"Today, 'The Force's Sweetheart,' Dame Vera Lynn celebrates her 101st birthday. All the very best, Dame Vera. There can be but few people alive today, who in their lifetime meant so much to so many. Fewer still are the numbers who not only inspired wounded soldiers in the trenches of foreign fields during the 'Second World War', but who was capable of keeping the memory alive of the England they so much loved as they fought for the freedoms they valued so highly and which we cherish today; an England that so many would never live to see again. Indeed; you came to represent what England meant to so many men fighting overseas and your song, 'We'll Meet Again' will live down the ages and will still be sung in another 101 years!
From over 800 famous names who read from one of my books in children's schools between 1990 and 2000, your name will always stand out among 'the greats' as far as I'm concerned. I remember how we arranged to read to the children of the primary school in Ditchling (where you live), towards the end of the 1990's. Unfortunately, a heart attack I suffered prevented me attending that reading of 'Robin and the Rubicelle Fusiliers' (a story of London in the Blitz of which I subsequently arranged for every boy and girl in the school to receive a free copy of). I have never been one to save autographs, but I will always treasure your signature upon my own copy of the book along with other autographed momentoes you have sent me over the years.
While I am aware of so many kind and selfless gestures you have made over the years, I will never forget a Mirfield friend of mine whose life you once brought gladness into. He was an elderly man who lived alone and you were his heroine throughout the 'Second World War' years. He admired you so much that many years earlier he's cut out a picture of you from a newspaper and framed it in pride of place above his fireplace. When he fell ill, I wrote to you and told you his story and about his undying admiration for you. Your response was to send him the original photo of his newspaper cutting personally autographed to him. It was one of the iconic photos of you in uniform and it was the only copy according to your letter to him. That man is dead now, but thanks to your generosity of spirit, you provided him with so much happiness through your selfless gesture before he passed away.
I was over the moon to receive a signed copy of the CD that was released by you to celebrate your 100th birthday last March 2017. Today you have reached 101, Vera. What a wonderful age to have attained and what a wonderful and selfless life you have had. You are a credit to humanity and will remain a British icon into the next century.
I have recently been practising singing a few songs for my Facebook contacts, and unsurprisingly, my choice of song has reflected the times in which I grew up. In those days, my own mum had you at the top of her favourite singer list (as did the whole of England). If only she knew then that one day we would become friends, she would have been immensely proud. As I've spent the past month selecting songs that meant so much to me, Dame Vera, surprisingly, the singers that have represented my past more than anyone else were you, Dean Martin and Elvis Presley in descending order.
A very happy 101st birthday to you Dame Vera. May your special day be filled with much happiness, peace, love and generosity. I could never personally hope to ever repay the consideration and generosity of spirit you have given me over the past twenty-five years, but please accept this humble rendition of one of your songs that inspired the British Nation during those dark years of 1939-45. Love from your friend, Bill xxx"William Forde: March 20th, 2018.
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