Groton Pays Tribute to Fallen WWI Hero on Centennial of His Death

The bench has been outside the Schoolhouse since the Form of 1904 dedicated it to their friend, Dillwyn Parrish Starr, after his death in World War I. Members of the Groton community walk past it every day, but on September 15 several of them stopped to honor the one hundredth anniversary of Starr’s death fighting in World War I.
In a short ceremony, History Department Head Tom Lamont and other members of the community gathered to remember Starr, who volunteered to serve in the British armed forces after the outbreak of the First World War and who died on September 15, 1916, in the Battle of the Somme.

Mr. Lamont spoke briefly, acknowledging Starr's sacrifice and the service of many other Grotonians in the United States armed forces and those of allied nations. In particular, Mr. Lamont mentioned two Groton alumni presently serving in the Marine Corps, Virginia “Ginger” Cutler ’07 and Ward “Bubba” Scott ’11. Mr. Lamont's tribute to Starr on the centennial of his death highlighted just one of the many Grotonians to pay the ultimate price to preserve liberty.
Though St. John's Chapel contains the names of dozens of members of the Groton family lost in combat, commanding particular attention is the stained-glass window that faces the Circle, below which is inscribed: "This window is dedicated to the Groton boys who gave their lives for their country in the World War."
That window does not tell the whole story of the school's deep and costly connection to the First World War. Like Starr, several Grotonians who died in the conflict did so while fighting for a country other than the United States. In fact, one of the co-founders of the legendary Lafayette Escadrille, Norman Prince, was a Groton graduate. Far less is known about Starr, despite the school's access to wide range of electronic archives. Nevertheless, Mr. Lamont and others have gathered what information they can, and Starr's father wrote a book about his son's war exploits, drawing extensively on his son's own diaries.
Dillwyn P. Starr was born in 1884, the same year Groton was founded. The parallels between his life and the spirit of Groton do not stop there, however. While at Groton, Starr was well-known for his athletic abilities, particularly in football, and for his social skills. A 2000 article by Jonathon Perlman for the Circle Voice student newspaper notes that "Starr's most noticeable trait was his amicable nature, which subsequently led to a variety of friendships, which, though formed quickly, always endured." This friendliness was to become clear in letters home from the front.
By late summer 1916, Starr—who had previously been an ambulance driver on the front and a volunteer reserve officer in the Royal Navy—was a member of the revered Coldstream Guards of the British Army, serving on the front in France. In the Guards, Starr held the rank of second lieutenant and led the 12th Platoon of the 2nd Battalion, once again demonstrating Groton's ethos of service. Just as he served the imperiled French Third Republic, Starr served the very men he led, writing home on August 19, 1916 with a request for "cigarettes for the men ... The soldiers get paid very seldom and can't buy them. I have fifty men. Don't worry about me. At least I hope you will not because I shall be all right."
Less than a month later, Starr was shot in the heart while leading an assault on a German trench armed with machine guns. His men went on to capture the trench later that day. Starr's family received many letters from those who heard the tragic news. One such letter came from the Reverend Endicott Peabody, who wrote, "This thought—that Dill was fighting a great battle for freedom and righteousness in the world—must bring great comfort to your sad hearts."
Dillwyn Parrish Starr died tragically young and in terrible circumstances, but he fulfilled the mandate of the school's motto many times over, serving his team, his platoon, and the cause of human freedom.
Thursday's ceremony was a well-deserved homage to a man who carried out the school motto of cui servire est regnare through life and death. Mr. Lamont’s tribute was a welcome reminder of just how central service is to Groton’s culture and identity.—Rand Hough '17, Communications Prefect