Dame Vera Lynn: Second World War flypast as nation bids final farewell to forces' sweetheart

10 July 2020, 12:48 | Updated: 10 July 2020, 13:53

Dame Vera Lynn has been honoured with an RAF flypast over her Sussex home as fellow villagers lined the streets to say farewell.

Hundreds of people applauded as the cortege left the family home and passed through Ditchling on Friday, pausing for a few minutes as two Second World War fighter planes soared above.

The two aircraft made three passes in total over the village, where Dame Vera - who died last month at the age of 103 - lived for 60 years of her life.

Shouts of "hip hip hooray" could also be heard from the crowd in celebration of the late singer, before a spontaneous rendition of her most famous song - We'll Meet Again.

Led by military personnel, the procession continued its journey to take the Union flag-laden coffin to a crematorium in Brighton for a private family funeral.

The procession will be met by a tri-service route-lining party outside the chapel, where a military standard-bearer will also be waiting to receive the coffin.

The private funeral will consist of mostly family, although a Royal Marines bugler will play a tribute and a senior officer will be in attendance to represent the Ministry of Defence.

Dame Vera was known for lifting the spirits of British soldiers as she sang to them near the frontline in wartime, which saw her become known as the forces' sweetheart.

Her morale-boosting music has since become iconic - and she has even been credited with helping Britain achieve victory in the war.

Dame Vera's daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones thanked everyone for showing "tremendous support" in the weeks since her mother died.

She said: "My mother always appreciated receiving messages from all over the world, and Ditchling was always particularly special to her.

"That is why we know she would be touched that so many people want to pay their respects."

Avril Gaynor, who knew Dame Vera since she was 10-years-old, paid tribute to a "wonderful, wonderful" lady who changed her life.

She said: "It's so sad, but I am glad she is getting a big send-off - to put it mildly."

Sir Tom Moore, the veteran who attracted a legion of fans after walking laps of his garden for the NHS, said he had been "thrilled" to receive a letter from the singer, which congratulated him on the money he had raised.

"She was always so kind, she was lovely, I've always had a soft place in my heart for Dame Vera," he said.

"It was very sad when she died."

The funeral service on Friday in Brighton will be a private affair.

A memorial service is expected to be scheduled for a later date.