A legendary voice from World War II has been silenced. A statement from the family of Dame Vera Lynn says they are "deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of Britain's best-loved entertainers" on Thursday morning in Ditchling, East Sussex, "surrounded by her close family." Her death was also confirmed by her representative, per the New York Times. She was 103. NBC News notes Lynn was known as the "Forces' Sweetheart" for her World War II ballads, including the hits "The White Cliffs of Dover," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "There'll Always Be an England," and the melancholy "We'll Meet Again." When Lynn turned 100, a 350-foot-tall image of her face was projected onto the Cliffs of Dover to pay tribute to her song. Born in the London borough of Newham in 1917, Lynn started performing before she hit the double digits.
She sang with British bandleaders Billy Cotton and Bert Ambrose, and in her early 20s, began performing at military bases and hospitals around England. She also had her own BBC radio show. "Churchill didn't beat the Nazis," Welsh comedian Harry Secombe once said. "Vera sang them to death." Lynn's appeal to the soldiers, in her own words, per NBC: "I was very similar to their sisters and their girlfriends. They thought I was one of them ... and they could relate to me." CNN notes Lynn was the first British singer to hit No. 1 on the US charts, with 1952's "Auf Wiederseh'n, Sweetheart." In 1975, Lynn was awarded one of England's top honors: that of Dame Commander of the British Empire. Lynn's husband of nearly six decades, died in 1998. They're survived by their daughter, Virginia Lewis-Jones, who talks here about what it was like growing up with Lynn. (Read more obituary stories.)