Katherine Jenkins, Alan Titchmarsh and Jonathan Dimbleby were among those who paid tribute to Dame Vera Lynn at a thanksgiving service in London to celebrate the life and work of the wartime singer.
The service was held at Westminster Abbey on Monday with members of her family, friends from the world of music, representatives from charities she supported and members of the Armed Forces in attendance.
Dame Vera had a celebrated career as a singer and entertainer spanning more than 90 years.
She died in June 2020 at the age of 103.
During the thanksgiving service, the central band of the Royal British Legion greeted attendees on arrival and played out their departure.
TV gardener Titchmarsh gave a personal remembrance to Dame Vera recalling how he was often “blown away by the strength of her voice” which would make the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
He also spoke of how lucky he felt to have interacted with her on several occasions and said “she leaves behind happy memories and admiration in equal measure”.
While broadcaster Dimbleby reflected on the late singer’s close connection with the Armed Forces, noting the challenges the soldiers faced during those dark days of war and how in their quiet moments they would most yearn for home.
He added: “That’s why Dame Vera Lynn mattered so much. Whether she was in Britain singing on radio programmes, or with the boys on the front in the Middle East or in Burma where she spent several long weeks entertaining the troops.”
Dimbleby also recalled a letter written by Dame Vera where she admitted she was not fond of the jungle but that when she saw the faces of the soldiers below her while she was performing she wrote that “there was nowhere else” that she would rather be and she “sung her heart out” for them.
Also among the performers were singer Katie Ashby and the D-Day Darlings who performed Dame Vera’s classic The White Cliffs of Dover and the wartime singer’s former personal assistant Susan Fleet read a poem titled Goodnight Sweetheart by Michael Claughton.
Lyricist Sir Tim Rice also gave a bible reading from Corinthians and actor Anthony Andrews delivered a tribute to his late friend.
The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, who said during the bidding: “We remember a talent and charm that sustained a breathtakingly long career, the only centenarian to have an album in the top 10.
“More significantly still, we remember a woman of commitment, courage and resilience, who became the voice of constancy and hope for this nation in wartime.
“As the Forces’ Sweetheart, she was utterly faithful and loyal to those who looked to her in dark times.”
Operatic singer Jenkins closed the service by giving an emotional rendition of We’ll Meet Again in an elegant light blue dress with a navy and silver headpiece, which was followed by the National Anthem.
Famous faces also in attendance included TV and panto star Christopher Biggins, actress Bonnie Langford, TV presenter Baroness Floella Benjamin and TV star Debbie McGee.
Dame Vera captured the hearts of the nation during the Second World War with her uplifting musical performances and recordings.
She subsequently became known as the “Forces’ Sweetheart”, giving performances to troops as part of the Entertainments National Service Association.
Her most popular songs encapsulated the spirit of Britain during wartime and included We’ll Meet Again, The White Cliffs Of Dover and A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.
The star’s successful career continued long after the war, with her cover of the song My Son, My Son reaching number one on the UK single charts in 1954.
In 2009, at the age of 92, Dame Vera became the oldest living artist to top the UK’s album chart with We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best Of Vera Lynn.
Dame Vera also became heavily involved with charity work later in her life.
In particular, she campaigned for the Burma Star Association, a British veterans’ association for ex-servicemen and women who served in the Burma Campaign during the Second World War.
She was made a dame in 1975 and a companion of honour in 2016.