A favourite singer of the Queen, Dame Vera Lynn who passed away at her Essex home today at the age of 103 was perhaps best known for her wartime song ‘We’ll Meet Again’.
Born in 1917 in East Ham, London, Vera Margaret Welch would go on to gain global appeal and enjoy a stellar career.
However, early on in her life at the age of two a young vera fell seriously ill with diphtheritic croup and had to be sent to a isolation unit where she spent three months, missing Christmas which the family would celebrate the following March.
Starting out on her journey into the world of entertainment at the age of seven, in the local working men’s club, by the age of 11 Vera took her grandmother’s maiden name of Lynn to use as her stage persona.
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.”
Vera’s first radio performance came in 1935 performing alongside the Joe Loss Orchestra, while during the same period appearing on a number of records with the likes of Charlie Kunz.
Throughout her early career Vera worked as an administrative assistant in order to support her burgeoning singing career which saw her release a first solo record “Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire”.
It was, however, in 1937 that a 20-year old Vera Lynn released her first hits “The Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” and “Red Sails in the Sunset”.
Even these were to pale into comparison to what was to come.
As war broke out across Europe Vera’s first contribution to the wartime effort was singing to those taking refuge in London’s underground stations, used as makeshift air raid shelters.
It was though in this same year, 1939, that Vera released the iconic wartime song “We’ll Meet Again” which instantly gained popularity as a soundtrack to the time.
Following this national success Vera made her first solo appearance in Coventry, 1940, and a year later started her own radio show, sending messages of support to troops on the frontline and playing requests made by soldiers, titled ‘ Sincerely Yours ‘ .
Continuing her appeal as a voice and sound of British Forces, in 1942, Vera released another much loved and long lasting anthem “White Cliffs of Dover”.
Throughout the war years Vera did not merely confined her support to the UK rather joining with Entertainments National Service Association travelling to Egypt, India and Burma where she performed live concerts for the troops.
Her appearance and performance in Bengal prior to the Battle of Kohima only stood to build her reputation as the forces Sweetheart and boost the morale of servicemen. Year later in 1985 she would be awarded the Burma Star for her services.
She did admit to never learning to read music – but she 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.”
Following the end of the war Vera continued her career across several decades, first hosting her own variety show while going on to make appearances at the Royal Variety Performance between 1960 to 1990 as well as having a No.1 single in the US charts for nine weeks.
Vera was also and avid supporter of charity and gave a lot of her time to working in this sector supporting children with disabilities, breast cancer and ex-servicemen.