Their mother was Ethel Renshaw, the third daughter of William Robert Renshaw, and their father was Alfred Demarest Starr, a book keeper from the United States who became a naturalised British subject, and who was the son of a book keeper/secretary of the Barnum and Bailey circus, with Renshaw had business dealings.
Both George and John received part of their education in France while their father worked there, and so became fluent French speakers.
During the war of 1939-45 they were both (first John, and soon afterwards, George) commissioned in the French Section of the Special Operations Executive. (The S.O.E. was a British military service established to conduct clandestine operations behind enemy lines). George became a highly successful and celebrated resistance leader while John, although captured by the enemy and enduring imprisonment in concentration camps, was to be suspected of collaboration with the enemy.
Both men were very successful in civilian life, both before and after the war, and this page hardly does justice to either of them, telling as it does only a fraction of their respective stories.
- SOE in France, 1940-1944 by M R D Foot, published by HMSO, 1966.
- The Starr Affair by Jean Overton Fuller, published by Victor Gollancz, 1954
In May 2003, the UK Public Record Office released a file concerning Security Service (MI5) investigations into suspicions that John Starr had defected to the enemy while in captivity in Paris. The file is now available for public viewing and copies can be obtained for a price upon application to the Public Record Office. I was quoted the sum of £102.40 (valid until 23rd December 2003) for a printed copy of the contents of this file (reference KV 6/29). Digital copies, although requested, were not quoted for, presumably because the £7.40 price of each single digital image would render the total cost prohibitive. As yet I have not taken up the offer.
Apparently the file concludes that although John Starr's behaviour was suspicious, it gave no grounds for criminal prosecution.