‘Daredevil’ war hero celebrates 100th birthday

Arthur Staggs in his army days
Arthur Staggs in his army days
Share this article

A Thame man who secretly operated behind enemy lines in occupied France during the Second World War has celebrated his 100th birthday.

Arthur Staggs was part of a team responsible for disrupting Nazi supply lines and at one point spent two months in captivity after being betrayed.

To mark the milestone around 70 of Mr Staggs’ friends and family attended a party at Meadowcroft Care Home, where he now lives.

Recalling his wartime exploits, which included helping derail trains, Mr Staggs said: “We would go in and put explosives onto anything mechanical to delay the Germans’ operation.

“I was a bit of a daredevil, I wasn’t afraid of anything.”

After becoming a lieutenant, Mr Staggs trained as a wireless operator at Special Operations Executive based at Thame Park.

In 1943, while working in France, he was taken prisoner by the Gestapo after someone tipped them off about what he was doing.

He spent two months in prison, during which he was tortured at times, but says his captors never got any useful information out of him before his release.

Mr Staggs said: “They found nothing and got nothing. I vowed I would not give into them.

“I had tactics I would use to delay their questioning. I was too clever for them. The Germans had no finesse, they were just brutal.

“When the questioning stopped I got the jitters. I didn’t know if I was going to be taken down to the yard and shot or put in a concentration camp.”

However, death at the hands of the Germans was not to be his fate and he was released and went on to fight in the French resistance, becoming a group leader and receiving an award for his efforts.

Mr Staggs married in 1942 during a 48-hour leave period, and he and his wife Elizabeth had one daughter, Anne.

At his 100th birthday on November 17, Mr Staggs was treated to a buffet and special cake, but he said the occasion has brought back memories he’d rather forget.

He said: “I’m mentally strong, always have been, but this has brought back too many memories, some of which I don’t wish to remember.”