27th March 2017
Dame Vera Lynn shot to fame as a singer during the years of the Second World War. Her performances, overseas and on the Home Front, kept up morale. She became a firm favourite among British troops and this popularity earned her the title ‘the Forces’ Sweetheart’. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1975.
Vera Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch on 20th March 1917 in East Ham in London. She began performing in public at the age of seven taking on regular singing spots at working men’s clubs. She was also a dancer for a time, performing with a troupe until the age of 15. After leaving school at 14, Vera left a short-lived factory job to focus full-time on her singing career and adopted her grandmother’s unmarried name, Lynn, as her stage name. Vera Lynn made her first radio broadcast in 1935, singing with the Joe Loss Orchestra. She released her first solo record, ‘Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire’, the following year. In 1937 she began playing with the Bert Ambrose dance band where she met and married Harry Lewis, another Ambrose singer. Harry later became her manager.
The War Years
When war broke out in 1939, Vera joined ENSA (the Entertainments National Service Association) and toured Egypt, India and Burma. She took part in outdoor concerts for British troops, along with other well-known entertainers of the day, including Max Miller, Gracie Fields and Tommy Trinder. Years later, she received the Burma Star for her tireless work entertaining forces in Japanese-occupied Burma. It was during the war years that Vera recorded her most popular songs, including ‘We’ll Meet Again’, written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, and ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ by Nat Burton and Walter Kent. From 1941, she also began to present her own radio show, ‘Sincerely Yours’. The programme featured songs and interviews with the wives of British servicemen. Vera also made appearances in three wartime films: ‘We’ll Meet Again’ (1942), ‘Rhythm Serenade’ (1943) and ‘One Exciting Night’ (1944).
- ENSA or the Entertainments National Service Association was set up in 1939 by Basil Dean and Leslie Henson to provided entertainment for British armed forces personnel during the Second World War
- The first overseas ENSA show was performed in November 1939 in France with Gracie Fields as the headline act
- ENSA went on to provide a platform for many well-known stars of stage and screen, including George Formby, Will Fyffe, Joyce Grenfell and Evelyn Laye and performed to troops from Iceland to Rangoon
- ENSA came to an end in July 1946 and was succeeded by Combined Services Entertainment (CSE). It continues to provide entertainment for British troops today as part of the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC)
The Post-War Years
After the War, Vera returned to the variety circuit and continued her recording career. During the 1950s and 1960s she became a regular on both radio and television and achieved the accolade of becoming the first British artist to reach number one in the American charts with the song ‘Aufwiedersehen Sweetheart’. In the late 1960s and early 1970s she hosted her own BBC1 variety series and was a frequent guest on other variety shows, most notably the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1972. She made four Royal Variety Performance appearances between 1960 and 1990. In 2009 she became the oldest living artist to chart at number one in the British album chart.
Still Singing After All These Years
Dame Vera Lynn retired in 1995. Her final public performance took place outside Buckingham Palace as part of a ceremony to mark the fiftieth anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day. As well as receiving her damehood, she was awarded an OBE in 1969. She continues to be actively involved in charity work, supporting charities which campaign on behalf of cerebral palsy and breast cancer research, Burmese refugees and animal welfare issues.
On 97th birthday in 2014 she released a new album ‘Vera Lynn: National Treasure – The Ultimate Collection’, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. For her 100th birthday in March 2017, she will release another album to mark her centenary which will include some of her best known songs.
Images © The Scotsman Publications Ltd., Gordon Collection, per East Lothian Library Service, Glasgow University Library, Orkney Islands Council & Aberdeen City Council | Licensor Scran
Eagle-eyed viewers in Scotland who saw the recent three-part BBC series called “Growing Up in Scotland: A Century of Childhood” may have noticed Scran mentioned in the credits at the end of each episode. Combining still images, film footage and contemporary interviews, the three episodes were a nostalgic look at Scottish childhood, and we were delighted to be asked to supply many images for all three programmes, including one of our all-time favourites, the two Glasgow boys with Spacehoppers.
While the standard Scran licence doesn’t allow commercial reuse of images, we’re happy to grant commercial licences on an ad-hoc basis, and anyone can do this by clicking on the “Buy” button underneath an image. Scran regularly supplies images for commercial re-use to newspapers, magazines, book publishers and film and TV companies, and if you see a TV documentary about Scotland, take a close look at the credits at the end.
There’s a good chance we’ll have supplied material for the programme. Viewers outside Scotland, and anyone who missed these fascinating documentaries, can catch up on the BBC’s iPlayer service http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/b08gcxb6
Image © The Scotsman Publications Ltd | Licensor Scran
Just now we’re busy working with Forthview Primary School & our Historic Environment Scotland colleagues at Edinburgh Castle. Together we are exploring the topic of World War One with Primary 7. During our investigations we’ll be looking closely at the Scottish National War Memorial.
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The Scottish National War Memorial was created to honour the dead of the Great War, and is found in Crown Square within Edinburgh Castle. In 1917 before the War had even ended, the idea for the memorial was suggested by John George Stewart Murray – the 8th Duke of Atholl.
His idea caused a lot discussion and debate, not everyone agreed with his vision. Some people were worried it would focus too much on the military, rather than all Scots involved in the War effort. Also, after the site at Edinburgh Castle had been chosen, others were concerned it would look out of place – because of these challenges, early plans for the memorial were changed.
Between 1924-7, the building was designed by the architect Robert Lorimer. He suggested an existing building could be changed and altered to form a remembrance hall. Previously the building had been used as a barracks to house soldiers. The architect worked with over 200 Scottish artists to transform the barracks into the remembrance hall & create a shrine.
The memorial was estimated to cost £250,000. Therefore a lot of money that had to be raised, events like Thistle Day took place and fundraising started – for example commemorative postage stamps were issued. The public donated large sums of money in support. In August 1922 the money needed was finally raised, so construction could begin.
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Inside the building, the long hall has short wings and a central entrance gives the plan the form of the letter E.
The central shrine holds a large casket, which contains the Rolls of Honour. These are lists of over 150,000 names of those who lost their lives.
Space didn’t allow the names of the dead to be carved in stone, so they were inscribed in books of remembrance. Today visitors can still view these books, listing the names of all Scottish casualties of World War One, World War Two & all conflicts since.
It took ten years of determined work, however the Scottish National War Memorial was officially opened by The Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VIII, on 14th July 1927.
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Images © St.Andrews University Library, Historic Environment Scotland, National Museums of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, National Library of Scotland – Moving Image Archive | Licensor Scran
Possible discussion questions:
- Why do you think the Duke of Atholl felt it was important for Scotland to have a National Memorial?
- What impression do you get from the Memorial?
- How does it make you feel?
- Why is it important that we remember?
The Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle houses a rich variety of artwork to honour & remember those who died in World War One. When it was built, between 1923 & 1927, over 200 professional artists worked with the architect, Robert Lorimer, to create a suitable tribute.
The interior of the memorial expresses the tragic sense of loss felt by Scotland after WW1. Inside the building, there is a feeling of dignity, pride and a sense of peace. The artists and makers used different materials, including bronze, iron, wood, stone, paint as well as stained glass. The result is impressive.
The artworks are designed to pay respect to the individual Scots who died, both men and women in all their different roles. Animals are acknowledged too, in the much loved stone sculpture ‘Remember also those Humble Beasts‘ by Phyllis Bone.
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Certainly the most colourful element of the SNWM is the is the stained glass with light flooding in from outside. In the main Hall of Honour the windows provide a lot of information, if you look carefully. For example, there is imagery illustrating what life was like on the Home Front, such as the mobilising of troops at Waverley Station (pictured top).
At either end of the hall, there are windows dedicated to different military services; that is the army, the navy and the air force – land, sea & air. Other windows show the four seasons. Some of the windows have roundels illustrating the different jobs people did or technology used in the machinery of war.
The windows in the Shrine are different to those in the Hall of Honour. These seven windows tell a another story, they use Bible and Christian messages to describe the experience of the War. Therefore they look more familiar to many, perhaps like traditional church windows at first glance.
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The artist who made all of these stunning windows was Douglas Strachan (1875-1950). Strachan was born in Aberdeen and educated at Robert Gordon’s College. He took evening classes at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. He worked as an apprentice lithographer, a muralist, a portrait painter and then found a passion for working with stained glass. In 1909 he moved to Edinburgh to set up the crafts department of Edinburgh College of Art. He lived in Midlothian where he died in 1950. He worked on many other memorial windows, including a designs for the Peace Palace in The Hague installed in 1929.
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* To see more of the SNWM stained glass windows on Scran click here
Scran has recently been a part of the Audacious Women’s Festival and, as a result of some fortuitous meetings, we were delighted to learn about Chrystal Macmillan. We were aware that there is a Chrystal Macmillan Building at Edinburgh University, but were blissfully ignorant of her achievements; there was certainly very little mention of her on Scran before this February. Luckily, we crossed paths with Helen Kay who thought we might be interested in some digitised archive materials that were in the care of the Macmillan family. To cut a long story short, we were very interested, and these materials are now on Scran. Many thanks to Helen for bringing these images to our attention, and to John Herdman and Iain Macmillan for kindly allowing us to share them with our users.
Chrystal Macmillan was a a suffragist, a feminist, a peace activist and barrister. She was educated at St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh, where she was the first woman to graduate from the science faculty in 1896 with a first class honours degree in mathematics and natural philosophy. She became active in feminist causes, joining the Edinburgh National Society for Women’s Suffrage and later becoming an executive committee member of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).
In 1908 presented her case to the House of Lords that female university graduates should be given the right to vote, later becoming secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. With the outbreak of World War I she turned her attention to peace activism, and following the Armistice she was an envoy from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) to the Paris Peace Conference, which was held in 1919. She went on to become a barrister in 1924.
You can read more of her story, see her family portraits and school life at scran.ac.uk/s/chrystal+macmillan.
Image © John Herdman| Licensor Scran
The late Edinburgh-based artist pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi is very much in the news at the moment. His famous murals at London’s Tottenham Court Road tube station have just been restored after being stowed away during renovation works (see video below), The Whitechapel Gallery is holding a retrospective of his work, while an Edinburgh brewery has recently started manufacturing a Paolozzi beer that pays homage to the artist.
Meanwhile, on a short stroll past Edinburgh University the other day, a staff member spotted an original Paolozzi artwork in a window (above). You can see a similar work, along with other Paolozzi sketches and artworks here.
Image © Andrew James
Among the many tortuous events in the Highlands, the Glencoe Massacre stands out. It is notorious for the political skullduggery surrounding it and for its breach of the code of highland hospitality. The soldiers who massacred the MacDonalds had stayed with their victims for many days prior to the killings.
Two companies of soldiers, from the Earl of Argyle’s Regiment,
had arrived at Glencoe on 1st February. They claimed that the Fort William garrison was full and asked for hospitality. They were under the command of Major Robert Duncanson and Captain Robert Campbell. The MacDonalds of Glencoe, since they had not paid their taxes, were compelled to billet troops. They housed and fed the soldiers for twelve days. On 12th February, Duncanson received orders to attack the clan the following morning and was to ensure that ‘”the old fox nor non of his Cubs gett away. The orders are that non be spared nor the government troubled with prisoners.” Two further companies bottle up the head of the glen and more troops would progress from Ballachulish at the other end. The soldiers attacked the clan in their beds at 5.00 am on 13th February. Thirty-eight people were killed immediately. including MacIain – the clan leader – as he tried to dress. But most of the clan managed to escape, including MacIain’s two sons and his grandson.
Escape into Blizzard
Nearly three hundred escaped aided by the fierce winter blizzard – some later to die from the cold and starvation. This fact severely annoyed the senior officers who arrived after the initial massacre. In military terms, the attack was botched, perhaps deliberately. It was rumoured that two officers resigned their commission rather than take part.
The Stewarts Deposed
The events of the “Revolution of 1688” – sometimes known as the “Glorious Revolution” had led to the succession of William of Orange in the United Kingdom. King James II of England and VII of Scotland, grandson of King James VI of Scotland, had been deposed. He went into exile in France. The Revolution was planned by a union of Parliamentarians – mostly the Whigs – and the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau (William of Orange). Although often labelled “bloodless”, there was fighting and loss of life in Ireland and Scotland. The Revolution was linked to the War of the Grand Alliance on mainland Europe against France, and, since William arrived with troops, purportedly with an invitation, it can be viewed as the last successful invasion of the United Kingdom. Inevitably, for this time, much of this concerned Protestantism and Catholicism.
A New Oath
After many skirmishes and battles over the years in Scotland, King William offered a pardon to all Highland clans who had fought against him or raided their neighbours; on the condition clan chiefs took an oath of allegiance before a recognised magistrate before 1 January 1692. Anyone failing to swear allegiance would suffer the full penalty of the law. Clan Chiefs had already sworn an Oath to James VII and were reluctant to swear a new vow without permission. So, Major Duncan Menzies was sent to France to obtain permission but James, preoccupied with his latest mistress, took an age to reply to the Major’s request. Menzies returned to Edinburgh with James’ permission on the 21st of December, leaving only 10 days for the oath to be taken.
Then, MacIain of Glencoe set out to take the Oath with Colonel Hill at Inverlochy, Fort William. He reached there on the 31st of December, but he had gone to the wrong place. He needed to take the oath with the Sheriff at Inveraray. Sheriff Campbell of Ardkinglass was still on New Year’s holiday when he got there. He finally signed the Oath on the 6th of January and returned to Glencoe. However, the Privy Council of the Scottish Parliament struck off his oath on the grounds that it was received 6 days too late. The MacDonalds of Glencoe were an ideal target: troublesome to their neighbours – known as the ‘Gallow’s Herd’ because of their thieving abilities – and Glencoe could be sealed geographically. So the late oath gave the government all the excuse they needed to punish the Macdonald clan and set an example.
The Privy Council issued a warrant, signed by the Earl of Stair, Secretary of State for Scotland, and countersigned by King William. This was delivered to Thomas Livingstone, Commander in Chief of the Army in Scotland on the 11th of January, 1693 to punish those rebels who had failed to take an Oath of Allegiance to King William. Livingstone then issued these orders to Colonel Hill to pursue the rebels, burn their homes and to take no prisoners. Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton – Hill’s assistant – and Major Robert Duncanson were chosen to plan the attack.
When news of the massacre reached London two weeks later, the work of the Irish journalist Charles Leslie turned the massacre into a political scandal. His pamphlet suggested a high level cover-up, which excited the interest of those opposed to the King and the Secretary of State. However, it was a further three years before there was any official reprimand. A Parliamentary Commission into the massacre was set up due to the strength of public opinion. Colonel Hill testified that he had delayed executing his orders as he thought it a nasty, dirty business. The commission’s report put the blame on the Earl of Stair for overstepping his orders and he was removed from government, though he was later reinstated. No-one was punished for the massacre.
The Campbell Myth
The presence of Captain Campbell and the involvement of Sheriff Campbell of Ardkinglass led to a belief that the Campbells had exacted revenge on the MacDonalds, but the two clans fought side by side in the subsequent Jacobite rebellions. The Earl of Argyle’s Regiment was a regular, red-coat unit of the British army and acted under clear orders. So the massacre being the result of a Campbell v MacDonald’s feud is likely to be a popular myth.
Curse of Scotland
In public terms, the attack was an own goal. It incited opinion against troops, officials and the King and provided a propaganda opportunity to those who opposed the state. The planned and deliberate attempt at genocide by the government makes Glencoe a byword for infamy and treachery to this day. Ever since then, the nine of diamonds has been called the “Curse of Scotland” That is because the card matches the nine lozenges on the coat of arms of the Earls of Stair – John Dalrymple – who was the Secretary of State for Scotland at the time.
Of course, the deposition of James and the fractious relationship between Clans, Crown and Government added fuel to much of what was to follow historically in the Jacobite cause.
Images © National Trust for Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland, National Records of Scotland | Licensor Scran
In January and February this year, Scran hosted 6 young students from Italy’s Istituto Pavoniano Artigianelli per le Arti grafiche in Trento. They were part of a large contingent from the college that were in Scotland to improve their English skills at the Edinburgh School of English on the city’s Royal Mile. As part of their two week stay, all the visiting students undertook short work placements in local creative industries and businesses. The six students that were placed with Scran (Giorgia, Nicole, Tania, Chiara, Martina and Alessandro) were charged with capturing Scotland in photographic form during their stay, selecting their favourite shots and then captioning them, thereby enhancing their photographic skills and also their English vocabulary.
The captioning of the images was actually the most time-consuming aspect of the enterprise, as the students were all instructed to think of the end-users of Scran’s images (i.e. our subscribers), and try and second guess the search terms that they might use to come across the student’s images. This is harder than you may think, and the best captions on Scran employ synonyms, alternative spellings, plurals and more to try and maximise discoverability.
As budding designers, all of our students had a keen eye, and this was reflected in the photos, many of which are as good as any on Scran. They particularly enjoyed the soft winter light in Edinburgh, and the opportunities it provided for shadows, silhouettes and chiaroscuro images. You can see all their efforts here.
Images © Andrew James