UK war-time ‘icon’ Vera Lynn dead at 103

London (AFP)

Legendary British singer Vera Lynn, the so-called “forces sweetheart” who helped keep up morale during World War II, died Thursday aged 103, her family said.

Lynn travelled thousands of miles to Egypt, India and Myanmar to entertain British troops with a string of classic songs such as “We’ll Meet Again” and “The White Cliffs of Dover”.

Vera Lynn travelled thousands of miles to Egypt, India and Myanmar to entertain British troops with a string of war-time hits such as "We'll Meet Again" and "The White Cliffs of Dover"
Vera Lynn travelled thousands of miles to Egypt, India and Myanmar to entertain British troops with a string of war-time hits such as “We’ll Meet Again” and “The White Cliffs of Dover” SHAUN CURRY AFP/File

A performer from the age of seven, she also starred in films, enjoyed a number of post-war hits and was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1976.

Lynn, who lived in East Sussex, southeast England, died surrounded by her close family, relatives said.

“The family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers at the age of 103,” a short statement added.

When Lynn turned 100 in 2017, her portrait was projected onto the famed White Cliffs of Dover.

She also released a new album — becoming the first centenarian to do so.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson led the tributes that poured in from across the country and political spectrum.

“Dame Vera Lynn’s charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours,” he said on Twitter.

“Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come.”

The Royal British Legion, a charity providing financial, social and emotional support to veterans, called Lynn “an unforgettable British icon” and “symbol of hope to the Armed Forces community past and present”.

– ‘Huge impact’ –

Born in London’s East End in 1917, Lynn became a household name during WWII.

She hosted a BBC radio programme, “Sincerely Yours”, appeared in a forces stage revue and made three war-time films as well as touring.

Post-war highlights included being the first British performer to have a US number one with “Auf Wiedersehen, Sweetheart”, her most successful record, in 1952.

As Lynn’s career waned in later decades she remained a beloved figure at celebrations to mark the anniversaries of the June 6 1944 D-Day landings in France or VE Day, the end of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945.

Her death comes just weeks after Britons joined in a national rendition of her classic “We’ll Meet Again” from their doorsteps as a morale boost during the coronavirus lockdown.

Queen Elizabeth II also invoked the beloved singer in a rare address to the nation in early April, telling Britons “we will meet again” once the restrictions were lifted.

WWII veteran Captain Tom Moore, 100, who has shot to fame during the crisis after raising huge sums for health service charities by doing laps of his garden, called the news of her death “a real shame”.

“She had a huge impact on me in Burma (Myanmar) and remained important to me throughout my life,” he said, adding that his thoughts were with her family.

Lynn herself made several public statements during the pandemic, urging Britons in March to “rediscover that same spirit that saw us through the war”.

“Music is so good for the soul … keep smiling and keep singing,” stated a message on her Twitter account, alongside the release of a new “We’ll Meet Again” video to coincide with her 103rd birthday.

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