It is with great sadness, that on the 28th of November, world war two veteran, NHS and migrant rights campaigner Harry Leslie Smith passed away.
This post is a tribute, to a figure who inspired millions, including me and sought to fight for those with the least hope and power.
If you haven’t heard of Harry, he was known as the ‘world’s oldest rebel’ but his work to help others began well before he was an old man. During the only undeniably just war of modern times, Harry answered the call to fight fascism and fought for our freedom in world war 2, with the RAF.
The devastation and destruction of the war and indeed the preceding decades of the great depression, informed Harry’s character and kept him fighting for the benefit of others, right up to his dying day. These years were such a powerful influence on Harry that his activism in promoting universal healthcare, continued during the remaining 70 years of his life. As Harry explains deftly in this speech, the powerful lessons of his life, should be remembered by all…
It was after seeing this speech and being brought to tears, that I understood for the first time the value of universal healthcare. This is what Harry could do so powerfully – use his incredible life experience as a lesson for future generations.
He was equally as powerful an activist when discussing migration and this is where Harry has had a profound influence on my own thoughts and ideas about travel, migration and international fluidity.
In the wake of Harry’s death, his son John will now pick up the baton from where his father left off. John is set to skip Christmas and head to Mexico, to meet the migrant caravan and help those who are now so close to the USA border.
I am so very grateful to Harry for all that he has done, in showing the world how to live with compassion. His lessons will reverberate through me for the rest of my life. I wish his son John well, as he takes up the mantle and continues his fathers great work and I thank him for doing so.
I hope that through Harry’s teachings, that I too can help bring about a more positive environment for migrants the world over. To help people to see that borders are meaningless lines on a map and that regardless of where you come from, you can find a friend in us.
Thank you Harry. Rest now, you great man.
Harry Leslie Smith – WW2 Veteran, Author, Activist, Rebel, Husband & Father – 1923-2018.