LONDON – Dame Vera Lynn, the endearingly popular “Forces' Sweetheart” who serenaded British troops during World War II, has died at 103.
During the war and long after, Lynn got crowds singing, smiling and crying with sentimental favorites such as “We'll Meet Again,” and “The White Cliffs of Dover.”
“The family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain's best-loved entertainers,” her family said in a statement Thursday.
Lynn possessed a down-to-earth appeal, reminding servicemen of the wives and sweethearts they left behind when they went off to war. “I was somebody that they could associate with,” she once told The Associated Press. “I was an ordinary girl.”
Tributes poured in from political leaders, entertainers, veterans and thousands of fans. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said her “charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours. Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come.”
Lynn hosted a wildly popular BBC radio show during the war called “Sincerely Yours” in which she sent messages to British troops abroad and performed the songs they requested. The half-hour program came on after the Sunday night news, a coveted time slot.
“Winston Churchill was my opening act,” she once said. But Lynn once thought the war would doom her chance of success.
“When war first started, when it was declared, I thought, 'Well there goes my career.' You know, I shall finish up in a factory or the army or somewhere,” she recalled.
Lynn earned her nickname, “The Forces' Sweetheart,” after being ranked No. 1 in a 1939 Daily Express poll that asked servicemen to name their favorite musical artists. Years later, she reflected on time spent with soldiers abroad.
“What they needed was a contact from home,” she said. “I entertained audiences from 2,000 to 6,000. And the boys would just come out of the jungle and sit there for hours waiting until we arrived and then slip back in once we'd left.”