Britain's voice of hope Vera Lynn dead

Kate Holton
British singer Dame Vera Lynn's wartime songs, including We'll Meet Again, won her fame

Vera Lynn, the singer who became a symbol of hope in Britain during World War II and again during the coronavirus pandemic with We'll Meet Again, has died.

She was 103.

Known as the Forces' Sweetheart, Lynn struck a chord with soldiers fighting overseas and with the public back home through her performances and records, including The White Cliffs of Dover.

To mark her 100th birthday in 2017, a giant image of Lynn as a young woman was projected onto those white cliffs and a new album released.

She was back in the headlines in April when the Queen used words from Lynn's song to tell the country "We will meet again" and urged people to show resolve during the coronavirus lockdown.

Lynn died on Thursday morning surrounded by close relatives, her family said in a statement to British media.

The Queen is to send a private message of condolence to Lynn's family, Buckingham Palace said.

Paul McCartney spoke of Lynn's "warm, fun-loving personality".

"Her voice will sing in my heart forever. Thanks Vera," he said.

Prince Charles and Camilla's office said they were remembering the singer, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also paid tribute.

"Dame Vera Lynn's charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours," Johnson wrote on Twitter.

"Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come."

Lynn's daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones appeared from her home in a special tribute program on the BBC.

"She touched so many people's lives and we are very, very proud of her," she said.

Lynn grew up in London's East End and was singing in working men's clubs at the age of seven.

She began radio broadcasts and singing with bands in the late 1930s.

But it was her wartime songs that won her fame and led to British tanks trundling into battle with "Vera" painted on their sides and more than 1000 written offers of marriage from servicemen.

In 1941, she began a weekly radio broadcast in which she relayed messages from British troops to their loved ones.

She also toured Burma in 1944 and was later presented with the Burma Star medal.

Ironically, Lynn's biggest hit Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart had a German title and came after the war.

In 1975 Lynn was given the title of Dame of the British Empire.

She never sought publicity and lived quietly for most of her life on England's south coast near Brighton with husband Harry Lewis.

"I was lucky," she said.

"I had a talent; it lifted me out of the bracket I was born into.

"And when I got my house and a little car, I thought, well that's all I want."