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State papers: Why Dame Vera Lynn got so vocal over D-Day plans

Dame Vera Lynn
Dame Vera Lynn

By Staff Reporter

John Major's advisers were fretting about "Vera Lynn causing trouble" and grumbling from veterans after the ill-fated launch of plans for the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

Second World War veterans were unimpressed after suggested events in 1994 to remember the Normandy Landings included sandcastle-building contests and a Spam fritter cooking competition.

Dame Vera, the singer widely known as the Force's Sweetheart, had even threatened to pull out if more appropriate events were not introduced. New arrangements were made, but commemoration services still ran into problems, official files show.

A document titled D-Day Post Mortem sent to the Prime Minister from principal private secretary Alex Allan said "events last weekend went splendidly" but there were "inevitably some points to learn from".

For example, the decision to make foreign heads of state and their spouses walk up stairs to dinner at Portsmouth Guildhall was described as "pretty undignified".

The D-Day errors were fresh in the mind as Mr Major's aides were planning the 1995 VE and VJ Day commemorations.

On a document debating whether the Prime Minister should launch events himself, his Press secretary Christopher Meyer scrawled: "We would have to be utterly sure there was no danger of a Spam fritter-type rebound (e.g. Vera Lynn causing trouble)."

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