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Dame Vera Lynn, who became a figure of hope and resilience as the U.K.’s “Forces’ Sweetheart” during World War II, has died at the age of 103.

Her family said in a statement they were “deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers at the age of 103.”

They added: “Dame Vera Lynn, who lived in Ditchling, East Sussex, passed away earlier today, 18 June 2020, surrounded by her close family. Further information regarding a memorial service will be announced at a later date.”

During World War Two, Lynn hosted a radio show, Sincerely Yours, in which she read messages to British troops serving overseas. Her recordings of the songs “We’ll Meet Again” and “The White Cliffs of Dover” became morale-boosting anthems of hope during the wartime period, and she cemented her status as the U.K.’s “Forces’ Sweetheart” by bravely touring Burma and India to perform for servicemen.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today that her “charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours.”

Meanwhile, Buckingham Palace has confirmed to the Evening Standard that Queen Elizabeth will be sending a private message of condolence to Lynn’s family.

After the war, Lynn became the first British artist to top the US singles chart when her version of “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart” reached number one in 1952. In addition to hosting her own British TV variety shows in the ’60s and ’70s, she became known for her charity work after founding a cerebral palsy charity in 1953 and a breast cancer charity in 1976.

Queen Elizabeth made her a Dame in 1976 for services to charity, and in 2016, shortly before Lynn’s 100th birthday, appointed her to the Order of the Companions of Honour – a prestigious list which contains no more than 65 highly distinguished members at any one time.

Lynn made her last recordings in 1991 and sang live for the final time four years later, but remained able to scale the U.K. charts right up to her death. In 2009, at the age of 92, she became the oldest living artist to top the UK Albums Charts when her compilation, We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn, reached number one. In 2017, a compilation album to mark her 100th birthday, Vera Lynn 100, peaked at number three and went gold.

After Queen Elizabeth poignantly quoted “We’ll Meet Again” in her recent coronavirus message, the song re-entered the UK singles chart – both in its original form and as a duet with Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins, whom Lynn considered her natural successor as Forces’ Sweetheart.

Today, Jenkins paid tribute to her “mentor and friend,” saying: “There will never be another Dame Vera Lynn.”

Lynn is survived by her daughter, Virginia Lewis-Jones, whom she lived next door to, and her extended family. Lynn’s husband Harry Lewis, whom she married in 1941, passed away in 1998. You can read more about Lynn’s life and career in our recent British Icon post dedicated to her.

Rest in Peace, Dame Vera Lynn.

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Filed Under: Dame Vera Lynn
By Nick Levine