An extraordinary life exposed

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Dame Vera Lynn’s diary, in which she jotted down memories of her three-month tour of Burma in 1944, is among items shown to the public for the first time in a new exhibition celebrating the extraordinary life of the Forces darling .

The new exhibition at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft features more than 100 never-before-seen personal items, including the Burmese star she received in April 1985, the simple suit and cardboard cake from her marriage to Harry Lewis in 1941, her works of art and logbook.

Stephanie Fuller, director of the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, of which Dame Vera Lynn was patron, spoke to Natasha Reneaux, BFBS’s Forces Station TV (audio above), about the new exhibit , which explores the life of the Forces darling through hundreds of personal images. articles, including the newspaper.

Stephanie said: It’s a very small appointment diary and she wasn’t supposed to save anything for security reasons, but she wrote these terse little entries.”

Exhibition-Ditchling-Museum-of-Art-%2B-Craft-Montage-1-SFW-Picture-Sam-Moore.jpg?itok=F6aSqwJj” width=”750″ height=”211″ alt=”Exhibition Dame Vera Lynn Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft Picture Sam Moore” loading=”lazy” typeof=”foaf:Image” class=”image-style-inline-image”/>
Dame Vera Lynn exhibition at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft (Photo: Sam Moore).

The few lines written reveal what life was like for the 27-year-old artist who, as Stephanie explains, had only left the country once before to go to Belgium. In the diary, she writes about the intense heat, basic travel conditions, and the places she stayed.

Stephanie said: “She slept on a stretcher wedged between two chairs and things like that.

“There were a lot of bugs, she got bitten a lot, the food was terrible.

“It was the same food the troops ate and it didn’t look very good at all.”

The exhibit features unique items including her bridal costume and cardboard cake which stood in for the real thing due to rationing during World War II – a common practice at the time.

There are also hundreds of letters written to Dame Vera on display, including several from people who listened to her radio show, “Sincerely Yours”. They wrote to him and asked for songs that reminded them of their loved ones.

Exhibition Dame Vera Lynn Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft Picture Sam Moore
Dame Vera Lynn exhibition at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft (Photo: Sam Moore).

Other interesting items on display in the exhibition celebrating her illustrious career include a variety of exquisite dresses, gold records, photographs of Dame Vera with service personnel and celebrities, and the shirt and shorts she she wore to perform for Allied troops on her tour of Burma in 1944. .

Stephanie said: “When we got access to the archive and realized how much fantastic material there was, it turned into an exhibition that took over the whole museum.

“Personally, I really feel like I have to get to know Dame Vera by looking at all of her personal possessions, items, and the creative works of art she has done.”

Dame Vera Lynn exhibition at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft (Photo: Sam Moore).
Dame Vera Lynn exhibition at the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft (Photo: Sam Moore).

The exhibition in Ditchling, where Dame Vera had had a home since 1944, also reveals artwork by the Forces sweetheart who, perhaps unknown to many, was an avid artist for much of her life. There are 20 pieces on display highlighting his skill in creating attention-grabbing portraits and still lifes.

Anyone interested in seeing the exhibition can visit ditchlingmuseumartcraft.org.uk for ticket information. Alternatively, if they can’t visit in person, there’s a virtual tour.


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