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Dame Vera Lynn, CH, DBE, LLD, M.Mus

An ordinary girl with an extraordinary life. Dame Vera Lynn was recognised at age 99 in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours as a Member of the Order of Companions of Honour for her services to entertainment and charity.

Dame Vera Lynn, CH, DBE, LLD, M.Mus

Personal story

Dame Vera Lynn was born in East London in 1917 and her career began at just seven years of age when she started singing professionally in East End Working Men’s Clubs. A successful radio career followed in the 1920’s and 30’s – but it was during World War II that she rose to fame.

She became known as ‘The Forces Sweetheart’ performing the songs that she will forever be associated with – ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ among many others. Dame Vera toured Egypt and India with the Entertainment National Services Association, after which she travelled under the auspices of the army to Burma, bringing the troops a sense of ‘back home’ so that they did not feel so far away or forgotten.

Her career continued to flourish after the war and she was singing professionally. During 2009, seventy years after the start of World War II, she published her memoirs at the age of 92 and named her autobiography Some Sunny Day. She also had a number one best selling CD and was in great demand throughout the year. 2014 was a very special year for Dame Vera as her 90th anniversary in show business coincided with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings on 6th June. To commemorate this special anniversary, she released a new album which included recently rediscovered, unreleased songs: Vera Lynn: National Treasure – The Ultimate Collection.

At the time, Dame Vera said; 

I think it’s wonderful that my songs are still enjoyed, especially if it encourages people to commemorate what happened 70 years ago. It’s moving for me to relive those days, and humbling to know that people still think of me. After all, it was simply my duty to keep singing.

Throughout her adult life, Dame Vera has been heavily involved with a number of charities.  In 1953 along with the late Wilfred Pickles, Dame Vera persuaded a group of their celebrity friends to join them to form The Stars Organisation for Spastics (“SOS”).  The SOS raised money under the umbrella of the Spastics Society, which subsequently became Scope.

The idea was unique.  The stars held regular meetings at which they discussed ways to use their celebrity status to raise funds.  These events included dinners, golf tournaments, balls at The Grosvenor House Hotel, and film premiers such as Live and Let Die and stage shows including Jesus Christ Superstar.  The stars not only ran raffles and sold programmes, but also enjoyed ‘hands on’ involvement in the charity by sitting on the management committees for the residential and holiday homes for people with cerebral palsy that the charity supported.  During its 50 years, with Scope, the SOS raised millions of pounds and was directly responsible for building 2 adult residential centres, and a holiday home for children with cerebral palsy.  The centre remained open until the late 1980’s when a more enlightened society was able to accept the fact that disabled people could enjoy the same holiday destinations as able-bodied people. 

In 1992, the SOS built a beautiful bespoke facility for Scope to house the School for Parents at Ingfield Manor School, West Sussex, which provided a service to families with very young children with cerebral palsy and other motor learning difficulties.  Less than ten years later, Scope announced that it would be unable to continue funding the national network of Schools for Parents.  Understanding the importance of the early intervention provided by the School for Parents, Dame Vera stepped in and established her own charity in 2001, The Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, to continue to provide the service established at Ingfield Manor.

In the UK, each year 1,800 babies are diagnosed with cerebral palsy which is a condition that affects a child’s muscle control and movement, and is often caused by an injury to the brain.  As well as experiencing problems with movement, all aspects of the child’s development are affected, many having additional needs such as visual and hearing impairments and speech and language issues. 

Children with cerebral palsy struggle to learn fundamental skills, they do not have the typical early experiences of their peers because of their disabilities, often excluded from everyday activities in their communities and unable to attend mainstream nursery provision, limiting their opportunities for socialisation and integration.  They are at risk of isolation and early intervention is crucial. 

In the past 15 years, the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity has provided help for over 500 families from West and East Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Berkshire and London with very young children with cerebral palsy and other motor learning difficulties.  The innovative and essential early intervention service provided by the Charity uses the principles of Conductive Education, an active education programme of learning to help each child develop physical, emotional, social and communications skills through fun, play activities.  Children are taught through their parents and the skills learned are then incorporated into the child’s daily routine at home to maximise their abilities and build confidence and self-esteem in both parent and child.

 “My role as President of the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity is hugely important to me.  For a family to be suddenly and unexpectedly faced with the news that their child is affected cerebral palsy is a life-altering experience.  The special attention that their child will need in his or her early years is woefully lacking in the public sector.  The free service that our charity provides is a lifeline to our families.  The Charity will support them through the early years and help to ensure that their child achieves their maximum potential and that more children and future adults will be able to take a full and active part in their own lives and make a meaningful contribution to society.” 

At 99 years of age Dame Vera Lynn is a vibrant and compassionate President of the Dame Vera Children’s Charity, still passionate about her Charity which is looking to establish a new home in order to provide an expanded range of services to our families who are based across the Southeast of England.  On receiving her Honour recently Dame Vera said, “In accepting this award, I do so in remembrance of all our wonderful brave boys who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and in honour of all the children affected by cerebral palsy and allied conditions.”