Caroline Black of the Swindon Influence Committee writes why she needs your help to stage an event this September to commemorate the Battle of Britain.
One of the things that people who move to Swindon often comment upon is the strong sense of community in the town. I’m involved with Swindon Heritage and we are delighted to announce that in this 75th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain the town will be commemorating a Swindonian who was also one of the brave Battle of Britain pilots who fought and died helping to stop Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain.
Squadron Leader Harold Starr was killed on 31 August 1940, just eight days before his 26th birthday. His Hurricane was shot down over Kent and he successfully bailed out of his plane, but was killed when three ME 109s came back for him as he parachuted to the ground.
Born and bred in Swindon, he had grown up in what is now the Savoy pub in Regent Street, and his grave is one of more than 100 Commonwealth War Graves in Radnor Street Cemetery. His brother, who was shot down in 1945 over Dunkirk, is also remembered there.
The Battle of Britain was one of the most important battles of the Second World War. As well as thwarting Hitler’s invasion plans, it bought valuable time to rebuild our forces in the wake of Dunkirk. Of the 3,000 airmen of Fighter Command who took part, almost one in five did not return. It’s little wonder that the largest battle the world had ever seen inspired Churchill’s famous words: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few”. Harold was one of ‘the few’.
We are currently shaping our plans for a week long commemoration not just for Harold and the ‘few’ but also to remember Swindon’s role during WW2. (Not only did Swindon produce the Spitfire after the bombing of the Supermarine factory in Southampton, but the GWR works also made the airframes for the Hurricane).
We begin our week on Tuesday September 8, which is Harold’s Birthday with a Civic Reception at Steam Museum and during the week we will be holding talks about Harold Starr, the Battle of Britain and about the book, the Secrets of the Spitfire.
On Saturday 12 September we are hoping to have a static display in the Town Centre and/or The Outlet Village which could include life-size models of the two iconic planes as well as mobile WW2 display units.
On Sunday 13 September we are planning a family day at Radnor Street Cemetery. A key activity will be to unveil the window designs of five Swindon primary schools who in the run up to the event are being tasked with creating a topical design for each one of the five chapel windows.
The finale will be on Tuesday 15 September, Battle of Britain Day itself, the very day the whole country will be commemorating the battle. For that day we have secured a flypast over the centre of Swindon by Spitfires and Hurricanes of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight in tribute to Harold Starr and ‘the few’. This is an incredible event and perhaps a one off for our town and to that end we have made an approach for a very prominent VIP and have the full backing of Gavin Jones at SBC who is working with us and supporting us where possible.
So why am I writing to you, the business community? Swindon Heritage is a group of passionate volunteers who run a not for profit organisation and receive no payment whatsoever for keeping the town’s history at the forefront of peoples’ minds.
In order to make this terrific event happen, we need your help as some of the events and initiatives are going to need some funding; this is everything from public liability insurance to portaloos; promoting the event to the general public, reimbursing speakers for their travel expenses, and producing collateral material for the event.
Businesses can also support in kind too. For example we need help with the loan of PA systems, events management expertise, printing and accommodation for VIPs. These are just some of the essentials that we will have to raise funding for.
Swindon’s Battle of Britain pilot Harold Starr and many other gallant men and women gave their lives so that ours could remain free, and we want to honour them with this fitting tribute. If your company or staff would like to be involved in sponsoring this event, or to learn more about helping, please contact me, Caroline Black on 07840 792007 or email firstname.lastname@example.org