Dame Vera Lynn at the BBC - a tribute to the Forces' sweetheart and a super trouper

Forces sweetheart Dame Vera LynnForces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn
Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn
Entertainer and Goon Show legend Harry Secombe said: “Churchill did not beat the Nazis. Dame Vera Lynn sang them to death.”

On this day 80 years ago thousands of Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy on what is known as D-Day – an invasion which ultimately led to victory against the Nazis and brought an end to war in Europe.

It was the sacrifice of thousands of Armed Forces personnel during this battle and others – including the Battle of Britain and the Western Desert and Burma campaigns – that led to an Allied victory.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

During the Second World War, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill made morale-boosting speeches and masterminded strategy …Dame Vera Lynn soared spirits with song.

Such was her popularity with the troops she became known as the Forces’ sweetheart.

Aged 22, she sang to people sheltering in London Underground stations from the bombing raids of 1939 and in 1944 toured Burma, Egypt and India entertaining the troops..

Dame Vera, who died four years ago, was more than the singer. Watch Vera Lynn at the BBC to get a taste of what a fabulous all-round entertainer she was. Dame Vera was a star.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Forget the Beatles – in 1952 Dame Vera became the first British performer to top the US charts with her recording of Auf Wiedersehen, Sweetheart.

In 2009 she became the oldest recording artist to have an album in the top 20.

The progamme is a compilation of snippets and sequences from The Vera Lynn Show, Parkinson, Des O’Connor Tonight, Pebble Mill and the 50th anniversary celebrations in Hyde Park of VE Day.

As with any performer worth their salt, she appeared on a Morecambe and Wise Christmas special and the Pass Me By routine with Eric and Ernie alone is worth the watch.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Her comedy prowess shines again in an appearance on Parkinson in 1981. She is singing a wartime classic Kiss Me Goodnight, Sergeant Major when on marches Windsor Davies – the actor who played the Sergeant Major in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum – and gets in on the act.

Dame Vera shimmers, sparkles and shines in frilly, floaty frocks, shoes to match on her feet and a string of pearls around her neck.

Her choice of songs spans decades – from Yours written in 1911 – to ABBA’s Thank You for the Music. In between there are wartime songs, a music hall medley and some of the most beautiful love songs ever written.

Accompanied by piano, orchestra or big band, she swings and delivers power-house ballads – without any vocal gymnastics. There are no shout-outs to ex-boyfriends – Dame Vera sings of love, laughter and peace ever after.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Her delivery is clear. She performs the song – is heartbroken, hilarious, flirty, reflective and, with It Had to Be You, sexy. Dame Vera makes entertaining look effortless.

Of course, there are wartime classics. Vera Lynn at the BBC opens with White Cliffs of Dover, she brings a hush to Hyde Park with her rendition of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and then has the audience singing along to We’ll Meet Again.

The programme is a tribute to the indomitable Dame Vera, there are also glimpses of other great entertainers – Secombe, O’Connor, Morecambe and Wise and Danny La Rue.

Vera Lynn at the BBC is on BBC iPlayer.

Related topics: