Folkestone writer’s tribute to Dame Vera read at London service

Dame Vera Lynn at Hellfire Corner, Dover in 1990 | mirrorpix

Submitted to the Folkestone Herald

A Folkestone man is ‘touched and deeply honoured’ that his tribute to Dame Vera Lynn has been shared at a service at Westminster Abbey, London, celebrating her life and work.

Michael Claughton’s moving poem, titled Goodnight Sweetheart, was read at the Thanksgiving service, March 21, by Dame Vera’s personal assistant, Susan Fleet.

The event celebrated the artist’s remarkable career which spanned more than 90 years.

Attendees included members of her family, friends from the music world, representatives of charities she supported, and members of the armed forces.

Jonathan Dimbleby, Alan Titchmarsh and Sir Tim Rice paid tribute to the darling of the Forces, who died in 2020, at the age of 103.

Katherine Jenkins gave a rendition of We’ll Meet Again | Photo: Yui Mok/PA

Mr Claughton feels “tremendously proud” that his poem was chosen from thousands for the occasion.

He met Dame Vera in 2005 when she and Dad’s Army actor Bill Pertwee were guests of honor at a Royal British Legion event he was co-hosting.

He said:

“It was the kind of evening that stays in the memory for a long time. A truly remarkable woman and an inspiration to so many. Something, perhaps, that we need much more in today’s troubled times.

Good night darling by Michael Claughton

They listened as one
They clapped as one
No voice was more welcome or dearer,
shy before
Their spirits would soar
To the sweet, sweet sound of our Vera.

Above the wide white cliffs
No blue bird in sight
But she knew we would see them tomorrow
And that sunny day
When freedom ruled
Peals of laughter would banish all sorrow.

In the darkest days
Our hopes that she could raise
Singing songs full of such inspiration,
fun all the time
Because her smile would seduce
Joined hands of all creeds cross the Nation.

What pleasure, what joys
She brought to “her boys”
Whether sailor, airman or soldier,
All over the land
From Blighty to Burma
She stood beside them, shoulder to shoulder.

A well-guided course
Honey, tour de force
To carry and take everything before her,
Every stage and dance floor
Where the girl next door
Holding a place in every heart, they adored him.

A remarkable lady
In the great Hall of Fame
Has now taken its last loving curtain,
A full and free life
At one hundred and three
And we will meet again, that’s for sure.

Poet and former mayor Michael Claughton

Mr Claughton, a former mayor of Ashford, now lives in Folkestone and has strong ties to the area. He spent many happy days at the old Leas Pavilion as an actor, director and writer.

He had hoped his poem, composed just after Dame Vera’s death, might be used in the new memorial to the Forces sweetheart on the Western Heights of Dover.

He sent it to Sir David Amess, a driving force behind the plan, who thought the poem was “magnificent” and said he would very much like to use it in some form.

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After the politician’s untimely death, Mr Claughton wrote a poetic elegy which was published in the Folkestone Herald and Dover Express.

It has now been proposed that the clifftop memorial will include a “meaningful and significant addition” paying tribute to Sir David’s role in the project.

Learn more about the Dame Vera Lynn Memorial Statue here and how can you Support the project.

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