Forces’ sweetheart charms our residents with birthday reply

1 November 2022

Iconic wartime singer Dame Vera Lynn has surprised and delighted our residents with her personal response to a card they made and sent for her 103rd birthday

As lockdown approached in mid-March, staff and residents decided to cheer themselves up by decorating a birthday card with a heartfelt greeting and a montage of photos showing them holding yellow flowers.

“It was a rather wet and grey afternoon and everyone was naturally apprehensive about lockdown,” recalled our Companionship Team Leader Julie Wathen. “Vera Lynn had just put out a public message, as her birthday was a couple of days later, encouraging everyone in Britain to ‘keep smiling through’, as she’d sung in the lyrics of We’ll Meet Again at the start of the Second World War.

“We decided to create a card for her as a fun activity to cheer us all up. I felt she was a great role model again for these troubled times and one our residents could really relate to. Her message about smiling seemed especially appropriate for us to rally behind.”

The greeting in the card wished Vera a very happy birthday, stating: ‘Here at Canford Chase, you will be pleased to know we are still smiling through.’

Julie researched a contact address in East Sussex for Vera Lynn and posted the card that day, not expecting a reply.

Three months on, all at the home were thrilled to receive a letter from the famous lady herself, typed and sent by a personal assistant, and addressed to ‘all the residents at Canford Chase’.

It read: “Thank you so much for the beautiful handmade birthday card, which took pride of place on my mantelpiece.

“It was very special to see your happy faces and to know that you ‘keep smiling through’.

“In these difficult times, it’s so important to smile and the beautiful yellow flowers in your photos are bright and cheery.

Jean with Vera Lynn’s reply

“I send you all my very best wishes and thank you again for taking the trouble to produce such a very special birthday card.”

Resident Doris Storey, who celebrated her 101st birthday in lockdown just after Dame Vera became 103, said: “It was so lovely that we did the card and photoshoot, and that Vera Lynn replied. She would obviously have had lots of cards.”

When Julie reminded Doris that her birthday and Vera’s were around the same time, she laughed and said: “Not bad for a couple of old ones.”

In a TV broadcast for the recent 75th anniversary of VE Day, Vera Lynn said that while people may be apart due to lockdown measures ‘hope remains even in the most difficult of times’.