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The Barley Hole Chronicles: From Hell to Hamburg by [Smith, Harry Leslie]
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The Barley Hole Chronicles: From Hell to Hamburg Kindle Edition

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Length: 421 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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 Inside Flap

Confined to camp on New Year's Eve, we sang Auld Lang Syne at the chime of midnight and toasted the year to come. During the first days and then weeks of January, we waited in disjointed apprehension to deploy to Europe. After a while, we thought our captain had played a cruel prank on us. He promised us in December a mission in Europe and a greater role in this war, and it now seemed as fanciful as Meade's desert premonitions. We waited and asked our sergeants, "You'll know when you know," was the answer. 

We waited and Warsaw fell to the Russians. We waited impatiently and the death marches began for the near-lifeless prisoners of the concentration camps. We waited while the Germanic retreat of volks deutch began, from the Eastern, Hanseatic fortresses of Lithuania, Latvia, and Pomerania. Over two million Aryan refugees limped across the snow or sailed in over-laden ships across the icy Baltic. While underneath the slushy sea, Russian submarines hungrily trawled the waters in vengeful wait. The Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz and we waited. For parts of Holland still under German occupation, "The Hunger Winter" was now in its fifth month and the citizens were reduced to consuming tulip bulbs and boiling shoe leather for nutrients. We waited anxious, ignorant, and callow for Europe.

Product Details

  • File Size: 999 KB
  • Print Length: 421 pages
  • Publisher: Barley Hole LLC; 1st edition edition (November 21, 2013)
  • Publication Date: November 21, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006382B3C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,760,874 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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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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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Format: Paperback
This is one of the most poignant memoirs I've ever read. Harry Smith's life is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit to survive, endure, and thrive against all manner of tragedies and obstacles.

Born in 1923 into a disintegrating family in Yorkshire, Harry endured a life of hard, painful, searing poverty. He joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1941 to escape the dreariness and hopelessness he had known up to that time. He learned to be a wireless operator and spent most of the war in the UK. It wasn't until early 1945, as the War in Europe was winding down, that his unit was sent, first, to Belgium, then Holland, and finally, Hamburg (Germany), where he experienced VE-Day (May 8th, 1945). Subsequently, Harry stayed on in the RAF in the early postwar years as part of the British occupation forces. Hamburg was where Harry found love and happiness, as well as many challenges that tested his relationship with a young German woman, whom he later married.

This is a remarkable story, told by a man who struggled and won, despite the odds, against adversity.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Smith writes a true love story during wartime in Hamburg 1947. The time span is during the Great Depression and ends in Germany post war. The love story involves the author and his wife, Friede.

Smith was in Hamburg when Germany surrendered. He was a lonely teenager who had volunteered to join the RAF (Royal Air Force) in December of 1940 -1947. He extended his term(s) with the RAF without a second thought. There was nothing for Smith back in England, being he was uneducated and had no vocation. It made sense to stay put.

Smith fell in love with Friede, A German girl. This was taboo, a Brit was not supposed to have true feelings for a German. Smith describes the challenges of their courtship. Friede had deep rooted family problems; she was illegitimate and was ashamed and confused.

During their relationship, Smith kept Friede and her family alive stealing food from his base. Rations were never enough to survive. Being post war, there was nothing but poverty and hunger.

Smith writes in detail about post-war survival with Friede and her family. However, it does end with wedding bells; a precedent for post-war marriages between Brits and Germans.

The Barley Hole Chronicles summarizes both of Smith's memoirs; 1923 and Hamburg 1947. (1923 is a separate review.)

I recommend The Barley Hole Chronicles to history buffs as well as readers learning about war. A first-hand account is priceless.
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