Vera Lynn, a trip down memory lane

by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley

It is late and I am too tired to post anything profound. As I sit here and think of those dark days of WW2, when it was not at all clear the Allies were winning or losing, a few brilliant spots shone through the darkness falling over the land. Vera Lynn was one of those bright spots.

I grew up listening to British singer Vera Lynn during WW2. She was barely out of her teens when she recorded timeless songs about separation, hope, and lovers separated by the war. One of her signature songs during those dark days was, The White Cliffs of Dover.

Another was the poignant, We’ll Meet Again, recorded at a time where empty seats and overturned glasses were a nightly occurrence at mess hall tables every evening. It was written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles. The nostalgic lyrics spoke to a generation of young people whose every goodbye kiss might well have been their last kiss or hug: “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day”

After the war, her career as a singer continued, peaking in the early fifties. However, she continued to make appearances, and about 1969, she was Ennobled by the Queen as Dame Vera Lynn That honor and title are the feminine version of being knighted. Remarkably, Vera Lynn was rediscovered by the public at age 93, and her music took off again. Perhaps being involved in a war again had something to do with it. At any rate, she holds the distinction of being the oldest performer to have top hit recordings over such a huge span of her lifetime.

Although her pop music career had peaked ten years earlier, in 1962 she did a concert in the Netherlands. Two of her iconic songs have been preserved as Kinescope recordings. Hopefully, one day some enterprising video technician will remaster them to modern video standards. One was Land of Hope and Glory, one of the several National Anthems of England. It was composed by Edward Elgar and most people know it as Pomp and Circumstance. Elgar got his friend, poet A. C. Benson, to write lyrics. The new tune was presented at the coronation of Edward VII as king of England. in 1902.

At the time of her 1962 concert in the Netherlands, Vera Lynn was a the height of her vocal powers at the age of 45. This is the national anthem, Land of Hope and Glory:

However, I saved the best for last. This is Vera Lynn singing, Because You’re Mine.  It is almost embarrassing to watch this. The emotion in this song is palpable. I feel as if I am almost peeking into their bedroom. I don’t think she could have made this performance unless she were deeply in love. BTW, she lost her husband in 1999. She had been married to fellow musician Harry Lewis 60 years.

About Chuck Stanley

Dr. Charlton (Chuck) Stanley is a board certified forensic psychologist, with interests in aviation psychology, peace officer selection and training, ethics and communication skills.
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10 Responses to Vera Lynn, a trip down memory lane

  1. Mike Spindell says:


    Being younger than you I was only one when the war ended. However, the effect of that conflict was such that even those of my age were quite familiar with the music that came out of that war era. That conflict left a mark on this country and informed its belief in the rightness of our course and justice. So yes I remember Vera Lynn and her music.

    The aftermath of that war was also the only time that American truly honored those who served by providing the G.I. Bill that did so much in creating the worldwide colossus we became. How sad that the idealism sparked by that war was ruthlessly turned into the drive for worldwide hegemony and that the democratic, humanistic ideals that we fought the war under were then cast aside in favor of the militarization of this country.

  2. pdm says:

    Love, love, love Vera and White Cliffs, We’ll Meet Again, and Land of….

    I first heard her when We’ll Meet Again accompanied Slim Picken’s ride on The Bomb in the movie Dr. Strangelove. Absolutely brilliant!

  3. pdm,
    We’ll Meet Again evokes another much older song for me. Robert Burns’ Loch Lomond evokes the same feeling, and for the same reason. The “low road” refers to the grave. The spirit of the dead soldier will travel home underground by the spirit path. The living will go home by the “high road,” which is the road traveled by the living. No longer constrained by a corporeal body, the spirit will be transported back to the Highlands almost instantly.

  4. michael beaton says:

    @Charlton…. more profound than it may appear to you…

    What a fabulous post. What a different age…

    I hope you would post a series of this sort of memoir over time…

  5. Michael, thank you so much. As for your request, I do have more stories.

    The Great Depression and WW2 shaped my life, and had a great influence on how I see the world today.

  6. bigfatmike says:

    Thanks for the music. I don’t know much about the music from this era. But, still I am embarrassed to admit I did not know of Vera Lynn – though I am sure I have heard ‘We’ll Meet Again’ many times before.

    One artist and song I am familiar with is Al Bowlly’s ‘Midnight the stars and you’. Bowlly was actually killed in the blitz. So for me his song brings to mind the contradictions of innocence and conflict of the time.

  7. BFM,
    Glad to have introduced you to Dame Vera Lynn. She is now 96, but remains active with her favorite charities.

    As I responded to Michael B above, since there is interest, I will do more stories/memoirs about the music, art and experiences of people during that time. There was great music, and also great hardship during those years.

  8. Joy of Fishes says:

    This is such a lovely post, Chuck. I join the others in hoping for more stories.

  9. pete says:

    I hate to admit it, but the only time I’ve ever heard of Vera Lynn is from Pink Floyd “The Wall”.

    • Mike Swann says:

      Ha, don’t feel bad Pete. That’s how I first learned of her. But I was so moved by that lyric in the Wall that I did some research, (no www back then), and discovered about her. Found some of he recordings at the library. I wasn’t alive during WWII but now my impressions of those times include her.

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