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Dame Vera Lynn honoured with flypast ahead of her funeral

The aircraft made three passes over the quiet village of Ditchling, East Sussex, before leaving to applause from the crowd.

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The funeral cortege of Forces’ Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn is escorted by representatives of the three armed forces as it makes its way through the village of Ditchling, East Sussex (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The funeral cortege of Forces’ Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn is escorted by representatives of the three armed forces as it makes its way through the village of Ditchling, East Sussex (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The funeral cortege of Forces’ Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn is escorted by representatives of the three armed forces as it makes its way through the village of Ditchling, East Sussex (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Dame Vera Lynn has been honoured with a flypast in her beloved East Sussex village ahead of a funeral service in Brighton.

Two Second World War fighter planes soared over Ditchling to remember the late singer.

The aircraft made three passes over the quiet village before leaving to applause from the crowd.

The adored singer, who entertained troops with morale-boosting visits to the front line during the Second World War, died aged 103 on June 18.

The cortege bearing Dame Vera’s coffin, which was draped in a Union flag, arrived in the village centre as a bell tolled out.

Hundreds of people were gathered at the crossroads ahead of the procession, which was led by soldiers.

Representatives from the Royal British Legion stood in the road with flags as they waited to honour Dame Vera.

A small police presence was also on hand to ensure proceedings went smoothly.

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Two Spitfires from the Battle of Britain Memorial flight pass overhead (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Two Spitfires from the Battle of Britain Memorial flight pass overhead (Gareth Fuller/PA)

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Two Spitfires from the Battle of Britain Memorial flight pass overhead (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The cortege paused for several minutes in the centre of the village where Dame Vera loved happily for 60 years, awaiting the flypast.

There was applause from the crowds as the two Second World War fighter planes flew over the little village in honour of the national treasure.

Sounds of the roaring engines filled the streets as the aircraft banked around the Sussex countryside.

The cortege then made its way out of the village as it continued its route to the crematorium in Brighton, bid farewell by shouts of “hip hip hooray” from the crowd in her honour.

It was followed by a spontaneous rendition of We’ll Meet Again, one of the songs Dame Vera was well-known for.

The cortege was greeted in Brighton by service personnel in uniform outside the chapel, including a military bearer party who were ready to receive the coffin.

A bugler from the Royal Marines was drafted in to provide a musical tribute inside the chapel, and the Ministry of Defence was to be represented by a senior officer.

The funeral service was not open to the public, with attendance limited to a small family group as well as the officer and bugler.

A full memorial service will be held at a later date.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted footage of the flypast, adding: “A farewell befitting a truly great Briton, whose voice and charm will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come.”

Ahead of the day, a giant portrait of the Forces Sweetheart was beamed on to the White Cliffs of Dover to commemorate her life.

Virginia Lewis-Jones, Dame Vera’s daughter, said: “We want to thank everyone for their tremendous support over the past few weeks.

“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.”

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The Queen with Dame Vera (Martin Keene/PA)

The Queen with Dame Vera (Martin Keene/PA)

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The Queen with Dame Vera (Martin Keene/PA)

Second World War re-enactor Steve George, 59, came to Ditchling to pay tribute.

He told the PA news agency how he met the Forces’ Sweetheart at a re-enactment in a marquee surrounded by veterans.

Mr George said: “We had a group photograph with Dame Vera, we were all gathered round her dressed as the different generals.

“She was wonderful, absolutely wonderful, she had time for everybody… It’s the end of an era.

“But she will never be forgotten.”

A large print of Dame Vera Lynn in red, white and blue was pinned up in the centre of Ditchling following the flypast.

One of the tributes written on the colourful print in silver pen read: “Vera, you were hope, when hope was fading.

“You were our smiles, when smiling was a struggle.

“You touch hearts all over the world and you will forever be in ours.”

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An image of Dame Vera Lynn projected on to the White Cliffs of Dover (Steve Turvey)

An image of Dame Vera Lynn projected on to the White Cliffs of Dover (Steve Turvey)

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An image of Dame Vera Lynn projected on to the White Cliffs of Dover (Steve Turvey)

Avril Gaynor, who first met Dame Vera Lynn when she was 10, told PA that the Forces’ Sweetheart changed her life.

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

“She was a wonderful, wonderful lady and I am so pleased that so many people want to come to pay tribute to her.”

Captain Sir Tom Moore also paid tribute ahead of her funeral.

Remembering her visit to troops in Burma, the Second World War veteran and NHS fundraiser told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “There she was, this lovely English girl… she was a great person to give us a lot more confidence and we were very, very pleased to see her.”

He recently received a letter from Dame Vera in recognition of the millions he has raised for the NHS and said: “I was absolutely thrilled to get a letter from Dame Vera congratulating me on the amount of money that we’d raised for my birthday.

“She was always so kind, she was lovely, I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for Dame Vera.

“It was very sad when she died.”

PA