Dame Vera Lynn
A life well lived
by Rebecca Parkinson
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To celebrate the life of Dame Vera Lynn, who died on 18 June 2020.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the following images of Dame Vera Lynn and the means to display them:
- Vera as a young woman, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ydf2mj2n
- ‘the Forces’ Sweetheart’, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ych3zk4m
- Vera Lynn in her nineties, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ya649nok
- You will also need the following songs sung by Dame Vera Lynn and the means to play them:
- ‘We’ll meet again’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHcunREYzNY (3.02 minutes long). The video also shows a montage of photographs from the Second World War.
- ‘(There’ll be blue birds over) The white cliffs of Dover’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkZLkF_eJoo (3.15 minutes long)
- More information about Dame Vera Lynn’s children’s charity is available at: https://dvlcc.org.uk/
- If possible, begin by playing songs that were sung by Dame Vera Lynn.
(Two songs are suggested in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section above, or you may like to buy Vera’s latest album, Vera Lynn: National Treasure, which marked the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landings.)
- Show the image of Vera as a young woman, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ydf2mj2n
Ask the children to guess what this lady did as a job.
- Explain that you want to tell the children a bit about this lady’s life.
Vera Margaret Welch was born in London on 20 March 1917. Her dad was a plumber and from the age of seven, Vera began to sing in various places in her local area. When she was 11 years old, she began to tour UK music halls and changed her name to Vera Lynn. Three years later, she gave up school. Gradually, Vera became better-known and in 1937, she joined a band on a radio programme called ‘Life from Mayfair’. Being heard on the radio soon made Vera one of the most popular singers in the country.
- In 1939, the Second World War started, and by 1941, Vera had been given her own radio show. It was called ‘Sincerely Yours’ and became very popular with soldiers fighting the war overseas. The programme not only reminded the soldiers that people at home were thinking about them, but it also brought them hope that one day they would be reunited with those whom they loved.
- Show the image of Vera as ‘the Forces’ Sweetheart’, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ych3zk4m
During the war, Vera became known as ‘the Forces’ Sweetheart’ and travelled far and wide, performing songs for soldiers stationed at home and overseas. Her most popular songs were ‘We’ll meet again’ and ‘(There’ll be blue birds over) The white cliffs of Dover’, both of which brought hope to the thousands of people separated from the people they loved because of the war.
Optional: you may wish to read the lyrics of these songs to the children (available at: https://tinyurl.com/y9a2zodk and https://tinyurl.com/y8szoxms) and encourage them to think about why these words would be so meaningful.
- In 1941, Vera married Harry Lewis, and five years later, their daughter was born. After the war, Vera continued to sing and appear in films and musicals. In 1952, she became the first British artist to have a number 1 hit in the US charts.
Vera always used her popularity to help others. She worked alongside and supported many charities, including several that sought to help those affected by war. Vera also founded Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, which helps children with cerebral palsy. More information about this charity is available at: https://dvlcc.org.uk/
- In 2009, Vera became the oldest living person to have a number 1 top-selling album in the UK. We’ll meet again: the very best of Vera Lynn topped the UK album charts when Vera was 92 years old.
Show the image of Vera Lynn in her nineties, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ya649nok
- In 2014, when Vera was 97, she released another album to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landings. It reached number 13 in the charts!
- Throughout her life, Vera used her gift for singing to bring hope and joy to people in their time of need. She counted it a privilege to be able to help people in this way. She is reported to have said once, ‘I got so many letters. I still get them now, and I’m always moved by them. It seemed extraordinary that soldiers would come back from the war and write to thank me for what I had done. It made me feel very humble, and that’s why I’ve always done everything I can to thank them back.’
Time for reflection
Vera Lynn lived her life well and had an enormous impact on many people. She used her gifts for the benefit of others.
How are we going to use our lives to help others?
Let’s thank God for the life of Vera Lynn and for the hope and peace that her music has brought to so many people.
Now let’s pause and think about people who are fighting in war-torn areas today. In the quietness, let’s ask God to bring peace. (Optional: you may wish to quietly play one of Vera Lynn’s songs during this time.)
Let’s pause to think about our own lives. How can we use our lives to help others? Vera used her talent of singing to bring peace and hope to people in a time of fear and sadness.
All of us have talents that we can use to bring happiness to others. Are we willing to use these talents?
You may wish to use the following prayer.
We thank you for the life of Vera Lynn.
We thank you for the joy, peace and hope that she brought to many people.
Please help us to follow her example and use our gifts and abilities to help others.
Please be with all those who are experiencing fear at this time.
We ask that you bring peace.
‘We’ll meet again’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHcunREYzNY (3.02 minutes long)
‘(There’ll be blue birds over) The white cliffs of Dover’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkZLkF_eJoo (3.15 minutes long)