Spitfire tribute as UK says goodbye to WWII icon Vera Lynn

Ditchling (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Two Royal Air Force Spitfires staged a ceremonial fly-past Friday as thousands of people turned out to pay their last respects to British World War II icon Vera Lynn.

The popular singer, best remembered for her morale-boosting song "We'll Meet Again" and visits to the frontlines, died last month aged 103, after a glittering career.

Crowds thronged her former home of Ditchling in southeast England, to catch a glimpse of her funeral cortege as it passed along streets lined with Union flag bunting.

They broke out in applause as the single-engine fighter jets flew overhead and clapped as the hearse carrying her coffin passed, accompanied by military personnel.

A private funeral and cremation was held in the nearby coastal town of Brighton, with a military honour guard and a Royal Marines bugler. A full memorial service is expected to be held at a later date.

Lynn's daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones thanked well-wishers for their messages of condolence. "It means so much to us to see my mother's legacy living on," she said.

"We are sure her music will endure forever but most importantly we hope that people will continue to support those charities that she cared about so much."

- 'Soundtrack of a generation' -

With her string of romantic and patriotic ballads, Lynn was dubbed the "Forces' Sweetheart" and became an enduring symbol of the conflict throughout her long life.

"Dame Vera Lynn's charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after her death on June 18.

"Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come."

The mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, who released a duet with Lynn of her most famous song, said she provided "the soundtrack of a generation".

Lynn's death came just weeks after Britons joined in a rendition of "We'll Meet again" from their doorsteps as a morale boost during the coronavirus lockdown.

Queen Elizabeth II also referenced the song in a rare televised address in which she called for the public to summon the wartime spirit to get through the health crisis.

A giant portrait of the singer, who was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1976, was beamed onto the White Cliffs of Dover -- the inspiration for another of her songs.

Lampposts in Ditchling, where Lynn lived for 60 years, were adorned with red poppies, the symbol of remembrance of World War I and of service personnel in all conflicts since.

Lynn was a strong supporter of the Royal British Legion, which supports veterans.