July 2015

Swindon Remembers

Swindon Remembers

Squadron Leader Harold Starr – 253 Squadron

This biography of Harold Star, and everything on this page, is reproduced with the kind permission of Swindon Heritage.   Look out for the #swindonflypast on social media, and read more about Harold Starr in their  Summer 2015 edition.

Harold Starr is the pivot around which Swindon will remember The Few. Here’s just part of his story. There’s much, much more in the magazine.

Harold Starr was born on September 8,1914. He was there fifth of six children born to Ellen and Morley Starr. He grew up in the Central Temperance Hotel in Regent Street (now the site of the Savoy) where his mother was proprietor and his father worked as as shop fitter.

Harold attended Clarence Street School but completed his education at Cotham Grammar School when the family moved to Bristol.

While still at school, Harold became a member of the Officers’ Training Corps, and, at the age of just nineteen he won an RAF scholarship. He was awarded his ‘Wings’ in 1935.

However, following an accident at South Marston in June 1936,it looked as if Harold’s flying career might be over. While practising a forced landing crashed and the wing of his Hawker Audax damaged the gable end of Hunt’s Copse farmhouse.

Harold received life-threatening injuries sustaining a fracture at the base of his skull and leg and chest injuries. He was out of action for more than a year.

Within two months of the outbreak of war, Harold was back flying and,on August 8 1040 he was placed in command of 253 Squadron.

The Battle of Britain campaign diary records that August 31, 1040 dawned fair but hazy as formations of enemy aircraft appeared in the Deal, Dover and Thames Estuary areas.

At 7.55 am, around 250 aircraft attacked in five distinct waves. The onslaught continued until the evening. RAF Biggin Hill was bombed twice causing a serious fire and wrecking aerodrome buildings, runways, gas and water mains – as well as aircraft.

By the end of the day, Fighter Command reported its heaviest losses to date. And among those pilots was 25 year old Squadron leader Harold Starr.

Harold’s Hurricane was short down over Estry near Sandwich during an interception patrol. After his plane was hit the young pilot managed to somehow bail out at 15,00 feet. But, as he floated down on his parachute, three Messershmitts circled him and opened fire with machine guns.

Harold’s body was returned to Swindon where he was buried in a family grave in Radnor Street cemetery. His funeral took place on September 6, two days before what would have been his 26th birthday.

So, come September this year, when the country will remember all of the The Few, Swindon will honour Harold Starr in its own special way.

NB: for lots more photographs relevant to Harold and to Radnor Street cemetery go here: http://www.swindonheritage.com/swindon-remembers-press-resources/

Why do we love the Spitfire and other resources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z3jkwmn

The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust: http://www.battleofbritainmemorial.org/the-battle-of-britain/the-few/