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Twenty-two years old and ready for peace, Harry Leslie Smith has survived the Great Depression and endured the Second World War. Now, in 1945 in Hamburg, Germany, he must come to terms with a nation physically and emotionally devastated. In this memoir, he narrates a story of people searching to belong and survive in a world that was almost destroyed. Hamburg 1947 recounts Smith's youthful RAF days as part of the occupational forces in post-war Germany. A wireless operator during the war, he doesn't want to return to Britain and join a queue of unemployed former servicemen; he reenlists for long term duty in occupied Germany. From his billet in Hamburg, a city razed to the ground by remorseless aerial bombardment, he witnesses a people and era on the brink of annihilation. This narrative presents a street-level view of a city reduced to rubble populated with refugees, black marketers, and cynical soldiers. At times grim and other times amusing, Smith writes a memoir relaying the social history about this time and place, providing a unique look at post-WWII Germany. Hamburg 1947 is both a love story for a city and a passionate retailing of a love affair with a young German woman.
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It wasn't meant to happen but I fell in love with the german girl. It was astonishing and something I didn't expect to occur, considering our countries had been at war for five years. They were our mortal enemies and my knowledge of Germany was based upon propaganda posters and dirty pub songs about the Fuehrer's testicles. I only knew Germany through news reels which showed an endless sea of jackboots flood across Europe. The picture magazines taught me that Germans were tall, blonde and athletic, with a penchant for gymnastics and torch light parades. My RAF instructors reinforced the prejudice that Germans were lacking in humour or kindness. "Woe to any poor bastard shot down over Germany, they'll skin the bugger alive, the Nazi scum." By the time I had reached Belgium and Holland what I had already learned about Germans seemed about right. After I saw my first starving Dutch child, I knew Germans were evil and sinister.
It wasn't until I crossed over into northern Germany and and saw the enormity of destruction the air war had inflicted on their population; I accepted that no one escaped sorrow and hardship in this war. My hostility towards the german people began to dissipate after seeing that their cities had been bombed back to the middle ages. A month into our occupation of Hamburg, I had seen enough emaciated german children living in helpless conditions to haunt me for the rest of my life. So, I dispensed with our orders to treat all Germans as hostile and suspect. It didn't take me long to understand that Friede was both my Beatrice and my Virgil. She was the one who was to lead me through Germany's post war inferno and to a greater understanding of Germany and its people.
Harry Leslie Smith was born in 1923 in Barnsley, Yorkshire. After a stormy and chaotic youth; he joined the RAF in 1941. At the end of the Second World War, Smith ended up in occupied Hamburg, Germany. He remained with RAF occupational forces until 1947, whereupon, he decamped back to Yorkshire. In the 1950's, Harry Leslie Smith emigrated to Canada.
Since his time in the Second World War, Harry Leslie Smith has been an avid reader and writer; who at 88 has found a keen interest in social media and connecting the stories of his past with contemporary audiences.
Currently, he divides his time between Canada, Great Britain, and Portugal.
Harry is the author of 1923: A Memoir, Hamburg 1947: A Place for the Heart to Kip. His third book The Empress of Australia is due to be published in 2012
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Book Description iUniverse, Inc., Bloomington, IN, U.S.A., 2011. Soft Cover. Condition: VG. 198pp., signed by the author on the title page. Small curl at corners and light creasing from page handling. Wraps have light edge/rub wear and light creasing. Actual book for sale pictured. 15.2 x 22.8 x 1.2cm, wt500g Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Signed by Author. Seller Inventory # 021259