Swindon Heritage is pleased to announce that HRH The Duke of Gloucester will be guest of honour at ‘Swindon Remembers’, a commemoration marking the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
The ceremony, on Battle of Britain Day – 15 September – will take place at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Radnor Street, in front of a specially invited audience, including the Mayor of Swindon, Cllr Andrew Bennett, and other civic leaders. It will be a tribute to Swindon’s own Battle of Britain hero, Squadron Leader Harold Starr, and the hundreds of pilots who fought the vital battle in the skies over southern England during the summer of 1940.
The Duke, who holds the rank of Honorary Air Marshal of the Royal Air Force, will meet surviving members of Harold’s family, including 93-year-old Peter Starr Mills, who is travelling from his Dorset home, to see the central Swindon cemetery which he last visited for Harold’s funeral on 6 September 1940. Also present will be representatives from five Swindon schools, who have taken part in an arts project, organised by Swindon Heritage, to decorate the windows at the cemetery’s chapel.
A spectacular flypast directly over Harold’s grave by Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in honour of the 544 pilots of RAF Fighter Command, who were killed in the battle, including Harold Starr, will close the ceremony.
Later, His Royal Highness will attend Swindon Station to name a First Great Western Class 43 locomotive SQN LDR HAROLD STARR a fitting memorial that will be seen by thousands of people as it travels along the Great Western Main Line.
Making the announcement at the Spitfire Café in South Marston, on the very site where Spitfires were made, Swindon Heritage Project Manager Caroline Black said: “We are thrilled and honoured that His Royal Highness will be attending the ceremony at Radnor Street on such a special date in our nation’s history. It is important that we remember the sacrifices that were made then so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today, as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s motto states Lest We Forget.’
18 August 1940 was the day the Luftwaffe made a supreme but unsuccessful effort to destroy the RAF, when both sides suffered huge losses.
20 August marks 75 years since Prime Minister Winston Churchill took to his feet in the House of Commons and delivered one of his most famous speeches, in which he paid tribute to RAF Fighter Command, saying: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” On September 15, Swindon will pay its own unique tribute to Harold Starr and ‘The Few’.
Pictured top by Richard Wintle of Calyx in the SpitfireCafe, the Swindon Heritage team from left to right, Frances Bevan, Paul Gentleman, Caroline Black, Noel Beauchamp, Graham Carter
Above, Squadron Leader Harold Starr and the Duke of Gloucester
Find out more at Swindon Heritage