitable events, it has been revealed.

The British Government planned sandcastle-building contests and a Spam fritter cooking competition to mark the anniversary in 1994 and Dame Vera had even threatened to pull out if more appropriate events were not introduced.

Second World War veterans were also unimpressed at the planned events to remember the Normandy landings.

A document, released from the National Archives, called ‘D-Day Post Mortem’ was sent in the aftermath to Prime Minister John Major by his principal private secretary, Alex Allan.

It declared that "events last weekend went splendidly" but added there were "inevitably some points to learn from".

As aides were already planning the following year’s celebration of VE and VJ Day, press secretary Christopher Meyer noted on the document:

"We would have to be utterly sure there was no danger of a Spam fritter-type rebound (e.g. Vera Lynn causing trouble)."

Other issues raised include the treatment of representatives from Commonwealth countries, including the order of arrivals:

Royal Marine Commandos 47 RM Commando during Normandy D-Day landings
Royal Marines land at Normandy in June 1944 (Picture: PA).

"I know that the Canadians found it somewhat frustrating always to be next to last in protocol order (with only the Greek defence minister behind them) at every event,” wrote Mr Allan.

"They commented rather pointedly that they came well behind the Grand Duke of Luxembourg even though Luxembourg has only two living World War II veterans."

He continued: "The South Africans are a bit fed up of not being invited to any of this year's events. We will certainly need to address this next year."

On the question of whether Mr Major should launch next year’s anniversary events himself, Mr Allan wrote:

"If the Prime Minister were to do the launch of VE and VJ Day commemorations in January, he would want some reassurance that the plans would be fully supported by all the relevant veterans organisations and that they would be willing to say so publicly."