How Dame Vera Lynn inspired Katherine Jenkins to sing for the troops

Yesterday, it was announced that The Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn had died at the age of 103. In light of the sad news, tributes have poured in across the globe, including a heartfelt message from Katherine Jenkins, this weekend’s YOU magazine cover star, who considered Dame Vera both a mentor and a very dear friend.

‘I simply cannot find the words to explain just how much I adored this wonderful lady,’ Katherine wrote to her followers on Twitter. ‘Her voice brought comfort to millions in their darkest hours her songs filled the nation’s hearts with hope, and her emotive performances, whether home or abroad, then or now, helped to get us through.’

During her YOU interview, which took place two weeks ago, before Dame Vera’s passing, Katherine shared the sweet story of how their relationship developed, and revealed how the singer became an inspiration for her own journey to travel and perform for the troops.

‘I met Vera through working with her on previous VE Day celebrations and she had a huge effect on me because she encouraged me to go out to war zones to perform for the troops,’ Katherine explains. ‘She’s an incredibly inspiring lady.’

Katherine Jenkins Dame Vera Lynn
Katherine Jenkins presents Dame Vera Lynn with an award at Women of the Year Lunch at Intercontinental Hotel in October 2009. Image: Getty Images

To mark year’s VE Day anniversary, the pair even rereleased Vera’s iconic song ‘We’ll Meet Again’ with all proceeds going to the NHS – a project which topped the iTunes charts on the day of release.

On VE day itself, Katherine performed a number of Dame Vera’s songs in an empty Royal Albert Hall, followed by a performance at Buckingham Palace.

‘It was the strangest, most unforgettable of days. It was so odd, so completely empty, no faces at the railings – the palace was totally shut up,’ she says.  ‘And the Albert Hall. Well, it was even more bizarre because I’ve performed there so many times.

Social distancing measures were in place and the performance run with minimal crew. But although Katherine wanted to focus on having a moment of ‘happiness, hope and togetherness’ to honour VE Day 75, she admitted that it was also incredibly emotional, almost bringing her to tears.

katherine Jenkins you magazine‘As I was singing the final line I looked up at all the empty seats and I was hit by this huge emotion, thinking of the people who would normally be there and what that emptiness meant. I had to style it out as if my eyes weren’t filling up because I didn’t want any sadness to come across, but that really got me,’ she said.

‘We were all apart but music was bringing us together. I’m just very proud I could keep on singing.’

Read Katherine Jenkins’ full interview in this weekend’s YOU Magazine, free inside The Mail on Sunday.