Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Harry Leslie Smith: War veteran has died

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Media captionHarry Leslie Smith: "I am the world's oldest rebel"

A World War Two veteran who grew up in poverty and described himself as the "world's oldest rebel" has died.

The son of RAF veteran and author Harry Leslie Smith tweeted to say his father had died while visiting him in Canada.

The 95-year-old Barnsley-born campaigner and left-wing activist suffered suspected pneumonia while with his son John in Ontario.

John said: "At 3.39 this morning, my dad Harry Leslie Smith died. I am an orphan."

Mr Smith divided his time between Yorkshire and Canada and spent time meeting with refugees from around the world and advocating on their behalf.

He rose to prominence after giving an impassioned speech about his life and the NHS at the Labour Party conference in 2014.

After a speech which moved some delegates to tears, he was greeted with a standing ovation and widely praised on social media after warning the UK must "be vigilant" about the NHS.

The son of a miner, Mr Smith lived through the Great Depression and joined the RAF in 1941, serving in World War Two.

After retiring, he became a prominent campaigner against austerity measures with his own podcast and Twitter account with more than 230,000 followers.

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Media captionHarry Smith moved Labour delegates to their feet with his impassioned speech about the NHS in 2014

Mr Smith developed pneumonia after a fall during the visit to his son.

He was taken to hospital for treatment last week, with John tweeting updates on his father's condition, prompting many messages of support.

After his father died, John tweeted: "It is 4.36 in the morning and I am wrapped in the blanket that covered him as he lay dying. And I know exactly what my steps are. I will follow in his footsteps. I will endeavour to finish his projects."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described Mr Smith as "one of the giants whose shoulders we stand on".

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Image caption Mr Smith had been one of the last remaining survivors of World War Two and the author of several books

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said "the world is a far better place for his life".

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband tweeted: "Very sad to hear of the death of Harry Leslie Smith.

Image copyright Harry Leslie Smith family
Image caption Mr Smith, pictured in his RAF uniform, served during World War Two

Mr Smith's publisher, Icon Books, said the "world was poorer without him".

Image copyright Harry Leslie Smith family
Image caption Harry Leslie Smith wrote several books including 'Don't let my past be your future'

Singer and song writer Billy Bragg called Mr Smith "an inspiration".

In recent years Mr Smith visited Halifax, including the town's Borough Market where he was doing his shift at Grosvenor's stall in the arcade when Britain entered World War Two in September 1939.

Leader of Calderdale Council Tim Swift said he would be looking into the possibility of putting up a blue plaque to Mr Smith.

He said: "Harry was a remarkable man who campaigned for his beliefs with astonishing energy in the later years of his life."

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