Another sort of Hero

t13913The photograph shows my uncle, Dick Starr, who was invalided out of the Royal Artillery in 1942, after volunteering for medical experiments relating to tuberculosis, in which he was injected with the disease. I am not sure what happened next, but the TB caught hold and he became very ill.

He was sent back to his parent’s house in St Annes Terrace, Portrack. Because of the fear of infection, a shed was built at the end of garden to keep him away from me and the rest of the family. Unfortunately he never recovered.



The pages from his pass book seems to confirm that he was in very good physical condition when he entered the army in 1940, where he became a gunner.

The comments section state that his conduct was exemplary. But I suppose they would have to say that. I myself have no recollection of him as I was only about two years old when he died.

Photograph and image courtesy of Fred Starr.

6 thoughts on “Another sort of Hero

  1. I have just found out that Mr Bill Rodgers, the MP, not only got my grandmother a widow’s pension, he arranged for a small monument to put on my uncle’s grave in Stockton Cemetery. This acknowledged he had given his life for his country as a soldier. Because Uncle Dick had not died in action or normal military service, what he had contributed to military medical science had been overlooked.


  2. His mother, my grandmother, did get some help on the strength of his war service, through the help of the local MP, who I think was Bill Rodgers.

    My grandmother started to get in a very bad way financially during the middle 1950s, since her husband Tom, became completely unable to work in the Malleable lime kilns because of chronic bronchitis. She wouldn’t admit how bad things were until my mother found out that she had been selling off some stuff to the local antiques shop, in Portrack , she had managed to collect over the years.

    My grandmother tried to get some help from the British Legion, but they were fairly useless as all they came up with was some underclothes for my grandfather, though she was said to be “a very deserving case”.

    In the early sixties it was suggested she approach her local MP and he pulled a few strings to supplement her pension. This was about the time that Harold Wilson came into office, and there was a real attempt to help working people. I certainly know that my grandmother, who was Liberal-Conservative by nature (in what was a very pro-Labour Portrack) then voted for Rodgers after that, on the strength of what Rodgers had managed. I think that this is how a sitting MP can eventually get a strong local following


  3. What a hero! His contribution to the world far outweighs anything he could have done in combat. Why, why are such exemplary’s never recognised, let alone lauded, given medals?
    You must be so proud to be his descendant!


  4. These experiments were carried out at PORTON-DOWN. A government establishment which has carried out many secret experiments. Those who volunteered were paid a pittance on top of their army pay. A few from my regiment were involved, and I know that some of them have after effects even now.


  5. Imagine, what a field day professional ‘Injury lawyers’ would have with such a case today!
    I wonder just what re-assuring, or trusted-words, were given to Dick Starr, in order for him to volunteer for, what virtually became his own suicide? In the early 1950’s, UK serving soldiers were also fully-exposed without any form of protection (other than a pair of goggles!), to cancer forming radio-activity levels, this during Atomic/Hydrogen bomb testing in the South Pacific.


    • From the day I joined the Army we were told never volunteer for anything. We knew that experiments were done with the help of serving forces personnel and in the 50’s it was nerve gasses among other things, two men did respond for the extra pay and we never saw them again, I often wondered.
      People volunteer for many reasons, the recompense and follow up should be exemplary but it is not, never has been. I saw men injured on duty who had to leave on medical grounds not of their own choosing, they would get a small invalidity pension if lucky and usually had to fight for it. Even in these enlightened times there are anomalies in the after care. Those men and women put their lives on the line for the country in wars not of their making, care should be better.


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