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The Barley Hole Chronicles: From Hell to Hamburg [Kindle Edition]

Harry Leslie Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $3.99

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Book Description

Barley Hole was for my great grandfather Canaan, the land of milk and honey. For my father, it was paradise lost and for my mother, Barley Hole was a curse. It was a place that haunted her spirit and her soul throughout her life. To me, Barley Hole is a name forever etched on the map of my family's heart; it is where betrayal and injustice nearly thrust us into oblivion.
The Barley Hole Chronicles are an odyssey of the human spirit that stretch across time and geography to incorporate, diverse personalities, personal hardships, World Wars and the struggle for peace and love, in a society fallen from grace. These Chronicles document one Yorkshire family's decent into the wilderness of poverty and hunger. It is a personal record of one young man's struggle to survive the great depression, the Second World War and the hazards and wonders of life in post war Germany. The Barley Hole Chronicles are a summation of two memoirs by Harry Leslie Smith 1923 and Hamburg 1947. The Barley Hole Chronicles are a true account of a time and place when life, full of raw emotion, was never so real. It is also a social history of the 20th century at its bloodiest and deadliest time.

Editorial Reviews


"For me, perhaps, the most astonishing thing was to read about a post-war that I had never been taught about and never evenimagined. "

From the Back Cover

I don't know why but the winter rains stopped and spring came early in 1945. When Hitler committed suicide at the end of April, the flowers and trees were in full bloom and the summer birds returned to their nesting grounds. Not long after the great dictator's corpse was incinerated in a bomb crater by his few remaining acolytes, the war in Europe ended. After so much death, ruin and misery; it was remarkable to me how nature resiliently budded back to life in barns, in fields and across battlegrounds, now calm and silent. The earth said to her children; it is time to abandon your swords and harness your ploughs; the ground is ripe and this is the season to tend to the living. 

I was twenty-two and ready for peace. I had spent four years in the R.A.F as a wireless operator. During the war, I was lucky; I never came close to death. While the world bled from London to Leningrad; I walked away without a scratch. Make no mistake, I did my part in this war; I played my role and I never shirked the paymaster's orders. For four years, I trained, I marched, and I saluted across the British Isles. During the final months of the conflict, I ended up in Belgium and Holland with B.A.F.U. My unit was responsible for maintaining abandoned Nazi air fields, for allied aircraft. 

When Germany surrendered, to the allies in gutted Berlin, I was in Fuhlsbuttel, a northern suburb of Hamburg. Our squadron took up a comfortable residence in its undamaged aerodrome located not far from the main thoroughfare. At the time, I didn't think much about Fuhlsbuttel, I felt it was between nothing and nowhere. It was much like every other town our unit drove through during the dying days of the war. Nothing was out of place and it was, quiet, clean and as silent as a Sunday afternoon. 

While I slept in my new bed, in this drowsy neighbourhood; the twentieth century's greatest and bloodiest conflict came to an end at midnight on May seventh. On the morning of the eighth, our R.A.F commander hastily arranged a victory party, for that afternoon. The festivities were held in a school gymnasium close to the airport. 

No one considered or asked on that day of victory "what happens next." That was tomorrow's problem. I certainly didn't question my destiny on that spring afternoon. Instead like the Romans, I followed the edict carpe diem: I ate too much, I smoked too much and I drank too much. And, why not I reasoned, the war was over and I had survived whereas many others had been extinguished as quickly as it takes to blow out a flame on a candle.

Product Details

  • File Size: 999 KB
  • Print Length: 421 pages
  • Publisher: Barley Hole LLC; 1st edition edition (November 21, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006382B3C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #651,499 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book to Remember November 27, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
When I ordered this book, I was expecting an interesting read, but I wasn't expecting to be totally enthralled with an autobiography.

The first half of the book, 1923: Lies and Testaments, covers only the period from Harry's birth to the end of WWII, but you know the saying, "You had me at hello?" Well, Harry had me with the Author's Introduction. Just that Introduction was worth the cost of the book!

As I read his words that covered his childhood during the Great Depression in England, I could see, hear, and smell a time and place that I had never known. I could feel the pain and strength in a young boy that I had also never known. But, I cared for him; I would have cried for him, but I had read the Introduction and saw the strength and the amazing grasp on life that young boy grew up to have.

I've also read many books about WWII, but never one that took me realistically into the mind and body of a young soldier who thought and acted exactly the way young men do regardless of wars or poverty or other horrors. The book, though an autobiography, reads like a novel, depicts reality with the realism that only novelist generally capture, and captures the reader's heart with the point-of-view of the protagonist, a very real young boy and man.

In the last half of the book, Hamburg 1947: A Place for the Heart to Kip, I found myself reading a love story. He tells his story of meeting and falling in love with Friede, a young German girl, with a realistic poignancy that I have seldom found in the written word. Reading his words about about the young girl who would become his wife and share half a century with him, I remembered for the first time in decades what young love was like.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey through life. March 1, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Where do I start? This is a modern day look at jolly old England and how jolly it wasn't. The main character Harry Smith is born into what appears to be a life of prosperity and good living until his father falls ill and verbally informs his fathers brother that he will become the temporary heir to his pub and not Harry's father Albert. This decision will have dire consequences for the entire Smith clan as the uncle (Larratt) has other plans.

Due to Albert's marriage (with a women none of the Smith clan trusted) Larrratt would never honor the original agreement for Albert's sons to run the publican. The road Harry's parents would travel is right out of a "Tale of Two Cities," or "Oliver Twist."

Mr. Smith gives an excellent account of how depressing the cities of Barley Hole and the surrounding communities were: depressed and lifeless. For those who had not education, formal or otherwise, their future had already been cast and it isn't for the faint hearted. Harry and his sister are constantly scrounging for food to survive. His parents attempt to make due, but it is never enough and the family bounces across the coal mine towns of Northern England in a plight of subsistence.

Mr. Smith shows how devastating the depression impacted the working class of England. We thought it was bad in the US and Germany. We have no idea!

The years slide by until September 1,1939 when again the world is thrown into another major conflict. Harry has a decent position with a local grocer, but feels it is his duty to server crown and king. The shop keeper promises he will have a job when the Jerry's are defeated. So, Harry signs up and joins the RAF. (Royal Air Force). He enjoys the steady pay and the less then back-breaking work he has become accustomed to over the years.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Story January 14, 2012
By Erin
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I don't know much about how to write a review, but I just have to say how much I enjoyed this book. Right from the start I was drawn into this world that is foreign to someone who never lived during this time. While reading I felt I could actually see the characters, smell and feel and actually be there with them. I couldn't stop reading and immediately purchased the next book in the series Hamburg 1947 when finished. So, sorry, off to continue on this amazing journey. Read this book is all I can say!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Frank
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I actually found this very moving. It was connected and rounded off by the later book "Harry's Last Stand" which describes how he came to write his autobiography after the death of his wife and son and the subsequent crisis that led him to reflect back on those earlier years. "Post-traumatic stress disorder" was the term that was used. He comes across as a very decent man in the best sense of the word with a decency that was formed in very harsh life circumstances.
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More About the Author

Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and, at 90, an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. His Guardian articles have been shared over 60,000 times on Facebook and have attracted huge comment and debate. He has authored numerous books about Britain during the Great Depression, the second world war and postwar austerity. He lives outside Toronto, Canada and in Yorkshire.

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