Obituary: Anne Shelton

Patricia Sibley (Anne Shelton), singer: born Dulwich, London 10 November 1973; OBE 1990; married 1953 David Reid (died 1990); died Herstmonceux, East Sussex 31 July 1994.

ANNE SHELTON was, with Vera Lynn, one of Britain's best-loved popular singers of her generation. She is chiefly remembered as a 'Forces sweetheart', who regularly entertained the troops during the Second World War, and who sustained a loyal following that continued well into peacetime. Although she never achieved Lynn's prominence and popularity, Shelton became a well-loved icon of the period, a promoter of wartime comradeship and tenacity.

She was born Patricia Sibley in Dulwich, south London, in 1923. When only 12 she sang 'Let the Curtain Come Down' on the BBC radio evening show Monday Night at Eight. The dance-band leader Albert Ambrose heard her performance, and persuaded her to sing with his prestigious and popular 'Ambrose Orchestra'. Instead of becoming a child evacuee with her friends, Shelton was given a regular spot (still in her school uniform) in Ambrose's radio shows. She continued to work for Ambrose during the war, but also enjoyed considerable success in her own right, and with other major bands. On the occasions that Glenn Miller visited Britain she regularly appeared with his band.

Introducing Anne, her own radio show, became highly popular amongst troops. The programme was primarily devised for soldiers serving in the North African desert and ran for over four years. She also presented, with Ronald Shiner, Calling Malta, a show that was a lifeline to troops serving on the island, particularly during the 1942 air bombardment and siege. As with many of her other shows and material, Calling Malta, served as a perfect platform for a style of music that captured the pathos and tone at the time. She had a strong melodious voice which had a dynamic presence. The sentiments and subject-matter of her songs became a 'bonding' medium which carried with it its own special nostalgia.

This 'nostalgic' quality carried over into her recordings. She had adopted 'Lili Marlene' as a signature piece (previously only heard on the radio). An English lyric was added by Tommy Connor and her recording, released in 1944, became an immediate success. She was constantly in demand by this time and appeared in a crop of films which were mainly a fixture of musicals and comedy: King Arthur was a Gentleman (starring the comedian Arthur Askey), Miss London Ltd (1943) and Bees in Paradise (1943).

Immediately after the war, Shelton capitalised on her success as a wartime radio personality, touring Britain extensively. She made numerous guest appearances, including singing alongside Bing Crosby. My parents, who performed in variety, toured with Shelton on many occasions. These included appearances at the London Palladium and with the Royal Commission (which had previously been ENSA). My mother danced with Anne Shelton's show and remembers her appearance for the army of occupation at the Garrison Theatre, Hamburg. Shelton's show-stopping number was a little-known song, 'My Tenement Symphony', which never failed to evoke audience reaction, usually with the entire front stalls of soldiers cheering and stamping.

In 1949 she recorded an updated version of 'Lili Marlene' with 'The Wedding of Lili Marlene' and subsequently became the first British artist to cover the entire United States, coast to coast with a tour that lasted a year. Shelton had a degree of early success as a recording artist in America, which was unique for a British artist, recording versions of 'Galway Bay' and 'Be Mine'. Back in Britain in the early Fifties she continued to court the sentimental and nostalgic with 'My Yiddisha Momma', 'I Remember the Cornfields', 'Arriverderci Darling' and 'Seven Days'. However, in the later Fifties, finding the right material became increasingly difficult for her. It was still the military association which worked best and a Swedish song with English lyrics by Paddy Roberts topped the British charts in 1959 - 'Lay Down Your Arms'. Her last British success was a cover version of Petula Clark's hit 'Sailor' in 1961 (again - an armed forces connection). She sang 'You'll Never Know' for the Queen Mother (reputedly her favourite song) on her 80th birthday. In the same year 1980, Shelton performed 'I'll Be Seeing You' in Yanks, John Schlesinger's film about GIs in wartime Britain.

Anne Shelton toured extensively, appearing in cabaret, television and world-wide variety. She devoted an increasing amount of her time to charity work and reunion projects for the British Legion and the British Services organisations. In 1990 she was appointed OBE for services to the Not Forgotten Association, a charity which provides care and support for disabled ex-service personnel. Her husband Lieutenant- Commander David Reid died in the same year.

Last November Anne Shelton was invited to record a commemorative album for EMI, Wartime Memories, which was released in April. This was recorded with Dennis Lotis and the Royal Airforce Squadronaires - the band which emerged from Albert Ambrose's Orchestra in 1939, her first backing.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?