Two of Swindon’s bravest sons will be honoured on Thursday 8 September when the Swindon Heritage Team unveils not one but two commemorative Blue Plaques in the heart of the town.
The event takes place at the site where brothers Harold Starr and Norman ‘John’ Starr were born in the Central Hotel, Regent Street, Swindon at 2.30pm for 3pm.
The hotel was replaced with a cinema in the 1930’s and today the Art Deco building houses the popular Weatherspoon’s pub, The Savoy. As soon as owners JD Wetherspoon were approached about the idea of having Blue Plaques on The Savoy they immediately said yes and have been assisting with logistics ever since.
Squadron Leader Harold Starr (1914 – 1940) was born and raised in Swindon. He bailed out of his burning Hurricane during the Battle of Britain in 1940 but was gunned to death by a Messerschmitt pilot as he floated down to earth in his parachute. His wife was carrying their unborn child. He is buried in Radnor St Cemetery in Swindon in a Commonwealth War Grave. He was 25 years old.
Wing Commander Norman John Starr DFC and BAR (1917 – 1945) was also born and raised in Swindon. He was shot down and killed whilst piloting an Avro Anson over Dunkirk in 1945. He was flying back to England to get married to his sweetheart the following day. He is buried along with his three crew members in Dunkirk Town Cemetery in a Commonwealth War Grave. He was 27 years old.
As featured in the Swindon Heritage Magazine, these will be the second and third of an ongoing Blue Plaque scheme dedicated to historic figures in Swindon’s past. The first plaque was unveiled was earlier this year in North Street, Old Town recognising Swindon born suffragette, Edith New.
The pilots’ nephew, 93 year old retired Squadron Leader Peter Starr Mills, and Great Niece Sue Giles, pictured below, will unveiling the plaques at the Savoy in Regent Street on 8 September, Harold Starr’s birthday. Afterwards they will walk to Swindon Central Library nearby where Harold and Norman’s medals will be on display to view.
Noel Beauchamp of Swindon Heritage said: “We are thankful to Sqn Ldr Mills and Sue Giles for helping our crowdfunding appeal reach its target so that we can meet our deadline of unveiling the plaques dedicated to Harold and John on Harold’s birthday.
“These plaques will the second and third to be installed by Swindon Heritage as our first was for Suffragette Edith New. We have plans in the pipeline for more plaques in the future. In the coming weeks we will be announcing another very exciting Blue Plaque for our town, we can’t say now who it will be for but it’s a very famous person indeed. We will again use the crowdfunding approach to cover the costs as there is no national or local organised funding scheme available to provide them.”
Find our more from the Crowdfunding appeal page.
www.swindonheritage.com magazine is a quarterly publication. £4.99 per edition. Click the link for more details.