LIEUTENANT DILLWYN PARRISH STARR
15TH SEPTEMBER 1916 AGE 32
BURIED: GUARDS' CEMETERY LESBOEUFS, FRANCE
Dillwyn Starr's inscription simply records that he came from Philadelphia, USA. His father, who confirmed it, was not only flagging up the fact that Dillwyn was an American citizen serving in the British Army but probably wanted to ensure that Dillwyn was a member of the Philadelphian Starrs, a socially prominent Philadelphian family.
Dillwyn seems to have been a charmingly charismatic figure who never really settled to anything before the war broke out when his sense of adventure immediately drew him to the action. Arriving in England on 24 September 1914, he joined the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps and served with them in France until that December. However, according to his father, "He disliked the idea of being protected by a red cross on his sleeve, while so many about him were enlisted to do soldiers' work".
He therefore joined the Armoured Motor Car Division, which was attached to the Royal Naval Air Service. US citizens who joined foreign armies risked losing their citizenship. Dillwyn got round this by claiming he was a Canadian and simply didn't provide a birth certificate to prove it. Many Americans were furious and ashamed by President Wilson's attitude to the war and openly did what they could to aid the Allied war effort. Many British people were furious too and Dillwyn wrote how he was "constantly in hot-water about home, as all here know I am an American".
In March 1915 he went with his unit to France and was immediately involved in the battle of Neuve Chapelle. In May they were transferred to Gallipoli. Dillwyn served there until November when the unit was disbanded and he came home. By now he was determined to join the infantry and get back to France. In January 1916 he was commissioned into the Coldstream Guards where he adopted with relish all the pursuits and habits of an English officer and gentleman.
The regiment embarked for France on 11 July 1916, ten days after the launch of the Somme offensive. Writing home on 19 August after his first experience of the front line Dillwyn told his parents:
"Have just been relieved from the front line and moved to the reserve trenches and only wish that I may never get it any worse than I have this time. There was one casualty this morning when a Sergeant got hit in the leg by shrapnel. It is the kind of wound that I am looking for."
On 15 September the Guards attacked at Lesboeufs. In Dillwyn's words, "They hope here that we shall break through the German lines, but I have my doubts". Eight days later the Guards did capture Lesboeufs but Dillwyn had been killed on the 15th. He had led his platoon across No-Man's-Land against "a perfect storm of shells and a hail of machine gun bullets". They reached the German trenches where "Dillwyn fell, just as he was springing upon its parapet, with his face to the enemy, shot through the heart and killed instantly".
Dillwyn's parents received numerous letters of condolence, many of them expressing their gratitude for what Dillwyn, an American had done.
"You must be proud to have a son who died so nobly fighting not for his country but what must be accounted far higher, for the cause of Humanity and on the side of God. If we regard our own countrymen as heroes he is far more. America may be proud to rear such men."
Rev. Geo. F. Carr, D.D. Amberley Vicarage, Sussex
For, as the Rev. Doctor Carr went on to express in his parish magazine:
"He, as an American citizen, could have stood out of this war. His country and people were in no danger, but he saw this country and her Allies fighting, as he believed, for the cause of right, and he was willing to give his life for his high principles and lofty ideals."
After the war, Dillyn's father, Louis Starr published a memoir of his son, The War Story of Dillwyn Parrish Starr.