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Retired Rutland entertainer shares his memories of working with Dame Vera Lynn, who has died

A retired entertainer from Rutland has shared his memories of working with legendary singer Dame Vera Lynn, who died today (Thursday, June 18) aged 103.

Tommy Laughton, 77, spent time with the Forces’ Sweetheart in 1972 when they both appeared on the same bill at the Whitcombe Lodge cabaret venue in Gloucester.

She had come over for a one-off performance, nudging Tommy’s comedy act off the top billing spot for a night.

Tommy Laughton and Dame Vera Lynn at Whitcombe Lodge in Gloucester in 1972
Tommy Laughton and Dame Vera Lynn at Whitcombe Lodge in Gloucester in 1972

Tommy, who lives in Exton, said: “It was fantastic for me. We often used to get to work with so-called stars but Vera was more than that; she was a legend.

“I had grown up listening to her recordings so to work with her was fantastic. We got on really well.”

He added: “I can say without any doubt that she is the greatest lady vocalist that I’ve ever seen. The only person I can think of that might possibly come close is Shirley Bassey.

“Vera would have been a star in any day and age. She had star quality. Off-stage she seemed like a regular but lovely cockney lady but once that spotlight hit her the voice changed and she became a star.”

Tommy said the last time the pair had been in touch was on her 100th birthday, when he sent her a card to mark the occasion.

It included several amusing cartoons and a photograph of the pair together in 1972.

Tommy Laughton
Tommy Laughton

“Her daughter told me she found it hilarious!” said Tommy, who went on to work as an entertainment manager as well as in newspapers.

“I told her that working with her had been the most amazing time of my life.”

Dame Vera’s family confirmed she died on Thursday morning surrounded by close relatives.

She was best known for performing for the troops during the Second World War to raise morale.

Last month, she became the oldest artist to get a UK top 40 album when her greatest hits album re-entered the charts at number 30.

One of her best-known songs, We'll Meet Again, was referenced by the Queen earlier this year during a speech to families and friends separated by the coronavirus lockdown.

Tommy, who is originally from Stamford, said: “It’s very sad that we’ve lost her; she was an out-and-out legend.”

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