In memory of Dame Vera Lynn
- Credit: Archant
Dame Vera Lynn CH. DBE. LLD. MMus, who lived in Ditchling passed away on 18 June surrounded by her close family, at the age of 103.
The family of Dame Vera Lynn have announced the death of the Forces’ Sweetheart, who lived most of her later years in East Sussex.
Vera Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March 1917 in East Ham in the county of Essex. 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 being featured on records released by dance bands including those of Loss and of Charlie Kunz. In 1936 her first solo record was released on the Crown label, “Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire”. This label was absorbed by Decca Records in 1938. 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 the aristocrat of British dance bands, Bert Ambrose.
During the war she toured Egypt, India and Burma, giving outdoor concerts for the troops. She became known, and is still referred to, 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”.
She remained popular after the war, appearing on radio and television in the UK and the United States and recording such hits as “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” and “My Son, My Son”. Dame Vera Lynn moved to the village of Ditchling in East Sussex in the 1960’s.
In 2009 she became the oldest living artist to make it to No. 1 on the British album chart, at the age of 92 and 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 March 2017 and the occasion was marked with a number of events taking place to commemorate this incredible milestone. A 100: Tribute to Dame Vera Lynn concert was held at the London Palladium on 18th March where stars of the stage and screen came together to perform a variety extravaganza highlighting the Forces’ Sweetheart’s incredible life. Various tribute shows, events and birthday celebrations were held throughout the UK and beyond paying tribute to this amazing lady.
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 collected, entitled 100. The increase in popularity for the album coincides 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 taken on special meaning in the Coronavirus pandemic and was cited by the Queen in a rare speech in early April 2020 in which the Queen acknowledged the grief and financial hardships that Britons are facing during the COVID-19 crisis.
Dame Vera Lynn’s daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones, Vice President of the Charity, which helps young children with cerebral palsy and other motor learning difficulties, said it had a very special place in her mother’s heart.
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“My mother first became involved in raising awareness of cerebral palsy in the 50s when there was very little understanding of the condition and children who suffered from motor learning difficulties were often referred to rather pejoratively as ‘spastic.’ Along with celebrity chums including David Jacobs and Wilfred Pickles, she set out to change people’s attitudes towards the disability and help children reach their full potential. There was no one else raising funds to help at that time, so it was groundbreaking work.
“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.”
Recently the Wartime Sweetheart urged everyone to get behind the Charity’s Keep Smiling Through Appeal to help it survive the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on its fundraising.
“These are very difficult times for us all, whether it be personally, professionally or financially,” said Dame Vera. “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.”
In 2016 Dame Vera was recognised for her services to entertainment and charity after being made a Member of the Order of Companions of Honour in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours.
Pilar Cloud, Executive Manager at the DVLCC added: “We have been extremely honoured to have had Dame Vera Lynn as our President and she was always a very passionate and wonderful ambassador for this Charity. Moreover, she has always been hands on, enjoying participating in sessions, singing songs with the children and setting the tone with real determination to ensure that ‘her families’ were never forgotten.
“She was very fondly regarded by all of the staff and families, and will be greatly missed by so many people. We are very glad for the continued involvement in the charity of Dame Vera’s daughter, Virginia, and her son-in-law, Tom Jones, who is one of our Trustees.”
Dame Vera devoted much of her time and energy to charity work and set up the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity in 2001 to help very young children with cerebral palsy and other motor learning difficulties get the best possible start to life.
Based in Cuckfield, West Sussex, the charity provides a free hands-on early intervention service as well as music and swimming therapy, an outreach support service and a parent support network and has directly helped over 600 families from the south-east.
Dame Vera always devoted much of her time to the charity and loved visiting to meet the parents and children, as well as attending charity fundraising events, including the celebration dinner at the Imperial War Museum in October 2009, the charity’s 10th anniversary ball at the London Lancaster in April 2010 and her own 95 years’ celebration lunch at South Lodge Hotel in March 2012, along with numerous community fundraising events throughout her time as its president.
Further information regarding a memorial service will be announced at a later date.
If you would like to make a donation in memory of Dame Vera Lynn you can do so in the following ways:
ONLINE: Make a donation to the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity online via Just Giving by visiting www.justgiving.com/campaign/keepsmilingthrough
BY POST: Send a cheque/postal order/CAF voucher direct to Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, Unit 1, The Courtyard, Holmsted Farm Staplefield Road, Cuckfield, West Sussex RH17 5JF.
BY PHONE: You can make a donation using your debit/credit card by telephoning on 01444 473274