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 You are in: Special Report: 1999: 08/99: World War II  
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World War II Thursday, 2 September, 1999, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
The forces' sweetheart
Vera Lynn
Dame Vera Lynn: "Everyone was hoping it was going to be alright"
Singer Dame Vera Lynn, born in 1917, became a well-known entertainer during World War II. In 1939, just after the outbreak of the war, she was voted Forces' Sweetheart.

The day the war began
Dame Vera's sentimental hits We'll Meet Again and White Cliffs of Dover helped to boost morale during the darkest days of the war. She clearly remembers the day it was declared:


Vera Lynn
Dame Vera: Concerts for armed forces
We were in the garden, my mother and father and myself, and I think my brother was with me because it was my father's birthday.

We were there having tea and saying happy birthday and all that, but at the same time we had the radio on, listening and waiting for any news to come through.

One was expecting it but it still came as a bit of a shock. Everyone was hoping it was going to be alright.

But you know, we can't say we were too shocked or terribly surprised because it was in the wind really that something might happen.

There was this feeling of uncertainty. You think 'Well, what is going to happen now?'

"I thought, 'Bang goes my career' "
One didn't stop to think about a blitz. We didn't think about anything like that at that point. But as far as myself, personally, I did think that I was just beginning to become known.

I'd been broadcasting for a few years and making records [with the band Ambrose] and I was beginning to become quite well-known here in England.

The first thing I thought of was 'Oh well, bang goes my career.'

I thought 'There won't be anything that I'll be able to do if there is going to be a war on. I shall be either in the army or in a factory, doing something like that.'

The thought that entertainment was going to be such a vital means of keeping peoples' morale up, well I never thought about that at all at the time.

Everybody had to sign on. I went and signed on expecting to go into the army or do something in the services. I was ready to do whatever they wanted me to d, like everybody else. But I was told 'No, you will be much more useful if you carry on entertaining.'

Dame Vera: Still singing up until a couple of years ago
I thought, 'What kind of entertaining will we be doing with all the theatres closed?' You think of all the worst things that could happen. But on the whole most of the theatres kept going throughout the war.

It was a newspaper that ran the Forces Sweetheart competition when the first batch of boys, the British Expeditionary Force, went to France at the end of 1939. I suppose they thought they would give them something to think about and they ran this competition.

I was really surprised. I couldn't believe it. I know I had been broadcasting and I had good fanmail, but that they voted me above the American singers and anyone else in this country was quite a surprise to me.

I just couldn't believe it. I felt very pleased.


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"You thought 'Well, what is going to happen now?' "
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