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18.06.2020 Europe

Armed forces voice of hope during WWII, Vera Lynn, dies aged 103

By Ollia Horton with RFI
© AFP/Archives
LISTEN JUN 18, 2020
© AFP/Archives

The British singer Vera Lynn, icon performer and ray of sunshine for troops during World War Two has died at the age of 103. Her hit song 'We'll Meet Again' was cited by Queen Elisabeth II earlier this year to raise the moral of the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Vera Lynn's family said they were "deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain's best-loved entertainers", and that they were with her when she died at her East Sussex home on 18 June.

The news came just as representatives of France and Britain were commemorating the call to arms made by Charles de Gaulle in London on 18 June 1940.

His message broadcast by the BBC laid the foundations of the Resistance against Nazi occupation in France.

The voice of young Vera Lynn gave hope and courage to many of the young men who responded to the call to fight in World War Two.

The forces' sweetheart
Born on 20 March, 1917, in East Ham, on the outskirts of London, Lynn sang from a young age.

Her debut solo recording, Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire, was released in 1936.

She earned the nickname "the forces' sweetheart", after touring for troops in Egypt, India and Myanmar, formally known as Burma.

Her 1939 hit We'll meet again written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, cemented her popularity.

Her other hits include The White Cliffs of Dover, There'll Always Be An England and If Only I Had Wings, which was intended to give courage to the British forces during the Blitz, the Nazi bombing of England.

Elisabeth II, Queen of England borrowed the title of We'll meet again in her speech to the nation about facing Covid-19 crisis, on 5 April.

When Vera Lynn celebrated her 103rd birthday in March, she also made a public statement encouraging the British population "to find the same spirit we had during the war", in order to face the coronavirus epidemic.

The song also made an appearance as British people marked the 75th anniversary of VE day, when the Nazis surrendered on 8 May, 1945.

Lynn's last public performance came in 2005, at the 60th anniversary celebrations for VE Day in Trafalgar Square.

"These boys gave their lives and some came home badly injured and for some families life would never be the same," she told the crowd.

Teach the children to remember
"We should always remember, we should never forget and we should teach the children to remember."

Her music brought her success over the years, even after she finished performing, and she also experimented with TV hosting and writing.

She became the oldest person to have reached the top of the UK album charts, which she achieved with a best-of compilation in 2009.

A compilation marking her 100th birthday reached No 3 in 2017.

She was awarded an OBE in 1969, and made a dame in 1975, for her work with charities for breast cancer, child cerebral palsy, and military service-people.

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