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An Obituary: Harry Leslie Smith

Writer, Political Commentator and Activist, Harry was all of these. A man who has taught us much about how and where we are going wrong in the world today. His books have touched thousands across the world, all with a message of a better world. A man who fought for Britain in WWII has been a keen defender of the NHS and one of the biggest critics of the Tories damaging Austerity policies. He is a hero to many and his sad passing has led to public condolences to all parts of the political world, even though most never met him.

Harry Leslie Smith was born on the 25 February 1923 in Barnsley Yorkshire into a life of cruel poverty. Born in the age before the welfare state and NHS were founded properly, he saw the effects of mass poverty growing up. His dad Albert Smith, was a coal miner before becoming unemployed and the whole family had to move to Bradford because of this. His sister died from Tuberculosis when she was seven, with her parents after years of looking after her having to take her to workhouse infirmary where she sadly passed away. This would prove to have a profound impact on Harry’s life. Smith joined the RAF in 1941 halfway through the Second World War and went on to spend time in Hamburg in Germany as part of the Allied Occupation teams toward the end and after the war in 1945. The latter of these roles meant that he witnessed the mass migration that happened across Europe after the fall of Nazism. He said that he saw parallels between that and the mass immigration of Middle Eastern migrants that Europe saw in 2015. While in Germany he met his wife Friede, and they emigrated to Canada together in 1950. He made a living in the Oriental rug trade, and whilst over there had three sons. He, unfortunately, lost his wife and middle son in 1999 and 2009 respectively and this led to him turning to write books and other texts which had led him to be an inspiration for thousands around the world. He wrote memoirs and books based on social history, diving his time between Canada and back home in Yorkshire. He has written about life in the Great Depression, Second World War and post-war austerity.

“I am one of the last few remaining voices left from a generation of men and women who built a better society for our children and grandchildren out of the horrors of the second world war, as well as the hunger of the Great Depression. Sadly, that world my generation helped build on a foundation of decency and fair play is being swept away by neoliberalism and the greed of the 1%, which has brought discord around the globe. Today, the western world stands at its most dangerous juncture since the 1930s.” — Harry Leslie Smith.

Smith has expressed his views through his works, online feed’s and through interviews and speeches. He ran a Twitter feed talking about a range of current affairs that was called ‘HarrysLastStand’. He said that it was the 2008 financial crash that got him involved in politics to take his last stand, writing about the destruction of the welfare state, growing poverty and the plight of young people politically in Britain. He had attracted attention in 2013 by saying that he would no longer where the Red Poppy as he said that it was being used to support modern-day conflicts. He addressed the 2014 Labour Party Conference when Ed Miliband was the leader, giving a touching speech about the NHS to a hall of hundreds. He talked about the hardship and effect of Britain without the safety of the welfare state and the NHS. The following year in 2015 he endorsed Jeremy Corbyn to be the leader of the Labour Party, he said that he wanted his children to have a life “free of austerity”, then in 2016, he endorsed him to be the Labour leader when he faced a rebellion from certain MP’s. In 2015 he appeared in a programme on BBC Three called ‘Don’t Let my Past be Your Future’ in which he sharply criticised far-right anti-immigration movements like Britain First. He was a strong supporter of migrants during the 2015 European Migrant Crisis and visited the Calais Jungle in 2016.

His many books include Harry’s Last Stand (2014), Love Among Ruins (2015) and Don’t Let my Past be your Future (2017), all of which reflect his views on a range of issues. He has also written for the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Daily Mirror and the Morning Star. In 2017 he appeared on the Sky One Show the ‘Russel Howard Hour’ in which he talked about his trip to the Calais Jungle, his new book and the increasing dependence on food bank’s in Britain due to cruel austerity measures. On top of this Smith and Howard talked about the value of the NHS and the effect of cruel post-war Tory austerity since 2010.

Harry Leslie Smith was admitted to Belleville General Hospital on the 20 October 2018 after unfortunately contracted pneumonia. His progress was kept updated on Twitter, this led to an outpour of support from people around the world. He died peacefully surrounded by his family on the morning of the 28th August 2018. Although he has now past, he is never gone. His experiences are vital for our survival today. The rise of the far-right is dangerous and mirrors the rise seen in Europe in the 1930s. We need to carry on his message of love and compassion. This great man’s legacy will go on forever. His key message was“I don’t want my past to become Britain’s future”, and we all can take something from that.

RIP Harry, you will always be in our hearts.

Article written by The Left Bible columnist by Ted James (@TedJames123). Do you have something to submit? Send us an email:

One thought on “An Obituary: Harry Leslie Smith

  1. Thank you @TedJames123. A thoughtful, nuanced piece on a man who has inspired people around the world.
    Harry has reminded us that we should be more caring toward our fellow human beings; to believe that there is a better way to look after people who need support – wherever they may have originated.
    Harry will not be forgotten.

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