Legendary WWII singer Vera Lynn has been in headlines all day because she’s about to be the first person ever to release an album at the age of 100. That’s so cool!
But that’s not the only cool thing she’s done.
Lynn became known as the “Forces Sweetheart” while hosting the radio show “Sincerely Yours” in London on Sunday nights throughout the war, often remaining on the air during German air raids.
Her song “We’ll Meet Again” is recognized as the first number-one single on the UK charts. Among veterans, the song evokes memories of wartime and the longing to return home from battle.
Lynn’s boldest move during the war was a four-month visit to Burma in 1944, where she sang for British troops at a camp near the Indian border. The Battle of Kohima raged nearby, just over the border in India.
“I was getting letters from the boys, and I thought I would like to go and see who I had been singing to on the radio,” she told The Telegraph in 2014.
“I knew I was well protected, although I did wake up one morning and find four Japanese prisoners leaning against the little grass hut that I was in. They were horrible looking. I had to step over their legs to get by them. The look I got! I was this young girl walking by in khaki shorts. I shouldn’t think they had ever seen a white girl,” she said in the same 2014 interview.
WWII veteran Roy (Jim) Welland described her visit for QR Memories: “About mid-September 1944, we were told that Vera Lynn was about to visit and entertain us. This was hard to believe as the area was still pretty dangerous with the occasional sniper. However, she did show up. What a lovely young lady with a beautiful voice. She was like an angel to us. I was quite lucky. I got a space at the show, almost at the front. I stood there and thought of home instantly.”
‘C’ Company 7th Worcestershire Regiment and the rest of the men of the 4th Brigade were divided in their opinion of her voice. But not after that hot steamy evening in 1944 in the Burmese jungle, when we stood in our hundreds and watched a tall, fair haired girl walk on to a makeshift stage and stand beside an old piano.
It was Vera Lynn. She had travelled all that way with ENSA [the Entertainments National Service Association] to entertain our troops in the Far East. She sang half a dozen songs in a strong clear voice. We could hear every word.
She tried to leave the stage but the men were clapping and cheering. She sang three more songs but still they went on cheering. She started to sing again but whenever she tried to stop, they yelled the name of another tune. She sang until her make-up was running in dark furrows down her cheeks, until her dress was wet with sweat, until her voice had become a croak.
She was the only ENSA star we ever saw in the jungle. There were a lot of men, that hot and humid evening, who were grateful to Vera Lynn for having remembered them so far from home and the evening of entertainment she had provided.
As one of the lads said: “With a couple of weeks’ training, she would make a damn good soldier.”
The album is set to be released on March 17, three days before her 100th birthday.