Dame Vera Lynn, christened the “Forces’ Sweetheart,” passed away today at the age of 103.
Vera Lynn’s melodic voice and down-to-earth style quickly became a tonic for British service members abroad and for their families back home enduring the hardships of the Blitz.
Born Vera Margaret Welch on March 20, 1917, in the London suburb of East Ham, the young entertainer at the age of 11 borrowed her grandmother’s maiden name to perform in local clubs. By age 16 Lynn became a solo artist, with her broadcast debut coming in 1935.
However, as Germany raced through Poland in September 1939 Lynn recalled thinking: “Oh well, bang goes my career.”
Nevertheless, the singer quickly volunteered for the war effort by doing what she did best—performing. As an entertainer she soon garnered admiration by those serving, with troops voting Lynn their “favorite entertainer” in a 1939 poll by the Daily Express. In that same year she sang We’ll Meet Again, striking a chord for many families separated by the conflict and cementing her place as one of the most beloved British figures during the war.
For many, her songs became a “symbol of resilience and hope,” writes the BBC. “As Britain’s cities came under attack, her wistful songs, with their messages of yearning and optimism, were heard in millions of British homes.”
Her voice was last broadcast to the public for the 75th anniversary of VE Day as she appeared in a virtual duet with Katherine Jenkins, singing:
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
On the news of her passing, the British Army tweeted out, “we have lost our Sweetheart. But We Know We’ll Meet Again… Rest in Peace Dame Vera from all in your Army.”
*All photos via Getty Images