Everyone at Advance is saddened to hear the news that World War Two veteran, Harry Leslie Smith, has passed away at 95-years-old.
Since his son announced the news on Harry’s Twitter account this morning (28 November), an outpouring of tributes and condolences have come from fans and supporters, including Jeremy Corbyn.
We will all miss Harry Leslie Smith – he was one of the giants whose shoulders we stand on.
A World War Two veteran who dedicated his life to fighting for our National Health Service, a peaceful world and for countries to meet their moral responsibility by welcoming refugees. pic.twitter.com/1RW63dSa6Y
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 28, 2018
Harry was first admitted to hospital last week (20 November), after experiencing a fall and low blood pressure.
In his 95 years, Harry had had a colourful life. Born in Barnsley in 1923, he worked as a child labourer at only seven-years-old, and experienced extreme malnutrition. His sister Marion died of tuberculosis and was buried in a pauper’s pit – as was his father.
As a result, Harry was a firm advocate of the NHS, having lived through a time before healthcare was universal, and experiencing the consequences of this on the working class first hand.
RIP @Harryslaststand, a wonderful, inspiring fighter for social justice and for peace. His legacy is to inspire thousands of people to fight for a world free of injustice and war. Last night we stood and cheered him. pic.twitter.com/HnKuuiLmaO
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) November 28, 2018
SECOND WORLD WAR
Following his childhood, Harry enrolled in the Royal Air Force (RAF) at 18, and served in the Second World War as a wireless operator, ending up in occupied Germany after the war.
It was there that he met his wife Friede. The couple moved back to England following his departure from the RAF, before emigrating to Canada.
Having seen the huge number of displaced people after the war, and being an immigrant himself, he turned to advocating for those who had not had the same fortunate experience of the immigration process as himself.
He selflessly spent the final years of his life visiting refugee camps around the world, highlighting the conditions they live in, and raising awareness of their struggles.
His unwavering belief in helping refugees undoubtedly helped the people he visited, and his passion for the cause instilled his views into his loyal Twitter followers.
Harry said to me some time ago, "If you saw thousands of refugees wearily dragging their feet along the dusty roads of war, in your youth & now in your old age you see the same thing happening again to innocent people and do not raise your voice against it you've got no humanity"
— John Smith (son of Harry Leslie Smith) (@Harryslaststand) November 26, 2018
A result of his outspoken nature, and ability to take down the ignorant with his sharp tongue, Harry has been called the “world’s oldest rebel”. As one of Twitter’s oldest users, he amassed a following of over 250,000 users, who cheered him on in his ventures, and supported him until the very end.
Harry’s fight to bring justice and safety to some of the world’s most vulnerable people highlights the best of humanity, and his activism and positive nature will be sorely missed. He has inspired a new generation of activists – young and old – to carry on his fight to spread kindness, tolerance, and empathy.
In honour of Harry, may we all denounce hatred, bigotry, oppression and injustice when we see it.
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