Banner image - Java FEPOW 1942 Club, 2 logos, with strapline "To keep going the spirit that kept us going..."

Dame Vera Lynn 1917 - 2020

One of our Patrons, Dame Vera Lynn passed away on 18th June 2020 at the age of 103.. Dame Vera was such an inspiration and support to everyone during WW2, especially our boys in the Far East, it has been an honour for us to have her support in recent years.

Margaret was our Club's link to her, she tells us .

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Margaret and Dame Vera Lynn

The first time I met Dame Vera was when she visited Sussex Down Nursing Home where my mum was living. On that day Dame Vera kindly autographed my copy of Prisoners in Java and a couple of weeks later I visited her at home to present her with her own copy. We chatted for a long time, showing us her precious diary. When we left she gave me a big hug and a kiss then said to John that he was not getting away without one!

I invited her to become The Java FEPOW Club's first patron, due to her status as our Forces Sweetheart and her special links to the war in the Far East, we knew our boys would be overjoyed and she was very happy to accept.

She then asked me to research her family history, of which she knew little. I presented her with her Family Tree and it can be viewed on Ancestry.co.uk. Since then she and her daughter, Virginia, have passed enquirers on to me who I have been delighted to help.

John and I have been to visit her 4 times over the years; she was always very welcoming and open. On each occasion we had tea and cakes, once I helped her in the kitchen and we chatted about her home and how and why she designed it. She was so normal and each time we left after hugs and kisses, we felt that we'd just been with a favourite aunt, such a lovely lady!

May she Rest in Peace.

Some weeks before she died our dear Dame Vera sent us this message to share with our members for VJ Day .

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"I am so glad that I am Patron of the Java FEPOW Club and wish you all well in these difficult times. Although we were all of course aware that the War had not ended completely on VE Day, because of the Japanese War not ending until VJ Day in August following, we were naturally very happy that so many of our people had come back. Obviously I will be thinking of all of you who did not return until later on, and those who unfortunately didn't return at all."

It was lovely to see how she was honoured in the press .






DAME VERA LYNN, ICONIC VOICE OF WW2 BRITIAN, DIES AGED 103

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The much-loved singer, who will forever be remembered for her 'magical voice', morale-boosting songs and risking her own life to visit troops during the Second World War, passed away surrounded by her family on Thursday morning.

Dame Vera became a symbol of freedom for the men often thousands of miles from home and songs such as 'We'll Meet Again' and 'The White Cliffs of Dover' gave them hope in their darkest hours that they would one day return to their loved-ones in Britain.

And at home hits such as 'There'll Always Be An England' gave millions belief better days lay ahead as the Luftwaffe lay siege to UK cities during the Blitz and threatened invasion from France before the Allies swept Hitler's forces aside.

Dame Vera was born in East Ham, east London, on March 20, 1917. She performed for troops during the war, often at great personal risk, in countries including Egypt, India and Burma.

Dame Vera married her musician husband Harry Lewis in 1941 after meeting him in 1939 and the couple had one child, Virginia, who was born in 1946. Harry died in 1988 and Vera lived next door to her daughter in Ditchling, Sussex, who is understood to have been by her mother's side when she died in the early hours.

Her family said in a statement they were 'deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain's best-loved entertainers at the age of 103'. They added: 'Dame Vera Lynn passed away earlier today, surrounded by her close family. Further information regarding a memorial service will be announced at a later date.'

While her music was a beacon of hope between 1939 and 1945, her words in 'We'll Meet Again' resonated again in the current coronavirus pandemic with the Queen using them to inspire modern Britain to evoke the spirit of its wartime generation and battle through the coronavirus crisis.

Dame Vera said at the time 'I watched with the rest of the country and thought it was a great encouragement during these difficult times, but I wasn't aware that Her Majesty would use the lyrics at the end of her speech. I support her message of keeping strong together when we're faced with such a terrible challenge. Our nation has faced some dark times over the years, but we always overcome.'

Her Majesty had been the first person to be told the news after she enjoyed decades of friendship with the wartime singer. Buckingham Palace said 'The Queen was deeply upset and sent a private message of condolence to the family of her friend.'

Prince Charles posted a tribute to Dame Vera, whose illustrious career meant she met the King George VI, his daughter the Queen, the Queen Mother and many other Windsors. His Clarence House Twitter account shared a number of pictures of the singer with the words: 'Remembering Dame Vera Lynn'.

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Dame Vera in Burma visiting troops 1942

Three-quarters of a century on from the end of the Second World War 'We'll Meet Again' was quoted by the Queen in a rare TV address to give steel to Britain's 66 million people separated from their family and friends during the coronavirus pandemic. The song then became a lockdown anthem as it again entered the singles charts with profits going to the NHS and poignantly she last performed the song just six weeks ago. The veteran singer was beamed as a hologram to stand next to Katherine Jenkins at an empty Royal Albert Hall to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Dame Vera dedicated the performance 'to the brave boys and what they sacrificed for us' in her final interview before she died. She added: 'They left their families and homes to fight for our freedom and many lost their lives trying to protect us and our liberties.'

Dame Vera's death has sparked an outpouring of grief for a woman whose name is almost as synonymous with the war effort as Sir Winston Churchill. During the conflict she flew thousands of miles at great personal risk to perform for soldiers and visiting them in field hospitals.

One of those was Captain Tom Moore, who served in Burma where she visited in 1942, who said her death was a 'real shame', adding: 'She had a huge impact on me in Burma and remained important to me throughout my life. My thoughts are with Dame Vera Lynn's family at this sad time.'

Dame Vera spent time with the teenage Princess Elizabeth and her family in 1945 at Windsor Castle, where the princess stayed for her safety during the Second World War, just as she has done in lockdown.

The singer and the royals celebrated the impending German surrender together, weeks ahead of the official announcement of peace. At a party in the castle, she joined other entertainers and the Windsors 'for a sort of private victory celebration'. Dame Vera later recalled: 'There was Tommy Trinder and one or two other artists, the King and Queen and the two Princesses were there, and it was just sort of a private little party. So of course I wasn't surprised when peace was declared; we had already had a pre-warning, as it were, that it was finishing.'

Dame Vera was closely associated with the Queen Mother - and both were heralded for keeping spirits up during the war when the nation suffered under the Blitz and troops were training at home and fighting overseas. They used to write to one another, once sending mutual messages of support when Dame Vera fractured her thigh and the Queen Mother dislocated her shoulder at the same time, and they met frequently at charity events and occasions commemorating the war.

On the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995, Dame Vera took centre stage in front of Buckingham Palace to sing to the thousands of people who gathered in celebration.

Watching from the balcony were the Queen Mother, the Queen and Princess Margaret.

The royal trio joined in with the crowds to sing along with Dame Vera as she performed The White Cliffs Of Dover.

She took part in the Queen Mother's 100th birthday parade, and paid tribute to her when she died in 2002.

Tributes have poured in for forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn who stirred the hearts of millions with songs and a personality that brought hope and inspiration during the darkest days of the Second World War. Decades later her name is as enduring as that of Sir Winston Churchill as a figure who played a huge role in keeping up the spirits of a civilian population suffering under the Blitz and the troops training at home and fighting overseas.

Celebrities, politicians and charities lined up to pay tribute to Dame Vera, a humanitarian and entertainer beloved by the nation, who has died aged 103.

Singer Katherine Jenkins said she could not find the words to explain how much she 'adored this wonderful lady'. She added: 'Her voice brought comfort to millions in their darkest hours, her songs filled the nation's hearts with hope, and her emotive performances, whether home or abroad, then or now, helped to get us through. It was she who chose the sentiments of her songs - she knew instinctively what people needed to hear, how to rally the morale and her spirit and strength created the soundtrack of a generation. There will never be another Dame Vera Lynn. Forces' Sweetheart and our sweetheart. An icon. A legend. An inspiration. My mentor and my friend. I will miss you greatly and I know we'll meet again some sunny day.'

Sir Cliff Richard said: 'Dame Vera Lynn was truly an icon. She was held in such high esteem and my best, and favourite, memory was sharing a performance with her in front of Buckingham Palace for the VE Day celebrations in 1995. We walked to the stage through a crowd of survivors of that war, and they were reaching out to touch and get a smile from Vera. I heard the words ... 'God bless you' ... 'Thank you' ... 'We love you' for their very own Forces' Sweetheart! A great singer, a patriotic woman and a genuine icon. I am happy to use the words called out on the wonderful day. Vera, thank you, God bless you, and I loved you too. Rest in a very deserved peace.'

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Lyricist Sir Tim Rice described Dame Vera as 'one of the greatest ever British popular singers, not just because of her immaculate voice, warm, sincere, instantly recognisable and musically flawless'. He continued: 'She will be remembered just as affectionately for her vital work in the Second World War and for her own charitable foundations in the 75 years since. A link with more certain times has been irrevocably broken.'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said her 'charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours'. Remembering the singer known as the Forces' Sweetheart, he said: 'Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come.' And the Prime Minister's fiancee Carrie Symonds tweeted that Dame Vera's death was 'very sad', adding: 'Will be playing her music here today. RIP.'

Actress Miriam Margolyes said: 'Dame Vera never lost her reality. The voice like a bell was a gift, which she shared so generously and bravely. But the magic was that her personality was genuine, open, and warm. Meeting her was one of the high points of my life. She looked at you and saw you. And connected. There is no one in our lives, except the Queen, who had the power to connect a nation. For that, she will be remembered and always with love.'

Tenor Alfie Boe, who sang with Dame Vera on a new recording of her song We'll Meet Again, tweeted: 'Rest in peace Dame Vera Lynn. Truly a national treasure, and this is such sad news to hear, especially at this time when her iconic song and spirit touched the nation. It was a real pleasure to sing with her - an honour I will treasure forever.'

The BBC aired a tribute programme to Dame Vera Lynn, following her death on 18th June. In a statement on Twitter, the corporation's outgoing director-general, Tony Hall, said: 'What sad news. Not only was she dear to many, she was a symbol of hope during the war and is a part of our national story. She appeared on the BBC many times and had her own variety show in the 1960s and early 70s. She demonstrated how music and entertainment can bring joy in the most challenging times. Something that will resonate with many people today.'

Brideshead Revisited actor Anthony Andrews paid tribute saying: 'Dame Vera was an indomitable, distinguished, courageous and superlative artist from a very young age. An icon whose work lifted the hearts and souls of the British people and significantly contributed to victory in our darkest days. My father (Stanley Andrews, an arranger and conductor for the BBC) adored the purity of her voice and we still have the tear-stained music copy, as he wrote her arrangements he could hear her wonderful soaring tone. Personally, I will never forget the unannounced arrival of Her Majesty the Queen at the celebration of Vera's 100th birthday at the London Palladium; a perfect and fitting tribute. It was the greatest joy and a privilege to have known her.'

Theatre director Roger Redfarn, who had been friends with Dame Vera since since the early 1970s and was one of her neighbours in the village of Ditchling in East Sussex, said: 'The world knows of her great voice that through the good and bad times has thrilled millions. My own father firmly believed that the Second World War was won by Sir Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn. As a friend she was the warmest and kindest of people. I never saw her angry or say a bad word of anyone, people would stop her in the street and she always found time for them. She cared particularly about our armed forces, 'her boys' as she called them. Her work for charity, especially young people with cerebral palsy was tireless and inspiring. There will never be anyone like her again.'

Pilar Cloud, executive manager of the Dame Vera Lynn Children's Charity, said: 'We have been extremely honoured to have had Dame Vera Lynn as our president and she was always a very passionate and wonderful ambassador for this charity. Moreover, she has always been hands on, enjoying participating in sessions, singing songs with the children and setting the tone with real determination to ensure that 'her families' were never forgotten. She is very fondly regarded by all of the staff and families, and will be greatly missed by so many people.'

In May this year, Dame Vera became the oldest artist to score a top 40 album in the UK. The 103-year-old saw her greatest hits album 100 re-enter the chart at number 30, boosted by commemorations for the 75th anniversary of VE day on May 8th.

Dame Esther Rantzen told ITV's This Morning: 'She was constantly loyal to the things she believed in - I remember seeing her very often at the Not Forgotten Association events. She associated herself with the people who defended our nation, she had this wonderful capacity. Her voice was as true as a bell. I remember hearing her sing unaccompanied at a charity event, she had a natural dignity which was never too grand. She associated with the people she knew cared about her. She was a very remarkable human being. To have your most famous song quoted by the Queen was quite something, but there was something royal about Dame Vera because she was so loved. Everyone who remembers the war remembers Vera's contribution.'

Piers Morgan tweeted: 'Oh no.... what terribly sad news. Dame Vera Lynn has died, aged 103. A magnificent woman who rallied our country when we most needed it. The Forces sweetheart. The Nation's sweetheart. RIP.'

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: 'Dame Vera Lynn lifted our nation and its Armed Forces in their moment of maximum peril. Her iconic performances were critical in the war and continued to raise spirits as recently as last month's VE Day 75. Our thoughts are with her family for their loss, but her voice will remain with us forever.'

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg paid tribute to Dame Vera for the 'great contribution she made to boosting the nation's resolve and morale'. He told MPs: 'The whole House sends its condolences to Dame Vera Lynn's family. She sang uplifting tunes that ensured the nation's morale was good at a time of desperation. And it is noticeable that when we have had a difficult time recently it is once again her words that our sovereign reached for.'

Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, tweeted: 'Vera Lynn was a national symbol in the 1940s and again in 2020, a totally unique legacy. She has given millions of people and several generations strength to see through traumatic times. My thoughts today are with her friends and family.'

Charity SSAFA tweeted: 'We are greatly saddened to hear of the death of Dame Vera Lynn, who was a longstanding supporter of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. Her work with the forces community spanned a lifetime and she will always be remembered as the original Forces' Sweetheart. She was gladdened to hear the country come together for VE Day 75, only last month. Dame Vera could vividly remember the support SSAFA offered to the men returning home for the Second World War and has publicly supported the vital role SSAFA plays in the lives of serving personnel, veterans, and their families today.' The tweet added: 'Her enthusiasm and dedication will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with her family at this time.'

The picturesque village, where Dame Vera Lynn spent her later years will remember her as 'our special local lady' and residents spoke fondly of the friendly villager they shared with the world. Roy Burman, 71, told PA: 'She was a character in the village, she joined in, while she was capable, with a lot of the activities and was known and loved by residents. We thought of her as very much our special local lady, although of course we shared her with the rest of the world.'

The pretty village of Ditchling dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. A tree was planted near the church in March 2018 to celebrate Dame Vera's 101st birthday.

Caroline Southern, 64, who has lived in Ditchling for more than 30 years, said that Dame Vera was 'always there'. She added: 'She was always positive, pleasant (and) well-dressed. Quite modest. I remember coming to the village in '88 and she was in the shop, cutting the ribbon.'

Writing on Facebook, staff at The Bull pub in the village also paid tribute to Dame Vera. They said: 'We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ditchling's very own Dame Vera Lynn. A national treasure and inspiration to generations old and new. As a member of our community she will be truly missed and our deepest condolences go out to her family and our thoughts are with Virginia and Tom at this sad time.'

If you would like to read more about Dame Vera, the book Keep Smiling Through: My Wartime Story, written by Dame Vera and her daughter, Virginia, published in 2017 is still available.

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Or there is her 2010 autobiography 'Some Sunny Day' which covers more of her life.

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THE STORY BEHIND FIVE OF DAME VERA LYNN'S BEST-LOVED HITS

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Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn produced a catalogue of music that inspired British servicemen and women at home and abroad. Here are some of her best-loved hits:

We'll Meet Again

Dame Vera's breakout song was written in 1939 at the outset of the Second World War by popular composers Ross Parker and Hughie Charles. Its lyrics were a message of hope and comfort to those who feared they would never see their loved ones again, and buoyed Dame Vera's burgeoning career. It inspired a popular 1943 film of the same name, which saw Dame Vera play a fictionalised version of herself - a young singer who cheers British soldiers with her voice. The song still resonates with those who lived through the war.


(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover

On a clear day, Britain's towering white coastline could be seen by servicemen across the English Channel fighting in France. Composed in 1941 by Walter Kent to lyrics by Nat Burton, The White Cliffs Of Dover was an ode to those cliffs that symbolised home. Dame Vera popularised the song with her version, and it became one of the best-known Second World War standards. Its lyrics refer to pilots 'braving those angry skies' and describe the 'light of hope in their eyes'.

A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square

Stars including Sir Rod Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and even Twiggy have recorded versions of this popular love song. But it was Dame Vera's version that captured the hearts of the British listening public, indelibly linking it with the Second World War. The tune was written in the small French fishing district of Le Lavandou, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, and refers to one of Mayfair's large leafy squares. It was sung by Petula Clark at the 60th anniversary of the end of the conflict, and again by Katherine Jenkins at a star-studded concert celebrating the 70th anniversary of VE Day in 2015.

There'll Always Be An England

Written by the duo behind We'll Meet Again, There'll Always Be An England is perhaps Dame Vera's most overtly patriotic song. With lyrics that reference the Empire, country lanes, and cottages tucked beside fields of grain, it carried a message of hope to servicemen abroad. In a satirical twist, 70s punk rockers Sex Pistols came on stage to the tune, and named one of their live DVDs after it.

Auf Wiederseh'n, Sweetheart

With this song, Dame Vera became in 1952 the first foreign artist to reach number one on the US Billboard charts. It was written by German composer Eberhard Storch around 1950, for his wife who was confined to hospital with a long-term illness. The story goes that Dame Vera was on holiday in Switzerland when she heard people singing the song in a beer parlour. When she returned home to England, she recorded the track with the soldiers and airmen of HM Forces and the Johnny Johnston Singers.