Starr was a British mining engineer who was one of SOE's most successful wartime agents.
George Reginald Starr was born in 1904 in Shropshire to an American father and English mother. He became a mining engineer and in the 1920s and 1930s, his work took him all over northern France and Belgium. After the British evacuation from Dunkirk in World War Two he joined the Army and his language skills soon took him to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). His brother John was also an SOE agent. Starr was given the codename 'Hilaire' and in November 1942 sent to France to help the resistance. Based in Castelnau and posing as a retired Belgian mining engineer, Starr set up the highly successful 'Wheelwright' resistance network around Bordeaux, Toulouse and the Pyrenees in southern France.
The Wheelwright network's principal task was to harass the Germans in the run up to D-Day. In the spring of 1944, the 'Armagnac Group' swung into action, blowing up railway lines, cutting telephone wires, sabotaging fuel dumps and disrupting communications. Their main campaign came after D-Day itself, when the Second SS Panzer division 'Das Reich' tried to move from Montauban, near Toulouse, to reinforce the Normandy battlefield. In a series of daring attacks, Starr's resistance fighters forced the division to fight their way north, so they eventually arrived disorganised and far too late to attack the Allied invasion beaches.
By September 1944, Starr was effectively controlling the Toulouse area as the Germans fled, to the irritation of Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French.
Much decorated by the Allies, after the war Starr helped to rebuild the German coal-mining industry. He died in 1980.
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