WE’LL (NOT) MEET AGAIN
The Forces Sweetheart, Dame Vera Lynn, has died at the age of 103. When Vera was two years old, she was seriously ill with diphtheria but lived. Rumours the Reaper said “you have this century, but wait for the next one” cannot be confirmed. She began singing in her childhood and was signed to a label in her teens, the Billie Eilish of the 1930s. Her first solo single, The Little Boy That Santa Forgot, was released in 1937. This was a joyful melody about a poor sod who only wanted “some soldiers and a drum”, but Santa forgot to visit him so he “wandered home to last year’s broken toys”. Oh and his dad’s dead too. Not really a nation’s morale boosting tune, but rumours she was going to follow it up with Alone Again Naturally, Ferlin Husky’s Drunken Driver and The Best of Sting were never confirmed.
Soon after, World War Two began, and Vera Lynn started her contribution to the war effort by driving around bomb shelters and singing at people. Whereas in 2020 this would bring an ASBO, in 1939 this cheered up people. Also in 1939, she recorded what would become one of the most famous songs of the 20th Century: We’ll Meet Again. It swiftly became an anthem for the soldiers and families left behind. At the same time, an Express poll of soldiers had her as their favourite, and so the moniker of The Forces Sweetheart was born.
Vera Lynn decided to repay this with interest. First her BBC show Sincerely Yours linked the troops to their families by reading well wishing messages online, until the BBC bosses feared she was undermining the British Stiff Upper Lip. So she joined ENSA and did entertainment tours of the front line including danger spots like Burma and Egypt. Now world famous war veteran Captain Tom Moore used twitter to talk about how these shows had a lasting effect on his friends morale, and if there is a sentence which better sums up 2020, I haven’t seen it yet.
After the war, her success as a singer continued. She was the first Brit to gain a number one single in the US, and she got a UK Number one in the 1950s with My Son My Son. (We had no UK charts in the 1940s, else she would have likely dominated them like The Beatles, Madonna and Drake formed a super group…) She was present at various VE Day celebrations, and her music never fell out of print. She broke her own record as oldest person to ever have a charting album, and was being nominated for Brit Awards in her 100s.
She also worked heavily for cerebral palsy charities (it was actually this that got her Damehood in 1975), once appeared on stage with Hawkwind, and talked about her experiences in The World at War. She lived long enough to see herself become a topic on the national curriculum.
In recent weeks, she was in the public eye again, quoting her most famous song to talk about the Coronavirus. That the press decided the general public would rather trust the centenarian old woman than their own government perhaps says it all. She was widely seen as having gone well and over the call of duty as a young singer during the war, and those who lived through those years remembered her fondly. I remember both grandfathers, now long dead, talking of Vera Lynn with smiles. It is rare you can say the death of someone is the end of a piece of living history but not so when it comes to Vera Lynn. Although if we do meet again, this atheist is in for a hell of a surprise!
102 teams went for the Dame, including It’s Grim Up North (No relation to the Cmme co-host), Windsor the Troll and the Brock Lesnar of theme teams, Gray Panthers.
20 March 1917 – 18 June 2020
102 teams (should have been 103, surely?)