Dame Vera Lynn has told how she still thinks about the soldiers she met during the Second World War and wonders whether they returned safely.
The Forces’ Sweetheart, 97, who volunteered to sing to the troops fighting in Egypt, India and Burma in 1944, cannot attend commemorations such as the 70th anniversary of D-Day, as she can no longer get around easily.
But talking about the soldiers she met in Burma, when she was just 27, Dame Vera, who lives in Ditchling, told Radio Times magazine: “I always wonder how many of these boys came back.
“What I really liked was just having a chat with them after I sang. I wasn’t separate to them. I lived in a tent like they did, with one bucket for washing and one for the toilet. I was one of them. They knew me.
“I’d go round the casualty tents where the wounded were brought in before they’d go to a proper hospital. I’d sit on one of the beds and hold their hands. They’d ask me how everyone was coping at home. I’d always say ‘We’re fine’.
“They’d ask me to sing to them, and I would. I could see they were badly injured but we never spoke of that. I tried not to show my emotions but it was very moving.”
The star, who is releasing a new album, National Treasure, to mark the anniversary of the D-Day landings in June, added: |“I wanted to go where no one else went, where it was most needed.”
She added: “I never thought the Forces’ Sweetheart tag would stay with me, but it has, hasn’t it?
“I thought it would last for the war period, then I’d just be another singer. Of course I’ve never minded that everybody always connects me with that time. It was so important.”
Five years ago, Dame Vera was still living independently, travelled regularly, and enjoyed cooking, gardening and driving, but today she struggles with deafness and is less |mobile.
She said: “I can’t get to the commemorations any more as it’s not easy for me to get around, but I’ll watch them all on television.
“My thoughts will be with the families of the boys who didn’t come back. I was so lucky not to lose those closest to me.”
This year, Dame Vera also celebrates 90 years as a performer, having sung her first song on stage at the age of seven.