British mining engineer George Reginald Starr made significant contributions during the Second World War. Because of his linguistic abilities, Starr was accepted as a Special Operations Executive (SOE) secret agent, and he later rose to become one of the SOE’s top spies. It was a surprise when he revealed himself to be a spy. Starr, who had been trained as a mining engineer, was employed in Belgium at the time of the German invasion. Despite making a successful escape to England, he immediately became involved with the military SOE group. Starr’s main responsibility, carried out under the code name “Hilaire,” was to gather, equip, and train those who would oppose the German army. His greatest success was in convincing both communist and anti-communist members of the French resistance to cooperating. A highly effective Wheelwright resistance network was established by Starr in and around the southern French cities of Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Pyrenees. He founded the Armagnac gang in the spring of 1944, which plagued the Germans for days on end by cutting telephone cables, blowing up railways, and sabotaging power lines. He was a lieutenant colonel when the war ended. He received numerous distinguished accolades and decorations in recognition of his great effort during World War II.
Early Childhood & Life
Alfred Demarest Starr and Ethel Renshaw welcomed George Reginald Starr into the world on April 6, 1904, in London. His mother was English, while his father was American. One of the couple’s two kids, he was born young.
At Ardingly College, Young Starr completed his formative education. After finishing his schooling, he worked as an apprentice coal miner in Shropshire for seven years.
He resumed his studies at the Royal School of Mines and Imperial College London after gaining sufficient experience. He quickly earned his mining engineering degree.
Goerge Starr’s Career
After graduating from college, Starr began working for the Glasgow company Mavor and Coulson Ltd. The business was in the business of making mining equipment.
He traveled extensively to the northern parts of France and Belgium for employment throughout the 1920s and 1930s as a mining engineer.
When the German invasion began in 1940, Starr was employed in Liege, Belgium. He managed to flee to England with the aid of British forces. He joined the British Army after the Dunkirk evacuation. He was hired by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) division thanks to his language abilities. Starr employed the alias Hilaire while at work.
He was dispatched to France in 1942 as an SOE covert operative to aid the resistance. Starr pretended to be a wealthy Congolese mine engineer who had retired from Belgium. This prevented the German invaders from noticing his significant wealth and distinctive accent.
He watched the German 11th Tank Division, which was near Bordeaux, from his base in Castelnau-sur-l’Auvignon. He was successful in setting up a “Wheelwright” French Resistance network in the southwest of France, between Toulouse, Bordeaux, and the Pyrenees, using a false identity.
The German invaders had no idea that a retired mining engineer from Belgium would thwart their strategies and intentions! Under Starr, the team damaged the German invaders’ power plants in addition to cutting their telephone and electrical cables.
Starr was effective in persuading anti-communist and communist resistance fighters in France to join the British forces in the struggle against the German invaders.
He established the Armagnac Battalion as an armed force in Toulouse in 1944. The organization started acting just before the Normandy Invasion, blowing up railroad tracks, severing phone lines, destroying fuel dampers, and interfering with every form of communication.
The main objective for Starr’s group involved stopping the Second SS Panzer division ‘Das Reich’ from moving from Montauban, close to Toulouse, to reinforce the Normandy battlefield, in addition to severing communication and transportation connections. Additionally, his group of resistance fighters forced the SS Panzer division to advance north against all odds, causing it to reach the Allied invasion beaches far too late to launch an attack.
He had control over the region around French Toulouse by September 1944. The head of the Free French, Charles de Gaulle, was visiting the area and was highly irritated by the German retreat. He then let out his rage by arguing with Starr. They reconciled their differences in the end.
Starr had the position of Lieutenant-Colonel at the time of the war’s conclusion. He was tasked with rebuilding the German coal mining sector after the war. He was dispatched to Essen in the Ruhr region for the same reason.
Starr went back to Mavor and Coulson, where he had started, after the reopening of the German coal mines. He sat down in the company’s managing director’s chair. He relocated to France once he stopped working.
Starr’s Bigger Works
In his life, Starr made the most significant contribution while serving as a Special Operations Executive agent in France during World War II. He established a highly effective Wheelwright resistance network encompassing Bordeaux, Toulouse, and the Pyrenees in southern France while operating under the secret name “Hilaire,” which completely sapped the German will. He bothered the Germans for days at a time with his forces by cutting telephone wires, blowing up railroad tracks, and destroying power lines.
Recognition & Achievements
Starr received prestigious military decorations such as the Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross, and Croix de Guerre Avec Palme for his remarkable work as a Special Operations Executive agent fighting the German forces.
He received one of the highest state awards granted by France: Officer of the Légion donner.
As one of SOE’s top spies, Starr received the Silver Bar Medal of Freedom from the United States of America.
Personal Legacy & Life
On September 2, 1980, Starr passed away at a hospital in Senlis, France.
Estimated Net Worth
During World War II, this British mining engineer worked as a covert operative for Special Operations Executive under the name Hilaire.