“There’s a war on. And as a result whirlwind romances are the order of the day. All of England is full of men and woman falling in love at first sight while listening to Vera Lynn singing about the white cliffs of Dover.” (Not2Nite)
In World War One the British government severely restricted entertainment. Theatres were closed and people were expected to give their all to the war effort. During World War Two they took a completely opposite tack and encouraged the population to keep their spirits up with a constant diet of cinema going, nightclub dancing and listening to the radio. It worked brilliantly and many people of the time attribute their ability to get through the constant bombing and rationing and general misery to the relief the various forms of entertainment afforded them.
If there’s one name that comes to mind when thinking about the British war effort that was neither political nor military it’s Vera Lynn. A popular singer who started her career while still a child she became known as the Forces’ Sweetheart and she travelled around the world entertaining the troops as well as hosting her own radio show. Vera Lynn seemed to resonate with the zeitgeist of the time, soaring to popularity with her hopeful ballads. She wasn’t some toffee-nosed serious musician the likes of whom were heard all too often on the BBC. She was the girl next door who never lost her cockney accent. Her songs were simple and sentimental and designed to remind people over and over again what the war was being fought for and, perhaps more importantly, that it would one day be over.
“We’ll Meet Again” was written in 1939 by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles (who also collaborated on “There’ll Always Be An England”) and promised “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.” For many people it was a lie, but it was a lie they all desperately wanted to believe.
The White Cliffs of Dover” the 1941 song written by Americans Walter Kent, who also penned “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, and Nat Burton was less specific, talking about a way of life and a future wherein “The shepherd will tend his sheep, The valley will bloom again, And Jimmy will go to sleep In his own room again.” The blue birds referred to in the song, who would fly over the White Cliffs of Dover, were the RAF pilots and crew keeping Britain safe from aerial and naval attack.
On March 20, 2017 Dame Vera Lynn celebrated her centenary. While an RAF fly by of ‘blue birds’ had to be cancelled due to weather, her image was projected onto the White Cliffs of Dover as music played and the voice of Vera Lynn brought hope to people once again.