Dame Vera Lynn was a “symbol of Britain’s defiance during the war” and had a “timeless quality” that will ensure she will never be forgotten in Northern Ireland, politicians have said.
The singer, who entertained troops with morale-boosting visits to the front line during the Second World War, died at the age of 103 surrounded by her close family.
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said a great sadness will be felt by many at the loss of a British icon.
“On behalf of all veterans across Northern Ireland there will be great sadness at the passing of such a wonderful lady,” he said.
“Dame Vera Lynn was a symbol of Britain’s defiance during the war and has such a fabulous personality to go along with her status. That endeared her to the nation, to all the men and women who served during the war and in the years afterwards.
“There is no doubt the country has lost a heroine who will live long in the memory.”
Another veteran — Military Cross recipient and Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie — said he had fond memories of meeting Dame Vera and that she would be remembered not only for her contribution during the war years, but for her long affiliation with the armed services in the decades since.
“She was timeless and that’s something not a lot of people think about,” he said.
“Yes she’s remembered so fondly for the war years, but you can see the reaction today from people who were not around during that time what her contribution meant.
“The military has always had an affinity with Dame Vera Lynn since the war, right to this day.
“I managed to meet her just once and have always kept her autograph in the house, but it’s that timeless quality that stands out.”
The Queen is to send a private message of condolence to Dame Vera’s family. Buckingham Palace said the monarch, who is staying at Windsor Castle, will write to express her sympathy after the Forces’ Sweetheart passed away.
The Queen echoed the singer’s famous war anthem in her televised address on coronavirus in April, telling the nation: “We will meet again.”
The pair — who were born nine years apart — met on many occasions through the decades and shared a bond due to their wartime experiences.
On the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995, Dame Vera took centre stage in front of Buckingham Palace to sing to the thousands of people who gathered in celebration.
The Prince of Wales’s Clarence House Twitter account posted a photographic tribute to Dame Vera. It read “Remembering Dame Vera Lynn” and featured an image of the singer after she was invested as a Dame Commander in 1975, and a photo of her with Charles, and also the Duchess of Cornwall.
Elsewhere, NHS campaigner and army veteran Captain Tom Moore paid tribute to Dame Vera.
She performed for troops during the war, often at great personal risk, in countries including Egypt, India and Burma.
Moore explained the “huge impact” Dame Lynn had on him when she paid a visit to Burma (now Myanmar) when he was stationed there during the Second World War.
“A real shame, I really thought Vera Lynn would live longer,” he said in a statement shared via Twitter.
“She’s been speaking so well on TV recently. She had a huge impact on me in Burma and remained important to me throughout my life,” the centenarian continued. “My thoughts are with Dame Vera Lynn’s family at this sad time.”
Captain Moore, who raised more than £30m for NHS Charities Together by taking part in a “100th birthday walk”, previously spoke about his encounter with Dame Lynn during an appearance on Good Morning Britain in April.
“She came down to see the troops when I was stationed down in Burma,” he said.
“I saw her whilst we were out there in the firing line. It gave us so much more additional heart.”
Dame Vera’s commitment to the armed forces “never waned” in her later years and she retained an “incredible spark”, a Royal British Legion official who worked with her said.
Teresa Greener, the charity’s head of special events and celebrity liaison, said she had been involved with their work right up until her final few months.
She is going to be “really sorely missed” by the Royal British Legion and the wider armed forces community, she said.
Ms Greener added: “I know she is very much a focus for the World War Two generation and the armed forces around the World War Two generation, but actually she became a real inspiration for the armed forces generally, because her strength of commitment to them never waned in the slightest.
“I remember that she never said no, even in later life.
“If we asked her to do something she might say, ‘I’m really not well enough to actually attend, but’ — and she would always find some way of being involved, even right up to this year’s VE 75 commemoration.”
Sir Cliff Richard, and singer Katherine Jenkins joined Prime Minister Boris Johnson in paying tribute to Dame Vera.
Sir Cliff said: “Dame Vera Lynn was truly an icon. A great singer, a patriotic woman and a genuine icon.
“Vera, thank you, God bless you, and I loved you too. Rest in a very deserved peace.”
Mr Johnson said her “charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours. Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come”.
Jenkins, who recently recorded a duet of We’ll Meet Again with Dame Vera, with proceeds going to NHS Charities Together, described the 103-year-old as “an icon. A legend. An inspiration. My mentor and my friend”.