Now that VE Day celebrations have been postponed, the Mail is calling on YOU to participate in a joyous mass of sing-along
Four simple words, but for a nation locked up they offer comfort and hope. When the Queen assured us during a public speech this week, “We will meet again,” she quoted from Dame Vera Lynn’s most iconic war song.
By doing this, Her Majesty gave us reason to continue in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, promising better days and reunions with our loved ones.
At her home in East Sussex, Lady Vera, who turned 103 last month, listened attentively to Her Majesty’s TV broadcast.
The two women have a warm relationship of almost 80 years: Dame Vera sang her most beloved song at the Queen’s 16th birthday party.
When the Queen assured us during a public speech this week, “We will meet again,” she quoted from Dame Vera Lynn’s most iconic war song. In the photo: Lady Vera in her heyday
“I had no idea that she would use those immortal words that we will meet in her speech. I absolutely loved it! Dame Vera tells me in an exclusive interview.
“It was great for the Queen to do. Perfect for the situation we’re in – and she was so adamant. The emphasis was on the “will”. ‘
On May 8, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, Dame Vera will open a window at her house in Ditchling at 9 p.m. and sing We’ll Meet Again into the night sky at 9 p.m.
In doing so, she will give her full support to the Daily Mail campaign, in partnership with the Armed Forces Charity, SSAFA, to incite the entire country into a compelling national song.
The two women have a warm bond of almost 80 years. On the photo: Dame Vera with the Queen in 1992
The vocal tribute is to show our gratitude and support to veterans of the armed forces and all military as they join the frontline battle against Covid-19.
“Just as we applauded and cheered for our NHS staff and caretakers,” she says, “I want everyone in the country to raise their voices and sing lustfully, We Meet Meet Again.
And if we can make it into a worldwide sing song, all the better because music connects people.
“It is good for the soul and in these difficult times we must all help each other find moments of joy. So even though I live in the countryside and we are all apart, I will urge all my neighbors to open their doors and windows and sing with me.
“It’s going to be beautiful! We will hear the words echo up and down our lane and through windows and doors the length and width of Britain. And it gives us all the strength and hope. ‘
The lyrics of the song have something particularly timeless; a nostalgia that will resonate with the millions who can only reach their Easter at Easter through social media or phone calls.
Singing is something we can all do, Dame Vera emphasizes.
‘Music offers company – think of the number of people who find singing in choirs uplifting – and in our darkest times it makes us happy.
“For those who have been separated from loved ones because of the coronavirus, it is comforting to know that they sing even when they are not by your side. So let’s do it all.
“All these years ago, I traveled through Egypt and India to Burma (now Myanmar), where I sang to endure the morale of men far from their loved ones and the most terrible hardships. It doesn’t matter how you sing, as I always said to troops at the concerts I gave around the world during the war. Just take it out. ‘
Since the Queen’s message – viewed by 24 million people – refers to We’ll Meet Again, Dame Vera has reached new audiences.
The song was originally a hit in 1939. Now that it is hitting the charts again – it’s currently number 18 on the iTunes chart – it looks like Dame Vera will be another success, with a message of hope equally relevant as always.
She became the oldest artist to have a No. 1 album in 2009, aged 92, and is the only centennial to have had a Top 10 album.
Dame Vera, who turned 103 last month, listened attentively to Her Majesty’s TV broadcast
Dame Vera is tickled by this latest hit chart success: “I had to giggle a bit when my daughter Virginia told me. She said, “Do you realize, Mama, you’re back on the charts?” and I loved it. I can’t really record it all. I was one of the first artists to hit the charts and I’ve been in it dozens of times. I’ve lost count. ‘
It is also fitting that Her Majesty, who isolates herself at Windsor Castle, refer to a singer with whom she has such an enduring bond.
The two women have met on many historical occasions: at Royal Variety Shows at the London Palladium, Buckingham Palace garden parties and often at the Royal Albert Hall, where Dame Vera performed 52 times between 1937 and 2006.
And there was that first concert for Princess Elizabeth on her 16th birthday in 1942.
By this time, Vera had been dubbed the ‘Forces’ Sweetheart’ after We’ll Meet Again, co-written by Hughie Charles and Ross Parker in 1939, became a national anthem to anyone who had been separated by the conflict.
“We’ll meet again, I don’t know where, I don’t know when, but I know we’ll see each other again on a sunny day,” the chorus said.
The spirit of the times required steely determination, and the Queen and Lady Vera are cut from the same fabric. While their backgrounds could not be more uneven – Damame Vera grew up as a plumber’s daughter in East London – they share the same resilience and stoicism.
“The Queen is a very strong person; very nice and a role model for people ‘, says Dame Vera.
“In times of crisis, we all need someone who is constant and strong to reassure us, and she is well equipped for that.
I think she will handle self-isolation well because she is self-sufficient and has gone through so many difficult times. ‘
Of course, Dame Vera is discreet about the many conversations she and the Queen have had over the years, but she still remembers how the Queen Mother asked her daughter (Prince Charles is 18 months younger than Virginia).
She would say, “What is Virginia so far?” “And I would ask about Prince Charles,” she says with a smile. “And I have a nice picture of the Queen Mother and me with a huge guard behind us.”
“I wonder what the parallels are between the current pandemic and the war. The analogy is often made: is it appropriate?
“People are talking about the Blitz spirit and we are now seeing the same feeling of strength and courage. There are selfless people who do their best and put themselves at risk – doctors, nurses, caregivers, the armed forces, and much more – to help others.
“The situation is different from the war, but the mind is similar. While we could see the enemy in the war, this enemy is a silent and invisible one. But as in the war, we pull together. ‘
Dame Vera calls herself blessed: Virginia, 74, and her husband Tom share her spacious house – they live upstairs (after moving from the house next door a few years ago) while on the ground floor, with two caregivers still always live in.
“And I’m extremely grateful to have those wonderful caregivers who have kept me thick and thin,” she says.
The only company she really misses is that of friends, who used to come to tea regularly before closing. She suffers from arthritis, but ‘touch wood’ is ‘as good as a 103 year old can be’.
Her mind is still as sharp as a bow and her interest in the world around her is not dim. She is still signing the photos requested by fans and checking every letter written by her PA before sending. Well, she even wrote a song!
“She recently sang it in the bathroom with her nighttime caretaker, Paula, at 11:30 AM,” says Virginia. What was it about? “I’ll let you know,” she says, laughing.
In 1941 Vera married Harry Lewis, a saxophonist and clarinetist – Virginia is their only child – and he died in 1998. She starred on her own show on the BBC Forces radio to send messages to British troops abroad and play songs. sing what they asked for.
When she traveled to Burma – a lonely woman billeted in a mosquito-infested cabin – she entertained troops with ‘improvised concerts’ with ‘a few aircraft engine cabinets to make a stage, or I was standing on the back of a truck.’
She remembers, she reminds me, nothing and even paid her own costs.
“And I learned how separation from loved ones felt,” she says. “I was separated from Harry for three months during that trip.” Dame Vera often thinks of her contemporaries – a decreasing number – who remember the war, and of the veterans (even fewer), many of them in nursing homes.
“Keep yourself safe and sound,” she begs.
“And know that you are not alone during this crisis.” She urges all of us to care for the elderly in our communities and families.
Answer the phone, reunite with friends, family and neighbors. Pop on adjacent walls. Enter the garden and wave at each other.
“If you know people are on their own, get in touch as far as possible. Place a bag of groceries in front of the door – but wipe the handles first.
Mothers are concerned about their children, regardless of age. Children will worry about elderly parents. But go on Skype – especially think of the disabled and housebound. ‘
Dame Vera’s relationship with the armed forces is lifelong. She is a patron of many charities and joined SSAFA as an ambassador in 2016. She still cherishes her nickname ‘Forces’ Sweetheart’.
“Nobody can take that from me. I was voted for it in a national survey in 1939, ”she says. And although she has still recorded many popular songs – (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover; A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square; and there will always be an England among them – We’ll Meet Again remains one of her favorites.
She starred in a 1943 music film named after the song; She sang it outside Buckingham Palace in 1995 on the golden anniversary of VE Day, and in 2005 made a surprising appearance in the capital for the 60th anniversary of VE Day, delivering an exciting speech honoring veterans and joining the song .
This year, the Daily Mail is scheduled to perform at the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate VE Day’s 75th anniversary.
Unfortunately, it was not to be – the concert has been moved to September 20. Instead, the day’s celebrations will become more homey as we raise our voices in that famous chorus.
When I ask Dame Vera how she marked VE Day in 1945, she remembers, ‘I was with my parents and grandmother in our garden in Barking [East London]. We listened to the radio when it was announced and sat in the sun thinking, “What great news!” We were euphoric.
“I don’t think we shed a tear. You did that privately. It was a time when people didn’t show their emotions. You just went on with life.
“I think we had a cup of tea, maybe a glass of sherry later. We roasted over the garden fence with our neighbors. ‘
Just like today actually. And while social distance and garden fencing physically separate us, we share a sense of Blitz spirit and camaraderie in times of adversity that is, in fact, invincible.
Were you separated from your loved one during the war? Send your stories to [email protected]
In front of information about SSAFA and to donate to the SSAFA VE Day 75 Appeal, visit veday75.co.uk