Dame Vera Lynn, the iconic British singer best known for her rousing wartime song “We’ll Meet Again,” has died. She was 103.
Lynn’s family confirmed the singer died on Thursday morning, surrounded by relatives, according to the BBC. “The family are deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers,” reads a statement.
Lynn, who was known as the Forces’ Sweetheart during World War II, was most recently in the spotlight during Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8, when the U.K. — in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic and still house-bound — was invited to sing along to her song “We’ll Meet Again.”
The song was also reference by Queen Elizabeth II during her April coronavirus address, when she assured the nation that, “We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again.” Lynn knew the Queen personally and performed for her at Buckingham Palace in 1995.
The BBC will show a special tribute program for Lynn on Thursday night, director general Tony Hall confirmed. “Not only was she dear to many, she was a symbol of hope during the war and is a part of our national story,” Hall said of the singer, who appeared frequently on the BBC, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s.
Lynn told the BBC in May, “I hope that VE Day will remind us all that hope remains even in the most difficult of times and that simple acts of bravery and sacrifice still define our nation as the NHS works so hard to care for us. Most of all, I hope today serves as a reminder that however hard things get, we will meet again.”
During the war, Lynn performed for the troops in countries such as Egypt, India and Myanmar, according to the BBC. Her other well-known songs include “The White Cliffs of Dover” and “There’ll Always Be an England.”
On Thursday, within an hour of the announcement of her death, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid his respects to the singer, tweeting, “Dame Vera Lynn’s 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.”
Born Vera Margaret Welch in 1917 in East Ham, she began performing at men’s clubs from the age of 7. Upon taking her grandmother’s maiden name, Lynn, she joined a singing troupe and left school at 14. Soon snapped up by an agent, she began booking radio gigs and live performances, eventually releasing her first solo recording, “Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire” in 1936.
Her hit song, “We’ll Meet Again” came at the outbreak of war, premiering on a popular radio program in 1939. In 1941, she received her own BBC radio program, “Sincerely Yours, Vera Lynn,” and soon recorded what has become another iconic wartime song, “The White Cliffs of Dover.” She also married musician Harry Lewis in 1941 — the marriage lasting almost 60 years until Lewis’ death in 1998.
During the war, Lynn also appeared in the 1942 film “We’ll Meet Again,” in which she played an entertainer. Upon joining the Entertainment National Services Assn. in 1944, she traveled to Egypt, India and Myanmar, performing for troops.
After war’s end, Lynn toured around Europe and continued to host her radio show. She became the first English artist to top the American charts when Decca Records released a compilation of her songs, titled “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” in 1952. After developing emphysema towards the end of the 1960s, her touring slowed.
Lynn became the oldest living artist to have a number one album in England in 2009, with the release of “We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn.” She broke another record in 2017, when she came the oldest living artist to have an album in the top 10 of the British charts with “100,” in honor of her 100th birthday.
“100” again re-entered the country’s top 40 this spring after Lynn’s song was played prominently during the BBC’s VE Day celebrations. Singer Katherine Jenkins performed the tune with a wartime Lynn via an edited segment.
Lynn was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1969. Six years later, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1975.