Rifleman Richard Starrett (D/25132) served in 6th Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles during World War Two. He was born on 30th September 1885 in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire. His baptism was on 20th December 1885 in St. John's, Barrow, Lancashire.
On 31st March 1901, the Irish census showed 15-year-old Richard living with 19-year-old sister Ellen and 13-year-old sister Margaret on Bright Street, Belfast, Co. Antrim with their 48-year-old mother Mary Ann Starrett.
By 1911, Starrett aged 25 lived with his younger sister Margaret (Maggie) boarding with the Thompson family. The Thompsons were a Methodist family residing at 7 Mount Street, Belfast, Co. Antrim.
On 28th September 1914, Richard enlisted for three year’s service with 8th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. Aged 29 years old, he was Rifleman 491 T/4160320.
Training with Royal Irish Rifles
Twice during training, he suffered epileptic fits. These incidents occurred on 13th April 1915 and 4th May 1915. The Royal Irish Rifles dismissed him from Ballykinlar Camp on 21st May 1915 being unfit for service. Friends had noticed epileptic fits before Starrett enlisted. Seeing no action at the front during World War One, he left the army after 236 days.
Starrett was the husband of Annie Starrett of 18 Bright Street, Belfast, Co. Antrim. The couple had three children; Wilhelmina Starrett born on 6th October 1915, James Starrett born on 7th April 1920, and Margaret Starrett born on 4th September 1922.
A second son called Richard survived for only 6 months, dying from pertussis and broncho-pneumonia on 21st January 1918.
Service during World War Two
Only days after the declaration of World War Two, Richard Starrett joined 200th Territorial Army Reserve Group “Home Service Only” National Defence Companies. The date was 4th September 1939, and the 53-year-old Starrett was by then a widower. These men were older, had military experience but were unfit for frontline service. They became 6th (Home Defence) Battalion of Royal Ulster Rifles. On 24th December 1940, they became 30th Battalion, dropping the Home Defence from their name and becoming an infantry battalion.
His enlistment papers contain several contradictory elements. He states a World War One military service from 16th August 1914 to 1st July 1919. Military records also contain a false date of birth for his son James. As a widower, he claimed for his daughter as a housekeeper.
Rifleman Starrett died on 25th March 1943 aged 59 years old. His place of death was 24th (London) General Hospital, Belfast, Co. Antrim. Cause of death was a cerebral haemorrhage. At the time of death, Rifleman Starrett served 3 years and 203 days in service. A funeral service took place on 29th March 1943.
Richard Starrett’s grave is in Section B1, Grave 744 of Dundonald Cemetery, Dundonald, Co. Down. His headstone bears the inscription “our dear father, ever remembered by James, Margaret, and Wilhelmina. He died that we might live”.