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Dame Vera Lynn dead aged 103 - We'll Meet Again singer mourned

Mirror logo Mirror 18/06/2020 Emmeline Saunders & Vicki Newman

Dame Vera Lynn has died today aged 103.

Born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March, 1917 in East Ham, London, to a plumber father and a dressmaker mother, and became known as 'the Forces' sweetheart' in reference to her amazing popularity during the Second World War.

Her family said in a statement: "The family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain's best-loved entertainers at the age of 103.

"Dame Vera Lynn, who lived in Ditchling, East Sussex, passed away earlier today, 18 June 2020, surrounded by her close family."

Also known as the Queen's favourite singer, she’s most remembered for her songs We'll Meet Again, The White Cliffs of Dover, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and There’ll Always Be an England.

Vera began performing at the age of seven in the local working men’s clubs, and she was 11 when she adopted her maternal grandmother Margaret Lynn's maiden name as her stage name.

a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Vera Lynn making a broadcast to the country's troops from a radio station in 1945 © Getty Vera Lynn making a broadcast to the country's troops from a radio station in 1945

She said of her early performances: "I used to go from place to place by tram. A shilling would take you all around London and the suburbs.

"I didn’t love it at first. I was a bit shy and nervous. I gradually got used to it."

Her first solo record was released in 1936, Up The Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire while her best known song is the 1939 recording of We’ll Meet Again.

Soon after, she began earning her nickname during the Second World War, when she toured Egypt, India and Burma as part of ENSA, performing concerts for the troops and raising morale among the allies.

She contributed amazingly to the morale of both the soldiers and their wives back home, through her 1941 radio programme, Sincerely Yours, which sent messages to the troops and also played their favourite songs, and also by visiting new mothers and sent their personal messages to their husbands overseas.

a man and a woman smiling for the camera: Dame Vera Lynn at 103 with her daughter Virginia © Susan Fleet Dame Vera Lynn at 103 with her daughter Virginia

Post-war, she appeared on radio and television while she had a UK Number one single, My Son, My Son.

In 1941 Vera married musician Harry Lewis - a clarinetist and saxophonist - whom she had met two years earlier. Together they had one daughter, Virginia, and were married for 57 years until Harry’s death in 1998.

After the war, the young couple moved to Finchley in north London, until the early 1960s, when they moved to Ditchling, Sussex, where Vera stayed.

In 2009, at age 92, she became the oldest living artist to top the UK Albums Chart with We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn.

Elizabeth II et al. standing in front of a crowd: Queen Elizabeth II and Vera Lynn © Getty Queen Elizabeth II and Vera Lynn

Nearly topping that, in 2017 she released the album Vera Lynn 100, which reached number 3, making her the oldest recording artist in the world and first centenarian performer to have an album in the charts.

Vera admitted she never learnt to read music - but instead studied the scores of her own songs.

She once said: "Oh, I just look at the dots. When the dots go up, I go up. When the dots go down, I go down."

Away from the entertainment industry she dedicated much of her time to charity work, mostly connected with ex-servicemen, disabled children and breast cancer, and was named the Brit who best exemplified the spirit of the 20th century, in 2000.

Vera was the subject of This Is Your Life twice, in October 1959 and January 1979.

a group of people walking down the street: Vera with British Servicemen In World War II © Shutterstock Vera with British Servicemen In World War II

Appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1969 New Year Honours "for services to the Royal Air Forces Association and other charities", she was then advanced to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1975.

For her services to the war effort, she was also awarded the British War Medal 1939-1945 and the Burma Star.

Tributes have been pouring in for the much-loved singer.

Actor Anthony Andrews commented: "My father adored the purity of her voice and we still have the tear stained music copy, as he wrote her arrangements he could hear her wonderful soaring tone.

"Personally, I will never forget the unannounced arrival of her Majesty the Queen at the celebration of Vera’s 100th Birthday at the London Palladium; a perfect and fitting tribute.

"It was the greatest joy and a privilege to have known her."

a woman wearing a hat: Vera was the Forces' Sweetheart © EMI Vera was the Forces' Sweetheart

Songwriter Sir Tim Rice said: "Dame Vera Lynn was one of the greatest ever British popular singers, not just because of her immaculate voice, warm, sincere, instantly recognisable and musically flawless.

"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. A link with more certain times has been irrevocably broken."

Theatre director Roger Redfarn also paid tribute.

He said: "Dame Vera has been a dear friend since the early 1970’s and for many years a neighbour in the village of Ditchling. The world knows of her great voice that through the good and bad times has thrilled millions.

"My own father firmly believed that the Second World War was won by Sir Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn. As a friend she was the warmest and kindest of people, I never saw her angry or say a bad word of anyone, people would stop her in the street and she always found time for them. She cared particularly about our armed forces, ‘her boys’ as she called them.

"Her work for charity, especially young people with cerebral palsy was tireless and inspiring. There will never be anyone like her again."

Harry Potter star Miriam Morgoyles added: "Dame Vera never lost her reality. The voice like a bell was a gift, which she shared so generously and bravely.

"But the magic was that her personality was genuine, open, warm. Meeting her was one of the high points of my life.

"She looked at you & SAW you. And connected. There is no one in our lives, except The Queen, who had the power to connect a nation. For that, she will be remembered & always with love."

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