George Reginald Starr

George Reginald Starr

George Reginald Starr DSO MC (April 1904 - 1980) was a British mining engineer and one of the Special Operations Executive's best secret agents during World War II.

Early life

He was born in London, one of two sons of American Alfred Demarest Starr and Englishwoman Ethel Renshaw. He was a grandson of William Robert Renshaw.

He was educated at Ardingly College, and at the age of 16, undertook a seven-year apprenticeship as a coal-miner in Shropshire. After studying mining engineering at the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College London, he joined the Glasgow firm of Mavor and Coulson Ltd, manufacturers of mining equipment.

World War II

In 1940, he was working in Liège, Belgium when the German invasion began. He escaped back to England with British forces in the Dunkirk evacuation. He joined the British Army, being commissioned on the General List. He was subsequently recruited into the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for his language skillscite web |url= |title=BBC Historic Figures - George Starr (1904 - 1980) | |accessdate=2008-05-18] and give the code name "Hilaire". His brother John Renshaw Starr was also a member of the SOE.

In November 1942, shortly before German forces began their occupation of the Vichy Republic, he arrived secretly by boat on the Mediterranean coast of France. Based in Castelnau, posing as a retired Belgian mining engineer who had made a fortune in the Congo, he successfully organised a French Resistance network in the southwest corner of France, between Toulouse, Bordeaux and the Pyrenees, designated by the SOE as the 'Wheelwright Sector'. Starr spied on the German 11th Tank Division near Bordeaux. The group he led also cut telephone and power lines and sabotaged power stations. He managed to persuade anticommunist and communist resistance member to join forces to fight the German occupiers. One of his team members was Denise Bloch.

In 1944, before the Normandy Invasion, Starr created an armed group called the "Armagnac Battalion" in Toulouse. During the invasion, they destroyed communication and transportation lines. When the SS Panzer division Das Reich tried to reinforce the German forces in Normandy, Starr's troops delayed it so it arrived too late to stop the landings. During the Liberation, Starr's group took control of the Toulouse area. When Charles de Gaulle visited the region, he got into a spirited argument with Starr and threatened to imprison him, until de Gaulle apparent changed his mind and shook Starr's hand.

He was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order, the Military Cross, and the Croix de Guerre Avec Palme. He was also made an Officer of the Légion d'honneur. The United States government awarded him the Medal of Freedom with Silver Bar. He finished the war with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.


After the war, he was sent to Essen in the Ruhr district to direct the re-opening of German coal mines. He later returned to Mavor and Coulson as managing director before retiring to live in France.

Starr died in a hospital in Senlis, France in 1980.


External links

* [ BBC biography]

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