Dame Vera Lynn’s horrifying near-death experiences during World War 2 revealed

Dame Vera Lynn became known as the ‘Forces’ Sweetheart’ for the instrumental role she played in keeping up the nation’s spirits during World War 2. The singer’s first major hit ‘We’ll Meet Again’ would go on to become a synonymous anthem associated with the war. She’s still a much-respected figure decades on, with her named ‘Personality of the Century’ in a nationwide poll in 2000 – where she gained more than a fifth of public votes. Tonight Dame Vera will belt out her iconic hit, alongside Catherine Jenkins, to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory In Europe (VE) Day on the BBC. As our nation reflects on the brave sacrifices made by previous generations who afforded us our lives today, she will sing that old, familiar song of hope for better days. A track that although not specifically intended to apply to the coronavirus lockdown, will instil strength in many across the nation who are struggling. As the national treasure is honoured for her wartime efforts today, Express.co.uk examine her impact on the war and her brave decisions to put aside her own safety to entertain ‘her boys’ on multiple occasions.

During the war, Dame Vera fronted the BBC radio show ‘Sincerely Yours’, which served as a line of communication between many at home and their loved-ones on the frontline.

At its peak she was receiving 2,000 requests a week for love letters to be read out over the air, the announcement of babies being born safely and for her to perform her most beloved ballads.

The singer toured the UK during this era, in a bid to uplift the spirits of the many soldiers stationed on home soil, along with the wives, mothers, children and friends fighting to keep the nation afloat.

Dame Vera recalled one incident where she flipped her car while en route to one theatre in a 2014 Telegraph article.

During the Blitz, she regularly travelled between London theatres wearing a tin helmet “in case shrapnel came through the roof” of her soft canvas car.

But on that fateful day, where she skidded and her vehicle overturned, she was reminded of her importance at that time. 

She said: “People righted it and I said, ‘Well, I’ve got to be on my way.’ But it went de-doyng-de-dong … I’d broken the axle.”

Dame Vera’s most dangerous moments would come after her decision to visit the troops out in Burma in a daring act praised by many. 

She performed at multiple bases with the Entertainment National Service Association – also touring in Egypt and India.

The performer made a gruelling 11,000-mile trip to a Burma campsite near to where the battle of Kohima took place, after being rerouted through the US.

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She said: “I was getting letters from the boys and I thought I would like to go and see who I had been singing to on the radio.

“The battle was up the hill. I was at the bottom.”

The thought of heading into an active war zone may have instilled terror and fear in many – but not Dame Vera. 

Acting from the sheer knowledge that she must be with ‘her boys’, she put her life on the line to instil morale in such dangerous spots. 

She recalled one incident where she awoke to find enemy fighters outside the hut where she had been sleeping.

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Dame Vera said: “I knew I was well ­protected, although I did wake up one morning and find four Japanese prisoners leaning against the little grass hut that I was in.

“They were horrible looking. I had to step over their legs to get by them. The look I got! 

“I was this young girl walking by in khaki shorts. I shouldn’t think they had ever seen a white girl.”

After the war, Dame Vera continued to support ‘her boys’ through a number of performances at different camps and worked for several service charities. 

The tireless work she carried out was honoured by the Queen in 1975, when she was bestowed with a much deserved title.

Her Majesty reportedly told Dame Vera at the time: “You’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

Dame Vera released a number of songs during her career including ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’, ‘There’ll Always Be an England’ and numerous other wartime classics. 

Reflecting on the anthem ‘We’ll Meet Again’, which made her famous in 1939, she gave a personal take on what it meant to people at the time.

She said: “Everyone was separating, going to war. It spoke of hope, you know. 

“Because you never knew what would happen, from one day to another. A bomb could hit any house, any night.”

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