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Dame Vera Lynn Dies at 103

Bruce Monkhouse

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Dame Vera Lynn, who has died at the age of 103, was Britain's wartime Forces' Sweetheart, and remained one of the country's most potent symbols of resilience and hope.
With songs such as We'll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover, she inspired both troops abroad and civilians at home during World War Two.
As Britain's cities came under attack, her wistful songs, with their messages of yearning and optimism, were heard in millions of British homes.
And 75 years later, the country turned to her once again as it faced another stern test.
She was born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March 1917 in the London suburb of East Ham, the daughter of a plumber.

She discovered her talent for singing at an early age and was performing in local clubs when she was seven. By the time she was 11, she had abandoned school for a full-time career as a dancer and singer in a touring music hall revue.
She had also adopted a new stage name, Vera Lynn, borrowing her grandmother's maiden name.

She was a soloist by the age of 16, fronting a number of bands who were still clinging to the more genteel musical traditions in the face of an onslaught from be-bop and jazz.
Lynn was self-effacing, unlike many of the singing stars of the day, and her gentle persona quickly endeared her to audiences.
Her broadcasting debut came in 1935, singing with the Joe Loss Orchestra, which led to regular radio appearances and widened her circle of fans.
But in 1939, war intervened. As families gathered around the wireless to listen to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's announcement that Britain was at war with Germany, Lynn remembered thinking: "Oh well, bang goes my career."

But when she volunteered for war work, she was told the best thing she could do was to keep on being an entertainer.
This was reinforced when, in a 1939 poll by the Daily Express, she was voted by servicemen as their favourite entertainer, and gained her Forces' Sweetheart nickname.
In the same year, she first sang We'll Meet Again, the song that more than any other came to be associated with World War Two.



Army.ca Legend
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Vera Lynn must have been the last of the great musical entertainers of the war.

World War II was the first conflict to take place in the age of electronically mass distributed music.

American servicemen had regular access to Armed Forces Radio in all but the most difficult combat situations.

I watched "This is the Army" the other day,

The "God Bless America" part is very powerful, even this many years later.

Perhaps now more than ever.