Three days ago, Dame Vera Lynn died at the age of 103. She was a popular icon of the World War II era, beloved of millions of servicemen and civilians alike throughout the British Empire. If anyone could be said to be the people's voice of Britain during the war, I daresay her claim to that title is stronger than most - perhaps as strong, in its own way, as that of Winston Churchill.
Her songs buoyed up hope in the darkest times of the war, inspired patriotism and resistance to the tyranny of the Axis powers, and accompanied soldiers on their way to victory. She had a popularity that can't be measured simply in numbers of records sold or a song's place on a hit parade. She entered Britain's heart and soul during those terrible years, and never left them. She remained enormously popular and widely respected for the rest of her life.
My parents loved her songs, and looked upon her as "their" Vera in an amusing, oddly parental, yet lovable way. They kept her albums at home, and I grew up to their soundtrack. They helped bring the reality of the war years home to me as I learned about that conflict, adding a touch of the "Home Front" to the clinical accounts of battles, weapons, strategies and tactics. When she died on Thursday, I felt a personal sense of loss as a result, even though I was born years after the war. She'd become a part of my life, too.
Here are just a few of her many, many wartime hits. I have a feeling they'll outlast a great deal of modern pop and rock music. They've already become timeless.
May she rest in peace.