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‘Truly an icon’: Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn dies

Dame Vera Lynn at the opening of the Dame Vera Lynn Trust School for Parents for Children with Cerebral Palsy in Sproughton. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Dame Vera Lynn at the opening of the Dame Vera Lynn Trust School for Parents for Children with Cerebral Palsy in Sproughton. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

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Forces’ Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn, who entertained troops with morale-boosting visits to the frontline during the Second World War, has died aged 103.

Dame Vera Lynn, pictured here in 2010, has died. Picture: Tim Ireland/PA WireDame Vera Lynn, pictured here in 2010, has died. Picture: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

The star - who was famous for hits such as We’ll Meet Again - passed away surrounded by her close family at her home in Ditchling, East Sussex today (Thursday, June 18), her family confirmed.

The singer was fondly remembered for helping to raise spirits during The Blitz, with songs such as The White Cliffs Of Dover, There’ll Always Be An England, I’ll Be Seeing You and Wishing and If Only I Had Wings.

“My songs reminded the boys of what they were really fighting for,” she once said. “Precious, personal things, rather than ideologies and theories.”

She remained a prominent performer throughout her life, with her own television show and world tours - and was an outspoken supporter of military veterans.

The Dame Vera Lynn Trust School in Sproughton was opened by the singer in 2010. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYThe Dame Vera Lynn Trust School in Sproughton was opened by the singer in 2010. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

A statement from the singer’s family said: “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.

“Further information regarding a memorial service will be announced at a later date.”

The Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, which set up the Dame Vera Lynn Trust School for Parents in Sproughton in 2010, said it was “devastated” at the news.

The trust had saved the former Suffolk School for Parents from closure in 2010, with Dame Vera visiting Sproughton for its opening.

MORE: Forces Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn meets Suffolk children

During the visit, she said: “It was great to meet the children.

“It was lovely to see them attempting their games and their songs and I was tempted to join in with them.

The Dame Vera Lynn Trust School in Sproughton, pictured here several years ago, worked with children with special needs. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYThe Dame Vera Lynn Trust School in Sproughton, pictured here several years ago, worked with children with special needs. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

“Music is a great medium for teaching. The singing helps them understand to a certain extent.”

However, the school was forced to close in 2015 due to a lack of funding.

It later reopened as the Bumblebee Children’s Charity after weeks of fundraising.

MORE: Children’s joy as former Dame Vera Lynn School in Sproughton reopens

Dame Vera continued to enjoy popularity even in recent times, with The Queen referencing the title of one of Dame Vera’s most beloved wartime songs when she told families and friends separated during the coronavirus lockdown: “We will meet again.”

Dame Vera said she had been buoyed by the Queen’s words, saying: “I watched with the rest of the country and thought it was a great encouragement during these difficult times, but I wasn’t aware that Her Majesty would use the lyrics at the end of her speech,” she told the Radio Times.

“I support her message of keeping strong together when we’re faced with such a terrible challenge.

“Our nation has faced some dark times over the years, but we always overcome.”

In May this year, Dame Vera became the oldest artist to score a top 40 album in the UK.

The 103-year-old saw her greatest hits album 100 re-enter the chart at number 30, boosted by commemorations for the 75th anniversary of VE day on May 8.

She also recorded a new voiceover which addressed coronavirus for the song, to mark her 103rd birthday in March.

Tributes have already poured in from celebrities far and wide.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “Dame Vera Lynn’s charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours. Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come.”

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.”

Sir Cliff Richard paid tribute to Dame Vera, saying: “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.

“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.

“Rest in a very deserved peace.”


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