Who is Dame Vera Lynn? Wartime sweetheart channelled by Queen in coronavirus message

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4-min read
Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn poses for photographs in central London, on October 22, 2009. Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn on Thursday joined soprano singer Hayley Westenra for an emotional rendition of the classic wartime song We'll Meet Again to officially launch the Royal British Legion's poppy appeal. AFP PHOTO/Shaun Curry (Photo by SHAUN CURRY / AFP)        (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP via Getty Images)
Dame Vera Lynn was known as the forces' sweetheart. (Getty Images)

As the Queen gave a special message in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, she harked back to her own childhood in the Second World War, and quoted the Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn.

On Sunday evening, the Queen said: “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”

The final words echoed the song of Dame Vera, who rose to fame during the Second World War and lifted the spirits of Britons, and soldiers, during the Blitz.

The chorus to the song, recorded by Dame Vera in 1942, is: “We'll meet again, Don't know where, Don't know when, But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Queen says 'better days will return' as she addresses nation and Commonwealth

Speaking to Saga magazine in 2009, Dame Vera said: “I always tried to choose cheerful songs, that soldiers missing their wives and sweethearts could relate to.

“We weren't psychologists, but we understood that it was important to express the right meaning, and we put a lot of effort into getting the songs right.”

She didn’t get an official hit when it was first released, because the chart did not exist, but a compilation album of her songs which was released in 2009 went to number one, making her the oldest living artist to get to the UK top spot. She was 93.

NEW YORK - CIRCA 1955: English singer Dame Vera Lynn poses for a portrait circa 1955 in New York city, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Dame Vera Lynn became the Forces' Sweetheart during the Second World War. (Getty Images)

The classic song has been covered by Rod Stewart, Sheridan Smith, and Katherine Jenkins, among others.

Dame Vera released her own message of hope just over two weeks ago, as she celebrated her 103rd birthday.

Read more: Coronavirus: 'Nobody else alive could have done that' - Queen wins praise for her message

In a video message she said: “We are facing a very challenging time at the moment, and I know many people are worried about the future.

“I’m greatly encouraged that despite these struggles we have seen people joining together.

“They are supporting one another, reaching into the homes of their neighbours by offering assistance to the elderly and sending messages of support and singing into the streets.

“Music is so good for the soul, and during these hard times we must all help each other to find moments of joy. Keep smiling and keep singing.”

In another message, calling on people to pull together, she said: “I am reminded of World War Two, when our country faced the darkest of times and yet, despite our struggles, pulled together for the common good and we faced the common threat together as a country, and as a community of countries that joined as one right across the world.”

Dame Vera was born in East Ham, London, and rose to fame while performing for the troops during the war in countries including Egypt, India and Burma.

Her best-known songs include The White Cliffs Of Dover and There’ll Always Be An England.

The Queen also spoke of her own involvement in World War Two. She mentioned her first ever broadcast, as Princess Elizabeth, with her sister, the late Princess Margaret.

Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice

Live: Follow all the latest updates from the UK and around the world

Fact-checker: The number of COVID-19 cases in your local area

6 charts and maps that explain how COVID-19 is spreading

File photo dated 23/03/20 of Dame Vera Lynn in the garden of the Savoy Hotel, after she was named personality of the century in a nationwide poll. Queen Elizabeth II gave a televised message to the nation during the coronavirus outbreak.
Dame Vera Lynn with a cutout of herself after she was named personality of the century. (Press Association)

Broadcasting from Windsor Castle aged 14, the then princess spoke to children around the country to offer comfort.

“It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety.

“Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do,” she said on Sunday evening.

Read more: Queen's message: Four other times the Queen gave a special address

10th October 1940:  Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret (1930 - 2002) making a broadcast to the children of the Empire during World War II.  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret making a broadcast to the children of the Empire during World War Two. (Getty Images)

During her Children’s Hour broadcast on October 13 1940, Princess Elizabeth sent her best wishes to the children who had been evacuated from Britain to America, Canada and elsewhere.

In the crackling radio message, she said: “Thousands of you in this country have had to leave your homes and be separated from your fathers and mothers.

“My sister Margaret Rose and I feel so much for you as we know from experience what it means to be away from those we love most of all.”

Margaret, then aged 10, joined in to say goodbye.

The Queen went on to serve in the Army, training as a mechanic.

---Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK---