“When they talk about the war, will they remember me?” A last interview with the remarkable Dame Vera Lynn

Softly, with a voice that is still clear after all these years, Dame Vera Lynn begins to sing. “For a little bit of heaven fell, from out the sky one day …”

She is 97 now and rather frail, the light from the window making a halo of her finespun white hair. But some of the old strength returns as she duets with her younger self. Every word is right, even though this recording was never released and she is hearing it for the first time in 70 years. Back then, Vera Lynn was the “Forces’ Sweetheart”: the girl with the bright smile whose songs kept the home fires burning.

When the song was recorded in 1944, she was about to go on a dangerous mission: to sing to “the boys” on the front line in the jungles of Burma. “I reminded them of their sisters, their sweethearts and their wives they had left behind, and what they were fighting for,” she says when it is over. Continue reading ““When they talk about the war, will they remember me?” A last interview with the remarkable Dame Vera Lynn”

June Brown, all alone in Dot Cotton’s kitchen

Strike a light, this is strange. Dot Cotton is in her kitchen, sucking on a fag and talking into a tape machine, recording a message for her husband, Jim, who is paralysed and unable to speak after a stroke. The hardest thing, she says in a trembling voice, “is the thought of you being there… but not being there”. And suddenly soap life and real life collide in a terrible and truly moving way. Continue reading “June Brown, all alone in Dot Cotton’s kitchen”