Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn has become the oldest person to be invested as a Companion of Honour to the Queen – one of the rarest decorations.
Dame Vera’s admission to the Order was announced in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours list which recognised the 99-year-old singer for her services to entertainment and charity over nearly
The investiture took place at her home in Ditchling, presided over by the Lord Lieutenant for East Sussex, Mr Peter Field, with Carola Godman Irvine, a family friend and Deputy
Lord Lieutenant of the county.
The Companion of Honour is a special award founded by George V in 1917 to recognise those who have made a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine or government over an extended
period. Its members are bound by the motto: ‘In action faithful and in honour clear’.
At any one time, there are just 65 Companions of Honour throughout the Commonwealth, including the sovereign; the Queen currently has 48, featuring such luminaries as Dame Maggie Smith and
Dame Judy Dench, Stephen Hawking and Desmond Tutu. Just eight of the Companions are women.
“I am truly delighted to become a Companion of Honour,” said Dame Vera. “In accepting this award, I do so in remembrance of all our wonderful brave boys who made the ultimate sacrifice for our
freedom – and also in honour of all the children affected by cerebral palsy.”
During the Second World War, Dame Vera Lynn became a household name with classic songs such as We’ll Meet Again, The White Cliffs Of Dover and There’ll Always Be An England.
In 1941, she began her own radio programme, Sincerely Yours, sending messages to British troops abroad and performing songs most requested by them, accompanied by her own quartet.
She visited hospitals to interview new mothers and send personal messages to their husbands overseas, later touring Egypt, India and Burma, giving outdoor concerts for the troops with piano
accompaniment from Len Edwards.
In addition to her renowned entertainment career, she has also dedicated more than six decades to charity work for ex-servicemen, disabled children and breast cancer.
In 1953, she formed a cerebral palsy charity SOS and in 1976, The Vera Lynn Charity Breast Cancer Research Trust was founded.
In 2002, Dame Vera became the founder and figurehead of the cerebral palsy charity The Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, based in Billingshurst, which provides support and education for affected families.
She remains involved with countless other charitable organisations throughout the UK and beyond. within the last few months, she has been given an outstanding contribution award from the
Soldering On Charity and has become honorary president of St Peter and St James Hospice close to where she lives.
The honour is not the first time that Dame Vera has been recognised by the Queen. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1969 and Dame Commander of the
Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1975.
A citation read at Dame Vera’s investiture states:
“Widely known as the Forces’ Sweetheart, Dame Vera Lynn is an English singer, songwriter and actress whose voice moved and inspired the entire country during the Second World War, during
which she toured Egypt, India and Burma, giving outdoor concerts for the troops with the Entertainment National Services Association. During those difficult years, she became the voice of
hope for those deployed overseas and for many back home.
“Dame Vera’s career continued to flourish after the War, and she is still today held in great affection by veterans.
“In the year 2000 she was named the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the 20 th century. In 2009, during the year she published her autobiography, she became, at 92, the oldest living artist to
make it to No. 1 on the British Album Chart, and in 2014 she celebrated 90 years in show business.
“In addition to her outstanding music and show business career, Dame Vera has devoted much time and energy to charity work connected with breast cancer, disabled children and ex-service men.
“In 1976, she founded The Vera Lynn Charity Breast Cancer Research Trust, and in 2002 she became the President of the Vera Lynn Trust for children with Cerebral Palsy. She is also patron of
the Forces Literary Organisation for ALL, The Dover Memorial Project, and Help 4 Forgotten Allies.
“For outstanding service to the United Kingdom in the fields of Entertainment and Charity, Her Majesty the Queen is pleased to bestow upon Dame Vera Lynn ‘membership of the Companions