Thousands send support to RAF veteran, Harry Leslie Smith

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All of us at Advance were saddened to hear the news that veteran and advocate of refugees, Harry Leslie Smith, was admitted to hospital last night (20 November) GMT.

Harry was taken to A and E following a fall, caused by low blood pressure. However, after being admitted, his condition has taken a turn for the worse, with the possibility of pneumonia or a bladder infection.

Since his son John has taken to Twitter with the news, an outpouring of support from his followers has commenced, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leading the warm wishes. As one of the oldest people to use the social media platform at 95-years-old, he has gained a large following (239,000 at time of writing).

Born in Yorkshire and growing up in the times before the National Health Service (NHS), Harry has been a staunch supporter of the NHS, speaking openly about his older sister Marion, who died of tuberculosis and was buried in a pauper’s pit. Harry himself was a child labourer at just seven-years-old, and experienced extreme malnutrition.

After serving in the RAF during World War Two, he and his wife, Friede, emigrated to Canada. Witnessing the refugee crisis firsthand after the Second World War, and managing to emigrate so successfully himself, ignited a passion to advocate for others to be able to do the same.

In more recent years, Harry turned to writing, with his fifth book being published in 2017. He has also been outspoken on the current political climate: speaking at the 2014 Labour Party conference; visiting refugee camps across the world, to bring publicity to the current refugee crisis; and, of course, his cutting-yet-witty commentary on current affairs on social media.

No topic is safe from his direct honesty and kind nature.

He also hosts his own podcast, discussing topics ranging from austerity, the war, the NHS, today’s young people and Grenfell.

Advance had the pleasure of interviewing Harry for the last issue, where he spoke about his journey. Everyone at Advance wishes Harry a speedy recovery, so he can get back to the important work he continues to do every day.

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