Vera Lynn Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch in East Ham, London. Later she adopted her grandmother's maiden name Lynn as her stage name. She began singing at the age of seven. Her first radio broadcast, with the Joe Loss Orchestra, was made in 1935. At this point she was being featured on records released by dance bands including Loss's and Charlie Kunz's. In 1936 she made her first solo record on the Crown label, "Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire". This label was soon swallowed up by Decca. After a short stint with Loss she stayed with Kunz for a few years during which she waxed several standards. She later moved to the aristocrat of British dance bands, Bert Ambrose.
Lynn married clarinettist and saxophonist Harry Lewis in 1939, the year World War II broke out. In 1940 she began her own radio series, "Sincerely Yours", sending messages to British troops stationed abroad. In this radio show she and a quartet performed the songs most requested to her by soldiers stationed abroad. She also went into hospitals to interview new mothers and send messages to their husbands overseas. She toured Burma and gave outdoor concerts for soldiers. In 1942 she recorded the Ross Parker/Hughie Charles song "We'll Meet Again" while making the film of the same name. The nostalgic lyrics ("We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day") had a great appeal to the many people separated from loved ones during the war, and it became one of the emblematic songs of the wartime period.
After the war, her "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" became the first record by a British artist to top the US charts, doing so for nine weeks, and she appeared regularly on Tallulah Bankhead's US radio programme "The Big Show". "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart", along with "The Homing Waltz" and "Forget-Me-Not" gave Lynn a remarkable three entries on the first UK Singles Chart, a top 12 (which contained 15 songs owing to tied positions).
Lynn's career flourished in the 1950s, peaking with "My Son, My Son", a number-one hit in 1954. It was co-written by Eddie Calvert. In early 1960, Lynn left Decca Records, with whom she had been for nearly 25 years, and joined EMI. There, she recorded for EMI's Columbia, MGM and HMV subsidiaries.
Lynn was appointed an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 1969 and a DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1975. She sang outside Buckingham Palace in 1995 in a ceremony marking the golden jubilee of VE Day. Lynn, then 78, decided to go out on a high and this is her last known public performance. In 2002 at the age of 85 she became the president of the cerebral palsy charity SOS and hosted a celebrity concert on their behalf at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.
In 2004 abstract body artist Joanna Jones received permission and a grant to use the White Cliffs of Dover as the location for one of her body paintings. Dame Vera spoke out against this, stating: "I don't see how it can be publicity for Britain - it might be publicity for the artist. People coming to Britain, especially for the first time, expect to see the white cliffs of Dover, they don't expect to see an art display, do they!"
England's VE Day ceremonies in 2005 included a concert in Trafalgar Square in which Vera Lynn made a surprise appearance. She made a speech praising the veterans and calling upon the younger generations to always remember their sacrifice.
"These boys gave their lives and some came home badly injured and for some families, life would never be the same. We should always remember, we should never forget and we should teach the children to remember."