Vera Lynn’s immortality explained: Why VE Day hero will still be relevant in Year 3000

Dame Vera Lynn’s iconic wartime anthem ‘We’ll Meet Again’ was broadcast across the nation last night in honour of Victory in Europe (VE) Day’s 75th anniversary. The recording of her powerful voice joined thousands of other Britons belting out those unforgettable words, which speak of better days amid apprehension and fear. Dame Vera, who is now 103 years old, revealed her belief that the meaning behind this song was “especially poignant” today considering the “current situation in our country”. That “feeling of separation and the hope of reunion”, as the singer described, will have been felt by many during the coronavirus lockdown. Dame Vera earned the title of ‘Forces’ Sweetheart’ in a Daily Express poll during World War 2. Decades later, the Queen honoured her with a damehood for the countless performances she made during that era and her continued work for military charities. Her name is synonymous with the war and admired by generations still living with the memory of those dark times. But unearthed accounts show Dame Vera will also still be respected when the next millennium dawns and the world wakes up to January 1, 3000.

During World War 2 Dame Vera Lynn toured the country to perform to the nation’s military and public in a bid to maintain public morale. 

On her BBC radio show ‘Sincerely Yours’, she read out heart-wrenching love letters to those out on the frontlines, announced the safe delivery of babies and sang her much loved hits. 

At the show’s peak, she was receiving more than 2,000 requests a week – during the broadcast’s short lifespan of 12 episodes until 1942 when it was canned by the BBC over fears it would “soften” the troops.

Dame Vera admitted that she never envisaged playing such an instrumental role in the war when it broke out, following Britain’s brave stance against Nazi Germany in 1939.

She feared her singing career would be over and that she would be repurposed for the war effort, likely to work in a factory, the army or services. 

Dame Vera told the BBC in 1999 about the shock she received when she went to sign-up to the services – as everyone did at the time.

She explained: “I was ready to do whatever they wanted me to do, like everybody else. 

“But I was told ‘No, you will be much more useful if you carry on entertaining.’

“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.”

Reflecting on her efforts during this period – including stints in Egypt, India and most notably Burma where she was “down the hill” from where a battle took place – she modestly diminished her role.

Dame Vera said: “I tried to keep people’s spirits up with music and so did many other performers. 

“We also spent time with our families and, of course, food was sometimes very scarce but we got through it because we knew we had to.”

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In the years that have followed, she remains humble about her contributions to morale which undoubtedly played a part in helping us to win World War 2.

Dame Vera brushed off the flattering praise of others, including the words of BBC radio star Sir Harry Secombe who stated: “Churchill didn’t beat the Nazis. Vera sang them to death.”

In 2000, she was named ‘Personality of the Century’ in a nationwide poll where she received more than a fifth of all British votes – 604 of 2,850 cast.

Dame Vera was one of 120 names listed for the public to deliberate over at the shopping centres in the towns and cities across the UK.

Her imprint on British history culminated in many of her personal belongings being sealed in the Millennium Vault 2000, in Guildford, Surrey. 

This time capsule of World War 2 items, a motor vehicle, letters and items of the era will not be opened until the dawn of the next millennium. 

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In the Year 3000, future generations will find a life-size print of Dame Vera in her military attire, along with her autobiography and numerous other objects.

She said: “Sixty years ago there was a poll with the service chaps in France and I came out top, that’s how I got called the forces’ sweetheart.

“Little did I think that 60 years hence I would win another poll.”

Other souvenirs from the 20th Century include a Mini that was treated to stop it rusting.

They accompany a Yehudi Menuhin violin, samples of British currency and the Spirit of Ecstasy statuette from the bonnet of a Rolls-Royce car.

There are also letters from hundreds of members of the public and popular figures, including the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Tory leader William Hague, actor David Suchet and countless others. 

A section of Brooklands race track, a Sony Walkman, a pair of trainers, technology predictions of the future and a selection of jokes are also in there too.

These heirlooms have been sealed away in a 100 cubic metre airtight vault on the grounds of Guildford Castle, located on the side of a hill.  

Dame Vera helped to weld the steel door shut, which has since been encased in tonnes of concrete to protect it for future generations. 

Peter Sutton, who organised the vault, said: “We thought it was important to ‘send’ someone in the public to the future in the time capsule – someone who the people of the year 2000 regarded as being particularly special.

“Dame Vera was an excellent choice and a worthy ambassador to present to the people of the next millennium.”

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