The man who forecast victory

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A plumber’s son who spent his final years in Seaford was responsible for the most important weather forecast in history and a turning point of WW2.

In the year of the 70th anniversary of Operation Neptune – D Day – we should remember the essential contribution of Group Captain James Stagg, who is to some extent still an unsung hero.

Staff was born in Musselburgh on June 30 1900 and died at his home in Carlton Road, Seaford, on June 23 1975.

Stagg was Chief Meteorological Officer for D-Day and Operation Overlord and it was ultimately his forecast of a break in the weather, made without the aid of much science, but with some confidence, that persuaded Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower to assert at 4.15am on June 5, “Okay, let’s go”.

Stagg was raised and educated in Dalkeith in Scotland. In 1924, he became an assistant in the British Meteorological Office and was superintendent of the Kew Gardens observatory in 1939.

In 1943, he was commissioned a Group Captain in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and appointed the chief meteorological officer for Operation Overlord.

Stagg was the senior staff meteorologist working with input from three separate forecasting teams from the Royal Navy, Met Office and USAAF.

Stagg later worked as director of services at the Meteorological Office until 1960.

He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1954.

The National Meteorological Library and Archive in the Met Office headquarters in Exeter commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day with a special display about the creation of the forecast, including Stagg’s personal diary for 1944.

The display includes a memo from Stagg commenting on the storms of June 18-20, which destroyed the American Mulberry A harbour, on which Eisenhower wrote “thanks, and thank the Gods of War we went when we did”.