‘God bless you, thank you, we love you’: Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn dies aged 103
- Credit: Archant
Dame Vera Lynn has died at the age of 103, her family has announced.
The star, who was born in East Ham and lived in Upney Lane, Barking during the Second World War, passed away surrounded by close family at home in Ditchling, East Sussex today (June 18).
Tributes have been paid by celebrities and music industry giants including Sir Tim Rice, Sir Cliff Richard and Katherine Jenkins.
Songwriter Sir Tim Rice said: “Dame Vera Lynn was one of the greatest ever British popular singers, not just because of her immaculate voice.
“She will be remembered just as affectionately for her vital work in the Second World War and for her own charitable foundations in the 75 years since.
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“A link with more certain times has been irrevocably broken,” he added.
Sir Cliff Richard said: “Dame Vera Lynn was truly an icon. She was held in such high esteem and my best, and favourite, memory was sharing a performance with her in front of Buckingham Palace for the VE Day celebrations in 1995.
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“We walked to the stage through a crowd of survivors of that war, and they were reaching out to touch and get a smile from Vera.
“I heard the words ‘God bless you, thank you, we love you’ for their very own Forces’ Sweetheart.”
“A great singer, a patriotic woman and a genuine icon. I am happy to use the words called out on the wonderful day.
“Vera, thank you, God bless you, and I loved you too.”
Katherine Jenkins said: “I simply cannot find the words to explain just how much I adored this wonderful lady. Her voice brought comfort to millions in their darkest hours, her songs filled the nations hearts with hope, and her emotive performances, whether home or abroad, then or now, helped to get us through.”
Her daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones, vice president of Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity which helps young children with cerebral palsy and motor learning difficulties, said it had a very special place in her mother’s heart.
“Although my mother was closely associated with other charities, not least those supporting veterans, the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity always held a very special place in her heart – the children loved her as much as she loved them and I’m extremely proud of what it has achieved and the difference it has made to so many families’ lives.”
Pilar Cloud, executive manager at the charity, said: “She was very fondly regarded by all of the staff and families, and will be greatly missed by so many people.”
Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, offered condolences of behalf of the borough to the family and friends.
Ms Fiaz said: “Dame Vera was the girl next door who galvanised the morale of the nation and those who served during the darkest days of the Second World War.
“She was a symbol of the spirit and resilience of this part of the East End, which suffered heavily during the war.
“She lifted the spirit of millions at home and abroad then, and fittingly, did so again in May when we marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day.”
Mayor Fiaz added: “She will be sorely missed, but will live on through her wonderful songs and continue to be an inspiration to our armed forces communities. On behalf of the people of Newham I offer our deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.”
Vera Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch on March 20, 1917 in Thackeray Road, East Ham. She lived in Ladysmith Avenue from 1921 to 1938.
When she began performing publicly at the age of seven, she adopted her grandmother’s maiden name Lynn as her stage name.
Her first radio broadcast, with the Joe Loss Orchestra, was in 1935. At this point she was featured on records released by dance bands including Loss and Charlie Kunz.
In 1936, her first solo record was released on the Crown label, “Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire”.
After a short stint with Loss she stayed with Kunz for a few years during which she recorded several standard musical pieces. In 1937, she moved to Bert Ambrose.
During the Second World War she toured Egypt, India and Burma, giving outdoor concerts for the troops, becaming known as the “Forces’ Sweetheart”.
The songs most associated with her are “We’ll Meet Again”, “The White Cliffs of Dover” and “There’ll Always Be an England”.
Dame Vera’s popularity continued after the war with appearances on radio and television in the UK and the United States, recording such hits as “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” and “My Son, My Son”.
In 2009, she became the oldest living artist to make it to number one on the British album chart, at the age of 92.
In the same year her autobiography Some Sunny Day was published. She was subsequently the oldest living artist to enter the Official Albums Chart in the UK in 2017.
Dame Vera celebrated her 100th birthday in 2017 and the occasion was marked with a number of events taking place to commemorate the milestone.
A 100: Tribute to Dame Vera Lynn concert was held at the London Palladium where stars of stage and screen came together to perform a variety extravaganza highlighting the Forces’ Sweetheart’s life.
Various tribute shows, events and birthday celebrations were held throughout the UK and beyond.
In May 2020, Dame Vera became the oldest singer to score a UK top 40 album, beating her own record set in 2017 with her greatest hits collection entitled 100.
The increase in popularity for the album coincided with the 75th anniversary of VE Day, marking the end of World War Two in Europe.
Dame Vera’s iconic song, “We’ll Meet Again” has also taken on a special meaning in the coronavirus pandemic and was mentioned by the Queen in a speech in April in which the monarch acknowledged the grief and hardships that Britons face during the Covid-19 crisis.
Around that time, Dame Vera said: “These are very difficult times for us all, whether it be personally, professionally or financially.
“I ask all those who are able to support this wonderful cause and help young children with motor impairments to do so.
“I would also like to thank our supporters who have already helped us. They have each shown the same wonderful spirit we have seen in people like Captain Tom Moore.”
Further information about a memorial service is due to be announced at a later date.
To make a donation to the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity visit justgiving.com/campaign/keepsmilingthroug
Or send a cheque, postal order or CAF voucher direct to Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, Unit 1, The Courtyard, Holmsted Farm Staplefield Road, Cuckfield, West Sussex RH17 5JF.
Or telephone 01444 473274.