British singer Vera Lynn dies at 103
She became more widely known during the second world war, and performed to people sheltering in the stations of London’s underground
Famous British singer Dame Vera Lynn, whose song "We'll Meet Again" became an anthem of hope and resilience for the allied troops during the second world war, has died aged 103.
Her family said they were "deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain's best-loved entertainers," and that they were with her when she died at her East Sussex home, reports the Guardian.
Labour politician Angela Rayner was among the first to pay tribute, calling her "a beautiful person who will be sadly missed by all who knew her".
Born in East Ham, on the outskirts of London, in 1917, Lynn survived a near-fatal case of diphtheria as a two-year old, and began performing aged seven. From the age of 18 she began performing with orchestras in the UK, and released her debut solo recording, Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire, in 1936, while she worked in an East End shipping company.
She became more widely known during the second world war, and performed to people sheltering in the stations of London's underground. She became popular among soldiers and earned the nickname "the forces' sweetheart", touring for troops in Egypt, India and Myanmar, then known as Burma, during the war.
"Singing in the jungle was very hot and very sticky, which was a bit hard going," she said in a 2017 interview.
"I had a little piano, which they trudged around on the back of a lorry, hoping it would survive the journeys."
Her wartime popularity was boosted by her signature song, We'll Meet Again, released in 1939. Its wistful melody and determinedly optimistic lyrics – "I know we'll meet again some sunny day" – proved powerfully uplifting for departing soldiers, and it has endured as the defining song of the British campaign.
It re-entered the UK charts this year at No 55 amid 75th anniversary celebrations of VE Day.
The White Cliffs of Dover, in which Lynn hymns the British coastline as she hopes for peace, is another of her enduring patriotic songs – written by Walter Kent and Nat Burton, it was originally released in 1942. The far right British National Party (BNP) featured it and used its title for a compilation album of British songs in 2009 – Lynn objected, and took legal action over the release.
We'll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover were released too early to enjoy chart success originally, but Lynn did top the UK charts for two weeks in 1954 with My Son, My Son, a heartfelt ballad from a mother to her son.
She is also the oldest person to have reached the top of the UK album charts, which she achieved with a best-of compilation in 2009. A compilation marking her 100th birthday reached No 3 in 2017.