Friday, 19 June 2020

Keep Smiling Through

The death has been announced of Dame Vera Lynn, aged 103 - the Forces' Sweetheart of WW2
The daughter of a dressmaker and a plumber, born in the East End of London during WW1, her humble background and wholesome demeanour meant she was someone the ordinary people felt they could identify with, during the dark days of WW2. The obituary in yesterday's Guardian ends with these words...

'Her songs spoke to people caught up in war, trying to respond to its emotional extremes as best they could. They encapsulate fellowship and battling through, not jingoism, for all the flag-waving that accompanied her appearances at commemorative events. “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.” The lyrics could not be more banal, yet her genuine spirit invested them with deep humanity.'

When the Queen spoke to the nation at the beginning of lockdown, she quoted Vera's song - confident that the British people would come through this, and we would meet again. 

We'll meet again
Don't know where, don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
'Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please say "Hello" to the folks that I know
Tell them I won't be long
They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go
I was singing this song

We'll meet again…

During the war years she bravely travelled to support and entertain the troops - to India, Burma and Egypt - enduring difficulty, basic conditions, but believing that her encouragement was important to them, reminding them of home. And in the years after, she worked tirelessly for different charities [supporting sufferers of Breast Cancer, and Child Cerebral Palsy] In 1969 she was awarded an OBE, in 1975 she became a Dame in recognition of these activities. The status of "National Treasure" was hers. To the end, she was a caring woman- even writing to 99 year old Captain Tom congratulating him for his achievement supporting the NHS. He was amazed- having seen her back in Burma during the war

Her other wartime song was equally popular - I am include the often omitted 'thumbs up' lines here

I'll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry skies.
I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes
And though I'm far away
I still can hear them say “Thumbs up”
For when the dawn comes up…

There'll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
There'll be love and laughter
And peace ever after.
Tomorrow, when the world is free

The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valleys will bloom again
And Johnny will go to sleep
In his own little room again 
There'll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see
Some people have objected that 'bluebirds' are American  thrushes - but actually 'bluebird' is an old country term for swallows and house martins - migrant birds which fly across the English Channel [and therefore the white cliffs] twice a year.

Like the Forces' Sweetheart, let us all retain "the light of hope" in our eyes, looking forward to, and working for, better days ahead. RIP Dame Vera - thank you for reminding us that fellowship, and 'battling through' is what we need right now -not flag waving and jingoism.



  1. I grew up hearing my parents sing those songs and I have a CD of her songs.

  2. Her popularity has endured for so long!


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