Happiful celebrates Harry Leslie Smith, veteran of the Second World War, austerity critic and advocate for refugees
Passionate refugee advocate Harry Leslie Smith died at 3:39 a.m. Wednesday, aged 95, his son John, who took over Harry’s popular Twitter account, said. Harry died in Canada after being hospitalised after a fall last week.
The veteran, who survived the Great Depression, saw the refugee crisis at the end of the war.
“There was a stream of hundreds of thousands of refugees coming south. I can still see them. Absolutely pitiful, hungry, starving. When it was possible we would stop and give them whatever excess food supplies we had on our trucks and reassure them that now they were safe. I think for the first time I saw a gleam of hope in their faces,” Harry said in a video for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
Harry came into the public eye in 2014 after he gave a speech at the UK Labour Party’s convention and with his podcast, Harry’s Last Stand.
Harry wrote several books about Britain during the depression, the war and postwar austerity. In his book Harry’s Last Stand, he was a vocal critic of austerity measures, giving his perspective on NHS cutbacks, food poverty, the cost of education, political corruption, among other topics. Harry didn’t start writing until later in his life, but his titles also include Love Among the Ruins, and Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future.
Harry also regularly wrote for the Guardian, and his video on the refugee crisis has been viewed over 2 million times.
Writers, authors, MPs, newspaper editors and many more took to Twitter to express their condolences to Harry, using #IStandWithHarry and causing his name to trend. Jeremy Corbyn Tweeted his condolences, calling Harry “one of the giants whose shoulders we stand on.”
Ed Miliband said he was very sad to hear of Harry’s death, calling him “one of a kind who never wavered in his fight for equality and justice.”
English actress Amanda Abbington called Harry “an incredible and inspiring and beautiful man” as well as a “true hero, gentleman and warrior.”
Icon Books, which published two of his books, said they are heartbroken and that the world is “far poorer” without Harry.
Food personality and political writer Jack Monroe said Harry had the “heart of a lion” and that he “fought tirelessly against austerity.”
Journalist Shehab Khan said Harry’s famous words “your future will be my past” have never had more meaning.
All of us at Happiful echo the celebrations of Harry Leslie Smith’s life. Our thoughts are with his son John and all of Harry’s friends, family and fans.
Photo by Dylan Reibling, courtesy Icon Books.