The Insider's Guide
Sussex Life|August 2020
News and happenings from around the county
Jenny Mark-Bell

Voice of a generation

Dame Vera Lynn, the Forces’ Sweetheart who made Ditchling her home, was honoured byan RAF flypast on the day of her funeral last month. She died in June, aged 103.

After beginning her performing career aged seven in her native East End, Dame Vera first found success in the 1930s, her first radio broadcast being with the Joe Loss Orchestra in 1935. But in 1939, her recording of We’ll Meet Again propelled her to stardom and assured her place in the nation’s hearts. She had sold a million records by the age of 22.

During the war years, Dame Vera was indefatigable – she recorded her own radio broadcast, Sincerely Yours, relaying messages to troops serving abroad, and travelled widely with the forces’ entertainment service including in Egypt, India and Burma. She was hosted in Burma by Captain Bernard Holden, founder and president of the Bluebell Railway until his death. He commended “her courage and her contribution to morale” and became a lifelong friend.

She lived in Ditchling, East Sussex, from the 1960s where she was integral to village life and became actively involved with numerous charities in the area including the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, based in Cuckfield, which offers an early intervention service for babies and young children with cerebral palsy and other motor learning difficulties. Until very recently she visited the charity on a regular basis. She was also an energetic advocate for causes connected to ration breast cancer and ex-servicemen. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1975 and in 2000 she was named the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the 20th century.

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