William Burnaby Southouse Starr

William B. S. Starr was born in Mhow, India near Indore (his father G. L. H. Starr was in the 108th Foot Regiment which merged with the Madras Army). William went to Hurstpierpoint College in England with his brother in his youth. He was Captain of the Tairoa when the ship was captured by the Admiral Graf Spee on Dec. 3, 1939. When his crew was transferred to the Altmark, William chose to join his crew (who were mostly Indian) to insure they received proper treatment. He was rescued on Feb. 16, 1940 along with the other crews who were being held in the Altmark when HMS Cossack cornered the ship in a Norwegian fjord. He received the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct.

He is mentioned in books including:
Hunt The Altmark by Richard Wiggan 1982.
The Navy's Here! The Altmark Affair by Willi Frischauer and Robert Jackson 1955.

I also read somewhere that he spoke Urdu and was thus able to speak to the Lascar sailors. In the film The Battle of the River Plate (1959), Nigel Stock played the role of my grandfather, though some names of the Officers etc. were changed in the film.

William B. S. Starr, date unknown.
(Photo courtesy of Ursula Star)

Clipping from an unknown newspaper.

William's record of service for the White Star Line.

William B. S. Starr identity cards and documents.

Telegraph from Shaw, Savill and Albion about the fate of Capt. Starr. "Our Monte Video agents report Captain Starr safe on board enemy auxiliary vessel will advise you immediately we receive news of his being landed."

Letter from Shaw, Savill & Albion regarding the fate of Capt. Starr.

Letter showing Capt. Starr was commended by the King for brave conduct.

London Gazette May 24, 1940.

The German documents concerning the sinking of SS Tairoa. Page 2 below is signed by both KzS Langsdorff and Capt. Starr.

All photos and text courtesy of Ursula Starr
(Granddaughter of William B. S. Starr)

Oct. 5, 2013

I believe that my father, Captain William Thomas Walmsley, was a friend of Captain Starr. My parents lived in Mossley Hill, Liverpool as did Capt. Starr and family. My mother often talked about him. My father was an Anglo -Saxon Shell tanker Captain on the MV Anadara. His ship was sunk on 24th February 1942 off Cape Race, Nova Scotia. My father was 51 when he died so would have been 14 years younger than Capt. Starr. They would have know each other I think, because they were both on tankers.

I knew one of the sons of Capt. Starr, Billy, he ran a youth club which I joined in 1947. I am 82 and was born to my parents during the 'slump' in 1931 when my father was without a ship. I believe that this was a terrible period in my father's life. An extra mouth to feed was a extra burden and they were both in their 40's. My brother was born in 1919. My father's ship is mentioned in a book by Clay Blair, 'Hitler's U-Boat War (The Hunters 1939-1942). As Capt. of the MV Anadara in June 1941, my father ploughed into U-boat 651 and was credited with the kill by the Admiralty after the war, this having been originally attributed to Escort Group 12. I thought that there might be some interest in what I have said. I was only 10 when my father died, but I remember my mother talking to me about the Altmark incident.

Yvonne Gutsell

Jan. 14, 2014

I am volunteer driver at Liverpool Seafarers Centre. I am an ex officer from Shaw Savill Line. I noted a plaque on the baptism font in the Chapel. I read the plaque on it and it says it was donated by the Family of Captain Starr. I then found the story of the Tairoa on your site. What an incredible story. Maybe my piece of information will be of interest.

Colum Leggett

Photos courtesy of Colum Leggett
© 2015 Colum Leggett all rights reserved

Close up of the dedication plaque.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Ward (nee Starr)
© 2015 Heather Ward all rights reserved

Page published Jan. 3, 2013