Her performances and recordings of uplifting songs during the darkest days of World War II made her hugely popular with soldiers and civilians alike, and earned her the nickname ‘the Forces’ Sweetheart’. She was the voice behind some of the most popular songs of World War II. But just who was Vera Lynn?
Vera Lynn was a singer and entertainer whose popularity peaked during World War II, when she recorded a series of uplifting and patriotic songs that helped to maintain morale both for Britons at home and for soldiers on the frontline.
Her most famous songs include ‘We’ll Meet Again’, ‘(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover’, ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ and ‘There’ll Always Be an England’.
When was Vera Lynn born?
Vera Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch in East Ham (then Essex, now London) on 20 March 1917. Her parents, Bertram Samuel Welch (1883-1955) and dressmaker Anne Martin (1889-1975), were a plumber and dressmaker respectively.
Was Vera Lynn ill as a child?
Yes. In 1919, aged just two, she fell ill with diphtheritic croup and nearly died. The young Vera Welch spent three months in a hospital isolation unit.
From then on, Vera’s mother was extremely protective of her: she was not allowed to play with other children for some time afterwards.
When did Vera Lynn first become famous?
The young Vera was something of a musical prodigy: she started performing in public at the age of just seven. Just four years later, aged 11, she took her maternal grandmother Margaret’s maiden name ‘Lynn’ as her stage name. Also aged 11, Vera Lynn joined a young performing troupe, Madame Harris’s Kracker Kabaret Kids. Later, in 1933, she joined the band of bandleader Howard Baker.
What was Vera Lynn’s first record?
Aged almost 18, the young Vera made her first record with Baker’s band, ‘It’s Home’, on 17 February 1935. Her first solo record, ‘Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire’, followed in 1936.
What did Vera Lynn do during World War II?
Vera Lynn started the Second World War singing to Londoners who were using Underground stations as air raid shelters.
Early on in the war, British servicemen were asked to name their favourite musical performers. Vera Lynn topped the list, earning herself the nickname ‘the Forces’ Sweetheart’.
As the war progressed, Lyn began presenting a weekly 30-minute radio programme, Sincerely Yours, featuring messages to British troops serving abroad. Lynn and her accompanying quartet also performed song requests for soldiers. Later in the war, Vera Lynn presented another regular show, ‘It’s Time for Vera Lynn’ on the BBC’s Forces programme.
Lynn also toured Egypt, India and Burma with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), giving outdoor concerts for British troops. Notably, she sang at Shamshernagar airfield in Bengal, to entertain the troops before the Battle of Kohima in March 1944. She also entertained British guerrilla units in Japanese-occupied Burma, for which she later received the Burma Star.
Somehow, Lynn also found time to appear in three war-themed films during WW2. 1943’s We’ll Meet Again was based on her own life story; in Rhythm Serenade she played a school teacher who tries to join up but ends up organising a nursery for a munitions factory; and 1944’s One Exciting Night (also known as You Can’t Do Without Love) was a dramatic musical comedy in which she helps thwart a gang of art thieves.
What was Vera Lynn’s nickname?
Vera Lynn was known as the ‘Forces’ Sweetheart’ in recognition of the huge role she played in maintaining morale among serving troops during World War II, and the great affection that both the armed forces and Britons at home felt for her and her recordings and performances.
What were Vera Lynn’s most famous songs?
Her best-known songs include ‘(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover’, ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ and ‘There’ll Always Be an England’.
What is Vera Lynn most famous for?
Lynn is best known, however, for singing ‘We’ll Meet Again’, with its nostalgic lyrics that provided such comfort to civilians and military personnel alike:
‘We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when / But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day’
‘We’ll Meet Again’ was recorded in 1939 with Arthur Young, and then again in 1953, this time accompanied by servicemen from the British Armed Forces.
When did Vera Lynn die?
Vera Lynn died on 18 June 2020, aged 103, at her home in Ditchling, East Sussex. Ahead of her funeral, the White Cliffs of Dover had images of Lynn projected onto them, and her iconic song ‘We’ll Meet Again’ was broadcast out across the English Channel.