Some sunny day - 10-year-old Connor Adcock meets Dame Vera Lynn
PUBLISHED: 15:23 23 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:45 20 February 2013
When 10-year-old Connor Adcock began his World War II project at in September 2009, he could not have imagined it would lead to an exclusive interview with 'Forces Sweetheart', Dame Vera Lynn at her home in East Sussex
As part of his research for his World War II project, Connor Adcock went to see Dame Vera at the signing of her autobiography, Some Sunny Day, in Eastbourne. Afterwards he wrote to her asking for an interview and was given one. He asked his classmates at Parkland Junior School in Eastbourne, for their questions to add to his own and set out. This is his interview:
Connor Out of all your songs, which one is your favourite, how many songs did you release, and which ones did you sing to the soldiers?
DameVera I suppose Well Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover are my two favourites. I couldnt tell you how many songs I released, but I sang all the songs that were popular at that time to the soldiers, as long as they were ballads.
C How did it feel when you went to other countries to sing to the soldiers?
DV Well I enjoyed that because I felt that I was helping a little with the war effort, doing my bit in my own way, and everybody seemed to enjoy the songs. They were all optimistic songs, there were no sad songs. I did enjoy it very much because it was an experience you dont get every day. It was lovely meeting the boys in Burma and taking a little bit of home to them. Some of them had been away from home for six years and hadnt seen a white girl in that time. Some were out there two years before the war started, and when I was there the war had been on for four years.
C Who is your favourite singer?
DV Im not up with the modern singers of today, but Frank Sinatra knew how to perform a song lyrically which means a lot to me. The words are very important.
C Were you ever scared on stage when you were singing?
DV Not really. When I was abroad I always felt very safe because the soldiers all sat around with their guns and rifles. Here if I was on the stage and the siren went to warn you that the raid was about to start, you didnt stop you just kept on singing and would just hope they wouldnt drop a bomb on the theatre!
I was in a show called London Laughs that ran all through the war in London at the Holborn Empire. The Empire isnt there now because it got a direct hit. Fortunately I wasnt staying in the theatre because the raid started later that night, the show had finished, and I had driven to my home in Essex, otherwise I wouldnt be here talking to you today!
C How did you become famous?
DV Well my mum put me on the stage! It was a bit like the old song, Dont Put Your Daughter On The Stage, Mrs Worthington. She found out I could sing when I was very young and got me into singing. I became famous because people liked my songs and asked me to sing on the radio. People used to write in and ask me to go on other programmes too.
C Why did you become a singer and what was your inspiration?
DV My inspiration was listening to the famous dance bands on the radio on a Saturday night and I wanted to be a singer in one of those bands, which I achieved. I used to broadcast from a little club in Piccadilly called the Casani Club. There was a Band Leader called Charlie Kunz who played a certain style of piano and we broadcast from there once a week.
C What were the expressions on the families faces after you exchanged their messages and do you remember what sort of messages families sent each other?
DV Well I didnt see their expressions of course or who I was singing to because it was mainly on the radio. There was no television in those days. Television did start before the war, but when the war came it stopped. Out in the places where the boys were fighting there wasnt the same communication there is today. Today if this situation was on, I would be televised singing to the boys in Burma.
The kind of messages were we hope you are well and getting enough food because it was getting very scarce here we send you all our love, look after yourself and we hope you will be back home soon.
In some of the radio broadcasts if one of the wives had just had a baby I would say Sergeant Jones you are now the father of a boy or girl and that was nice. They probably got the news before they did through the post!
C Did the War affect you in any way?
DV Yes it did because it helped my career due to the contact with the service chaps and it built up because of the programmes I was doing.
C Were you ever interrupted during one of your concerts?
DV Interrupted yes, but not stopped, we carried on. There was a slight pause but then, as they say, the show must go on. The manager of the theatre used to come on stage sometimes and say the siren has gone, but we didnt know because we couldnt hear. He asked If anyone wishes to leave could you do so now because the show is about to continue? A few people used to leave but not en masse. Some people used to take sleeping bags or blankets down to the underground and lay on the platform, but I shouldnt think they got much sleep.
C My teacher Miss Wilson said what was your saddest experience?
DV Seeing all the boys injured I suppose in the tents in Burma.
C Did any of your friends or family die in the war?
DV Luckily none of my family did but I knew a young man that died. I was in a dancing troupe when I was younger, we used to travel around in the summer holidays and put on shows at cinemas. There was a young boy there I grew up with who died as a pilot in the Battle of Britain.
C My Dad told me his Grandad saw a German doodlebug and was very frightened. Did you ever see one?
DV No I only heard the explosions, but you couldnt always hear them coming. If you were out you didnt know where to go. They used to say lay in the gutter but you could do that and get a direct hit, it didnt really matter where you were.
C How did you get the nickname The Forces Sweetheart?
DV Well a daily newspaper ran a competition when the boys first went to France in 1939 to choose their favourite singer and they chose me. I then became known as The Forces Sweetheart.
C Where did you travel to during the war?
DV Egypt, India and Burma. I was 23 when I first went.
C Before you started singing were you a part of the Womens Land Army?
DV I wasnt part of the Womens Land Army but I employed three girls who were. I moved to the South Downs when the war was finishing and I needed help on the land. I did meet a few of them a little while back at an exhibition in Brighton.
C Did you have an air raid shelter, and if so how many times did you have to go inside it?
DV No but the man next door was a builder and he dug a hole and built one under his garage. When I was at home I used to go in there. If I was in the theatre I would just stay there overnight.
C What are your memories of the day war broke out?
DV I was sitting in the garden having tea with my mother and father. We had a radio on the table because we were all aware that something was going to happen. We heard that war had been declared and my first thought was, there goes my career, no more singing for me. I will be in a factory producing bombs! Little did I know that I would continue singing and for what purpose.
C Was anyone in your family an evacuee and if so how did you feel about this?
DV Fortunately none of my family were evacuated.
C Were you ever split up from your family during the war, and if so how did you feel about it?
DV No I wasnt split up. I was with my family all through the war.
C I would like to invite you to my school. Do you think you will have time to do this?
DV It depends what I am involved in, but you will need to talk to my daughter about this!
C Thank you very much for seeing me today. Im sure well meet again some sunny day!
DV Lets hope so. They were very interesting questions and I hope you were satisfied with the answers!