Dame Vera Lynn was honoured with a Spitfire flypast in her beloved Sussex village before her funeral, as crowds sung a spontaneous rendition of We'll Meet Again.
The adored singer, who entertained troops with morale-boosting visits to the front line during the Second World War, died aged 103 on June 18.
Crowds gathered in the picturesque village of Ditchling on Friday, where she lived for 60 years, to say goodbye to their "special local lady".
As the funeral cortege made its way out of the village, they broke into an impromptu rendition of We'll Meet Again, one of Dame Vera's most famous songs.
Meanwhile, a Spitfire and a Hurricane - two of the most famous aircraft from the war - soared overhead as a show of respect.
The cortege bearing Dame Vera's coffin - which is draped in a Union flag - will make its way to the crematorium in Brighton.
A tri-service route-lining party will wait outside the chapel, together with a military bearer party ready to receive the coffin.
A bugler from the Royal Marines will provide a musical tribute inside the chapel, and the Ministry of Defence will be represented by a senior officer who, along with the bugler and the small family group, will be the only people to attend the funeral service.
A full memorial service will be held at a later date.
'You were hope when hope was fading': Tributes to the Forces' Sweetheart
A large print of Dame Vera Lynn in red, white and blue was pinned up in the centre of Ditchling following the flypast.
Mourners were invited to sign the colourful tribute in silver pen and leave messages for the Forces Sweetheart.
One message read: "Vera, you were hope, when hope was fading. You were our smiles, when smiling was a struggle. You touch hearts all over the world and you will forever be in ours."
Another said: "We love you Auntie Vera. We will meet again. Love Claudia xox."
Virginia Lewis-Jones, Dame Vera's daughter, said: "We want to thank everyone for their tremendous support over the past few weeks.
"My mother always appreciated receiving messages from all over the world, and Ditchling was always particularly special to her, that is why we know she would be touched that so many people want to pay their respects in the village tomorrow.
"It means so much to us to see my mother's legacy living on.
"We are sure her music will endure forever but most importantly, we hope that people will continue to support those charities that she cared about so much."
Captain Sir Tom Moore, the veteran hero who raised more than £30m for the NHS by walking laps of his garden with his zimmer frame, recently received a letter from Dame Vera in recognition of his enormous achievement.
"I was absolutely thrilled to get a letter from Dame Vera congratulating me on the amount of money that we'd raised for my birthday," he said.
"She was always so kind, she was lovely, I've always had a soft place in my heart for Dame Vera. It was very sad when she died."
Remembering her visit to troops in Burma, he added: "There she was, this lovely English girl... she was a great person to give us a lot more confidence and we were very, very pleased to see her."
The funeral of #DameVeraLynn will take place today. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has paid tribute to Dame Vera, who dedicated her life to supporting the Armed Forces community.— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) July 10, 2020
The Armed Forces are honoured to pay their respects to Dame Vera at the funeral today.@BWallaceMP pic.twitter.com/1KCZX1IgiB
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Dame Vera’s inspirational work in support of our Armed Forces will never be forgotten and my thoughts are with her family and loved ones at this time.
"In tribute to her life, our services have come together to pay their respects at Dame Vera’s funeral and honour her memory.
“As we approach the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, we remember her performances for troops in Burma during the Second World War, bringing a welcome reminder of home to those fighting in the Far East.
"Her support helped to sustain the fortitude of British personnel deployed around the world and those waiting for them to return. “We remember her life with fond memories, and all that she gave to our country in its time of need.”
Dame Vera's strong association with the famous White Cliffs of Dover was celebrated ahead of the funeral by the projection of a giant portrait of her onto the cliff face.
The image on the 350ft cliffs was visible to ships passing through the Channel, as well as passing planes - and on land it could be seen from the main road and the back gardens of local residents.
Symbol of hope in Britain's darkest days
Dame Vera symbolised the spirit and sentiment of the Second World War with evocative songs, which she continued to sing as the country underwent enormous changes over the next 80 years.
She was unflinchingly committed to her “boys”. These were the wartime servicemen all around the Commonwealth and, particularly, the troops of the “Forgotten Fourteenth Army” for whom she had sung in Burma in 1944.
Her most notable concerts for troops were in Egpyt, India and Burma as part of the conflict in the Far East, even after Victory in Europe had been declared. The United Kingdom will mark the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan on 15 August 2020.
The bond she retained with them decades later awed sons and grandchildren who saw them singing along with her at concerts or on television; and no wartime commemoration seemed complete without her participation.
Her warm place in the public imagination remained until long after she had ceased to have her own television show and had given up touring and singing in public.
When We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn, a new collection of her old songs, came out in 2009 it outsold U2 and Eminem, pop performers of whom she had never heard, making her the oldest person to top the album charts.
Further releases to enter the charts were Vera Lynn: National Treasure – The Ultimate Collection in 2014, released for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and Vera Lynn 100, for her centenary.
Armed Forces' role in Dame Vera's funeral
Twelve members of personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force will line the route of the funeral cortège as it passes through Ditchling village.
Sailors from HMS Collingwood, home to phase 2 sea training, will represent the Royal Navy. The British Army will be represented by No 7 Company, 1st Battalion The Coldstream Guards. The Queen’s Colour Squadron of the RAF Regiment will represent the Royal Air Force.
Armed Forces personnel from all three services will carry Dame Vera’s coffin into the crematorium. The personnel representing their service in the bearer party are as follows.
The RAF will be flying two Spitfires over Dame Vera’s funeral – a P7350 and an AB910.
The P7350 is the only airworthy Spitfire to have served in the Battle of Britain, which took place 80 years ago this year. It was shot down on 25 October 1940, when it was being flown by Polish pilot Ludwik Martel. Despite being wounded himself, Martel managed to land the damaged aircraft in a field near Hastings. The P7350 is currently painted in the colours of the Spitfire flown by Al Deere, a New Zealander pilot in the Battle of Britain.
The AB910 flew 143 operational missions during World War Two. It carries the famous black and white ‘invasion stripes’, painted on Allied aircraft during and after D-Day in June 1944. AB910 itself served on D-Day, flying cover patrols over the invasion beaches.