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The Empress of Australia: A Post-War Memoir

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In the winter of 1948, a post-war darkness felled Britain and happiness, like sweets, was tightly rationed. So begins Harry Leslie Smith’s bitter-sweet memoir: The Empress of Australia which depicts life in post-war Yorkshire. Recently demobbed from the RAF, Smith and his German war bride must try to adjust to a civilian society that is scarred from not only the war but th In the winter of 1948, a post-war darkness felled Britain and happiness, like sweets, was tightly rationed. So begins Harry Leslie Smith’s bitter-sweet memoir: The Empress of Australia which depicts life in post-war Yorkshire. Recently demobbed from the RAF, Smith and his German war bride must try to adjust to a civilian society that is scarred from not only the war but the harsh reality of living in peacetime Britain. At first, Harry Leslie Smith finds himself ill equipped for this brave new world where Britain has lost its empire and is bankrupt. Yet, like so many other returning veterans from the Second World War, Smith stumbled onwards through the era known as the “Age of Austerity” to confront the horrors of his childhood and the innate injustice of a society divided by class. Harry Leslie Smith sketches a real, sometimes amusing and sometimes melancholic portrait of Britain in the late 1940s. In his book, Smith speaks for all generations who have faced untold hardships in their quest for dignity and purpose during times of financial, political and familial upheaval. The Empress of Australia is a personal history of one man’s journey towards self discovery and freedom from row house Britain. Sometimes, after the war, peace is the hardest battle to survive.


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In the winter of 1948, a post-war darkness felled Britain and happiness, like sweets, was tightly rationed. So begins Harry Leslie Smith’s bitter-sweet memoir: The Empress of Australia which depicts life in post-war Yorkshire. Recently demobbed from the RAF, Smith and his German war bride must try to adjust to a civilian society that is scarred from not only the war but th In the winter of 1948, a post-war darkness felled Britain and happiness, like sweets, was tightly rationed. So begins Harry Leslie Smith’s bitter-sweet memoir: The Empress of Australia which depicts life in post-war Yorkshire. Recently demobbed from the RAF, Smith and his German war bride must try to adjust to a civilian society that is scarred from not only the war but the harsh reality of living in peacetime Britain. At first, Harry Leslie Smith finds himself ill equipped for this brave new world where Britain has lost its empire and is bankrupt. Yet, like so many other returning veterans from the Second World War, Smith stumbled onwards through the era known as the “Age of Austerity” to confront the horrors of his childhood and the innate injustice of a society divided by class. Harry Leslie Smith sketches a real, sometimes amusing and sometimes melancholic portrait of Britain in the late 1940s. In his book, Smith speaks for all generations who have faced untold hardships in their quest for dignity and purpose during times of financial, political and familial upheaval. The Empress of Australia is a personal history of one man’s journey towards self discovery and freedom from row house Britain. Sometimes, after the war, peace is the hardest battle to survive.

30 review for The Empress of Australia: A Post-War Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Frey

    This is the third in a series of memoirs. The books weave together Harry's personal experience with history as we know it today. He was born in 1923 in England and lived in complete poverty growing up. His family situation was incredibly difficult his whole childhood. He joined the Royal Air Force during World War II and was stationed in Hamburg, Germany after the war. It was fascinating to see how people lived in Germany after the war--this was something I had absolutely never thought of. He als This is the third in a series of memoirs. The books weave together Harry's personal experience with history as we know it today. He was born in 1923 in England and lived in complete poverty growing up. His family situation was incredibly difficult his whole childhood. He joined the Royal Air Force during World War II and was stationed in Hamburg, Germany after the war. It was fascinating to see how people lived in Germany after the war--this was something I had absolutely never thought of. He also did a wonderful job of bringing the difficulties of the lower classes in England to light, and bringing us into the mindset of these people and to really understand their struggles and challenges. Harry had so many hardships in his life, but managed to keep hopeful that life would get better. Harry is just a likable guy. I found myself rooting for him at every turn. He met and fell in love with a German woman in Hamburg and had many ups and downs in their relationship, from courtship, to marriage, to moving back to Halifax, England, and finally emigrating to Canada (that's where the story ends...for now. The author is working on the next volume!) I couldn't put my kindle down while I was reading these three books! It's funny, because I'm a huge fan of Downton Abbey, and I kept thinking about the fact that Downton Abbey is set during the same time period that Harry was born and was growing up. Now yes, I know Downton Abbey is fictional, but it is based on real people--Here some people are living in such incredible luxury, and others are barely surviving. I guess the world today is much the same though. It's just amazing to think about sometimes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Terry Tyler

    I was lucky enough to get this when it was on Amazon for free, but I would have bought it anyway, having read the two other books in the series, 1923: A Memoir and Hamburg 1947. Harry Smith is back from the second world war, and brings his German bride over to live in darkest working class Halifax - a bit of a shock for her! The book documents not only the ups and downs of Harry and Friede's relationship, but also tells much about how people felt after the war, in both Germany and England, about I was lucky enough to get this when it was on Amazon for free, but I would have bought it anyway, having read the two other books in the series, 1923: A Memoir and Hamburg 1947. Harry Smith is back from the second world war, and brings his German bride over to live in darkest working class Halifax - a bit of a shock for her! The book documents not only the ups and downs of Harry and Friede's relationship, but also tells much about how people felt after the war, in both Germany and England, about the increased desire for sociological change, everwhere, and about the dissatisfaction felt by so many people. Just like the other two books in the series this is completely unputdownable - I started reading this the minute I'd finished the last one. It's not only fascinating because of the personal way it relates the history of the time, but it's just so well written, really engaging. I read it when I shouldn't be reading it; I kept sneaking my Kindle out - yes, it's one of those books! I highly recommend all three of these books - well done, Harry Smith!

  3. 4 out of 5

    L

    Beautifully atmospheric, stunning and heart-wrenchingly candid this melancholic portrait, is a nostalgic tale of time past. Poignant and indisputably compelling, this realistic account of life during post-war 1940’s Britain is truly insightful. War-related literature seems to hold sway during the events of World War one or the Second World War, but rarely one is able to glimpse what it was like after this catastrophically consequential moment within history. Peace may have been sought, but livin Beautifully atmospheric, stunning and heart-wrenchingly candid this melancholic portrait, is a nostalgic tale of time past. Poignant and indisputably compelling, this realistic account of life during post-war 1940’s Britain is truly insightful. War-related literature seems to hold sway during the events of World War one or the Second World War, but rarely one is able to glimpse what it was like after this catastrophically consequential moment within history. Peace may have been sought, but living within destructions wake is another matter, as injustice and deprivation ensues. This heartrending, deeply moving tale follows one man’s journey from leaving the battleground into disarray, as social tyranny and dictatorship changed Britain’s functioning. Harry Smith’s bittersweet upshot of WW2 depicts the harsh reality of life within a nation divided by social hierarchy, political disharmony and shaky economy. A personal journey of self-discovery, freedom fighting and a quest for dignity, this memorable memoir is greatly significant and touching… Winter, 1948 is brought vividly to life through detailed description and vision, which only a painter could capture. This is a book which indents your inner core, as you reflect upon the brutality of war and all that is left behind in its path of eternal cataclysmic destruction. However, amid the disarray and dissonance is some humor and dry wit that adds a touch of lightness to the sincerity, as your perception and understanding of events is heightened. Acutely thought-provoking and truth-drawing in essence, this is a must-read for all interested in well-written literature and in-depth character-study. Within Britain’s lost empire and bankruptcy is a man whose inner strength and spirit of heart is so commendable as to fill one with warmth, optimism and fulfillment. This beautiful book is a delight to behold and something distinctly original, which stands-out from other fictional works that focus on WW2 itself rather than the aftereffects. Intensely gripping and fascinating, I was enthralled by this captivating read which was most enjoyable. Laying emphasis on those strong political, social and economic issues at the time as well as observing what life was like for soldiers coming home to a broken (but not beaten) Britain is really interesting; as the pieces fall back into place bit-by-bit, slowly. As a fan of historical fiction and literature specifically surrounding WW2 (in which my Grandparents experienced first-hand; one building airplanes the other at Winston Churchill’s side), this book certainly caught my interest. With its striking, eye-catching cover that can’t fail to attract your attention, this delightful memoir is a real treat to behold. *I won a copy of “The Empress of Australia: A post-war memoir” by Harry Leslie Smith, from a Goodreads giveaway* I would like to take the opportunity of thanking the author for letting me have the chance to read his work.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Dawson

    Jolly old England? If your part of the upper-crust, yes! If not, the future is not bright. Mr. Smith has done it again. In the vein of Dickens, Mr. Smith paints a realistic picture of post war Great Britain. I have studied the topic for over thirty years, but something was missing in the accolades that were lavished on the Allies total victory over the Axis powers. Russia revealed in their new territorial acquisitions. The US flexed its power as a new Super power. But what of England? She too was Jolly old England? If your part of the upper-crust, yes! If not, the future is not bright. Mr. Smith has done it again. In the vein of Dickens, Mr. Smith paints a realistic picture of post war Great Britain. I have studied the topic for over thirty years, but something was missing in the accolades that were lavished on the Allies total victory over the Axis powers. Russia revealed in their new territorial acquisitions. The US flexed its power as a new Super power. But what of England? She too was part of the victory. She stood side-by-side with her brothers in arms, but the spoils were not to be. Instead of riding an economic high, she was stuck in the pre-war depression, at least for the common blue collar worker; nothing had changed. Mr. Smith paints a very detailed look at the lives of the locals. Too say the least, it’s not very pleasant. Nothing has changed for the masses. In fact, it seems worse for all than before the war started. He resigns from the R.A.F in hopes of starting fresh and bringing his German war bride Friede, back to his home country for a new start. In reality, it’s not. Job opportunities are thin and few. Housing options are bleak at best. The euphoria he was riding after spending time in post war Germany is slowly sapped away as he falls into the same guttural positions and economic woes which have blighted his family and countrymen for decades. Very depressing to say the least. Yet, fear not. There is a light at the tunnel. Friede can no longer take the dismal, gloomy, depressing atmosphere of Halifax. She returns to her home town of Hamburg to sort out their sot. Harry feels lost and abandoned. His prospects of drudgery are high. He’s fallen into the same trap he so desperately vowed to avoid. But fear not. All is not lost! If you enjoyed Mr. Smith’s first book, The Barley Hole Chronicles, this is the rest of the story. If you didn’t read the first one, fear not. You will have no problem following this one. Who will enjoy this? The list is long and cumbersome, but in short: students of world history, WWII enthusiasts, Sociologists and more. A well deserved four stars!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    I love this man. I am not exaggerating when I say reading the last page of this book gave me chills. It's a memoir, but written more like a story with actual conversation. At first I was unsure if I liked the style, but it actually lends itself well to the this type of book. I love this man. I am not exaggerating when I say reading the last page of this book gave me chills. It's a memoir, but written more like a story with actual conversation. At first I was unsure if I liked the style, but it actually lends itself well to the this type of book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    When I heard that I had won this book as a Goodreads giveaway, I was eager to start reading it. It is an honest and open account of Harry's life after the end of the war. So many countries struggled to recover after WWII which caused many families to emigrate to Canada, U.S. or Australia. Harry had a tough upbringing, joined the RAF in WWII, and after the war, married a German woman he met in Hamburg. The first few years of their marriage was hard, from trying to make ends meet, looking for work When I heard that I had won this book as a Goodreads giveaway, I was eager to start reading it. It is an honest and open account of Harry's life after the end of the war. So many countries struggled to recover after WWII which caused many families to emigrate to Canada, U.S. or Australia. Harry had a tough upbringing, joined the RAF in WWII, and after the war, married a German woman he met in Hamburg. The first few years of their marriage was hard, from trying to make ends meet, looking for work, and adjusting to a new country. The moment Harry and Friede realized their love for each other so touching and it brought tears to my eyes. They truly worked hard to not only save their marriage but to make a better life for themselves by moving to Canada. Favourites: wittiness - pg 46 - when Friede's landlady was going to return with one of her award winning pork pies, Friede cheekily replied to her husband, "I am sure diners in Paris would weep if they could get their mitts on one of her cold meat dinners rather than in one of those stuffy cafes on the Seine." courage - pg 140 - When the mill owner made a pass at Friede, she lashed out at him, "You are such an insignificant man. I'd slap you, but I don't want to soil my hands by hitting your face." analogy - pg 153 - Our hearts had grown cold in an unattended hearth as if they were like orphaned embers of coal. tenderness - pg 177 - I knew when I saw her disembark from her ship and wrap her arms around me that I would love her until time stopped for me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Judie

    The Empress of Australia, the third installment of Harry Smith's superb social commentary, is as honestly written and brilliantly conceived as the other two books. Harry, thank you for sharing your youth with us - it was such an inspiring journey and I admire your tenacity. It was a pleasure getting to know you. The Empress of Australia, the third installment of Harry Smith's superb social commentary, is as honestly written and brilliantly conceived as the other two books. Harry, thank you for sharing your youth with us - it was such an inspiring journey and I admire your tenacity. It was a pleasure getting to know you.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tina Wright

    I loved the book..I couldn't stop reading once I started. It is third in a series and I have yet to read the 2nd book. I look forward to that one..Harry's honesty and dry wit are refreshing considering what he went through in his life.. I loved the book..I couldn't stop reading once I started. It is third in a series and I have yet to read the 2nd book. I look forward to that one..Harry's honesty and dry wit are refreshing considering what he went through in his life..

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia L'Hirondelle

    Like all of Harry Leslie Smiths books, I could not put it down, very eloquently written and important social history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sonya Heaney

    Genuine question: why is "Australia" in this title? Genuine question: why is "Australia" in this title?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Linda Scott

    Another great book from Harry. I love the warts and all telling of his life story. No sentimentality nor any self pity. Really gives a feel for how hard times were directly after WWII.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Bywater

    It is now 1948 and Harry is beginning a new life out of the RAF and with new wife Friede, they move back to Halifax, and begin their married life back living with Harry’s mother. Britain is left broken after the war; the future is looking dull and dark for the couple, with not many prospects on the horizon in Yorkshire, poverty and hardship is all that await them. Can Harry and Friede who survived a war, now survive the harsh and coldness of a life with nothing on the horizon? This is the third It is now 1948 and Harry is beginning a new life out of the RAF and with new wife Friede, they move back to Halifax, and begin their married life back living with Harry’s mother. Britain is left broken after the war; the future is looking dull and dark for the couple, with not many prospects on the horizon in Yorkshire, poverty and hardship is all that await them. Can Harry and Friede who survived a war, now survive the harsh and coldness of a life with nothing on the horizon? This is the third in the series of the author Harry Leslie Smith’s memoirs, and having read the other two books in the series; I could not wait to read what would happen next in Harry’s life. There is something very special about reading a memoir, something that is so personal, and I would like to say a BIG thank you to Harry for taking the time on letting us all in and sharing his life with us, because for social history these books leave a legacy of learning for not only ourselves but for future generations too. We can learn what life was like and how it was lived. For me personally this is so much more interesting than reading a cold text book about events in general. I personally prefer real life accounts that I can connect with. We should treasure accounts of history that are recorded down by people like Harry and written and recorded so well, the good and the bad that you can imagine being there and experience what it was like at the time, and leaves you wanting to find out what happens next, and I cannot wait to read more of Harry’s books.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    This is a fascinating account of life in the years immediately after WW2. It's a very personal memoir that makes some profound and far reaching comments that are as pertinent today as they were then. This is a fascinating account of life in the years immediately after WW2. It's a very personal memoir that makes some profound and far reaching comments that are as pertinent today as they were then.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Tells of the difficulties of a WWII soldier returning to his home in England with his German war bride. It covers the economic problems of soldiers returning to a bankrupt country and the trouble of his wife adjusting to a country more impoverished than her own.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  16. 5 out of 5

    Theresa North

  17. 5 out of 5

    Helen Skinner

  18. 5 out of 5

    Janet Bayly

  19. 5 out of 5

    Philippa

  20. 4 out of 5

    Avra Gibbs Lamey

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jessica McNeil

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  23. 4 out of 5

    Frank Power

  24. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Morris

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pauline Barclay

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ian G Shimmin

  28. 5 out of 5

    corey browne

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sean Calvert

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nick

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