“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day,” crackled out over the radio during WWII. The iconic voice behind this refrain, along with many other forces favorites belonged to “The Forces Sweetheart,” Vera Lynn.
Vera Margaret Welch was born on the 20th March 1917 in East Ham, Sussex and started performing on the stage at age seven when she adopted her grandmother’s name as her stage name, and she was forever known professionally as Vera Lynn. In 1939 she recorded the hit “We’ll Meet Again” which became wildly popular during the dark days of the war and became synonymous with that period in history. She was voted the most popular musical performer by British servicemen in a poll conducted by the Daily Express, and this led to her moniker of “The Forces Sweetheart”.
In 1941 she took the microphone as hostess of her radio show, Sincerely Yours, in which she sent messages from family in the UK to the troops serving overseas. During the war, she travelled extensively, putting on shows to boost the morale and to entertain the troops. She travelled to Egypt, India, and in 1944 she entertained troops in Burma before the Battle of Kohima. She was awarded the Burma Star for the work she did entertaining the troops conducting the irregular war against the Japanese occupying Burma.
She remained popular after WWII and was a regular on radio both in the UK and America. She is the oldest person to have an album in the UK top 20 charts, which she attained at age 97 with her album Vera Lynn: National Treasure – The Ultimate Collection, which reached No 13. This album of WWII favorites was released to mark the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings. Vera Lynn has also contributed greatly to many charities serving children, ex-servicemen and cancer sufferers.
Vera Lynn has received many awards over the years; she received her OBE in 1969 and became a Dame of the British Empire in 1975. She was given the Freedom of the City of London in 1978 and made an Officer of the Order of Saint John in 1998. In 2000 she was voted as the Briton who best exemplified the Spirit of the 20th Century, receiving a special award for this.
This year, she received another honor: was named as Member of the Order of the Companions of Honor in the latest Queen’s Birthday Honors List. Dame Vera, aged 99, was unable to attend her investiture at Buckingham Palace so the award was given to her at a ceremony at her home in Ditchling, near Brighton, by Peter Field, the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex and Carola Godman Irvine, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant. The citation highlighted Dame Vera as the “the voice of hope” during the darkest days of the Second World War and emphasised the charity work that she has undertaken for the past 80 years.
Dame Vera was delighted and humbled by this latest honor saying, “In accepting this award, I do so in remembrance of all our wonderful, brave boys who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, and also in honor of all the children affected by cerebral palsy.”