James Stagg

Group Captain James Martin Stagg, CB, OBE, FRSE (30 June 1900 – 23 June 1975) was a Met Office meteorologist attached to the Royal Air Force during Second World War who notably persuaded General Dwight D. Eisenhower to change the date of the Allied invasion of Europe in World War II, from the 5th of June to the 6th of June 1944.[2]

James Stagg
Birth nameJames Martin Stagg
Born(1900-06-30)30 June 1900
Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland, UK
Died23 June 1975(1975-06-23) (aged 74)
Seaford, Sussex, England, UK[1]
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Air Force (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve)
Years of service1943-1945
RankGroup Captain
Battles/warsSecond World War
Other workDirector of Services at the Meteorological Office


Stagg was born in Musselburgh, East Lothian to Alexander C. Stagg and his wife, Helen (Ellen). He was educated at Dalkeith High School in Dalkeith until the age of 15 as Dalkeith high did not provide further education so he completed his schooling at Broughton Junior Student Centre in Edinburgh .[3]

In 1921 he graduated MA from Edinburgh University and took a post as Science Master at George Heriot's School in Edinburgh.[3]

In 1924 he became an assistant in the British Meteorological Office and was superintendent of Kew Observatory in 1939.[4]

In the winter of 1932/33 he led the British Polar Expedition of Arctic Canada.[3]

In 1943, he was commissioned a Group Captain in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and appointed the chief meteorological officer for Operation Overlord.[5] He worked with three forecasting teams from the Royal Navy, Met Office and the USAAF. The detail of the D-Day forecasts is in the accounts published by participants, including Stagg himself.[6]

D-Day weather

Planners of the Normandy landings in June 1944 allowed for the tides, the time of day, and the phase of the moon - these conditions would be satisfactory on only a few days in each month. A full moon was desirable, as it would provide illumination for aircraft pilots and have the highest tides. The landings would be shortly before dawn, mid-way between low and high tide, with the tide coming in. This would improve the visibility of obstacles on the beach, while minimising the amount of time the men would be exposed in the open.[7] Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for the assault. However, on 4 June, conditions were unsuitable for a landing: high winds and heavy seas made it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft from finding their targets.[8]

Stagg met Eisenhower on the evening of 4 June. He and his meteorological team predicted that the weather would improve enough for the invasion to proceed on 6 June.[9] The next available dates with the required tidal conditions (but without the desirable full moon) would be two weeks later, from 18 to 20 June. Postponement of the invasion would have required recalling men and ships already in position to cross the Channel, and would have increased the chance that the invasion plans would be detected.[10] After much discussion with the other senior commanders, Eisenhower decided that the invasion should go ahead on the 6th.[11] A major storm battered the Normandy coast from 19 to 22 June, which would have made the beach landings impossible.[8]

Allied control of the Atlantic gave Allied meteorologists an advantage in the North Atlantic weather war for storm prediction.[12] As the Luftwaffe meteorological centre in Paris was predicting two weeks of stormy weather, many Wehrmacht commanders left their posts to attend war games in Rennes, and men in many units were given leave.[13]. German Commander Field Marshal Erwin Rommel returned to Germany for his wife's birthday and to meet with Hitler to try to obtain more Panzers.[14]

For his invaluable services over the D-Day period, Stagg was appointed an Officer of the US Legion of Merit in 1945[15] and was also appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) at the same time.

Later life

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

He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 1954 New Year Honours.[16] He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1951. His proposers were Edmund Dymond, James Paton, C. T. R. Wilson and Robert Schlapp.[17]

In 1959 he was elected President of the Royal Meteorological Society.

He died in 1975 and was buried in Dalkeith Cemetery. On 6th June 2019, 75 years to the day since D-Day, he had a plaque unveiled to him in his hometown of Dalkeith. Achieved through crowdfunding, the plaque was unveiled by his son, Peter Kidner Stagg.[18]

Stagg was portrayed by Patrick Barr in the 1962 film The Longest Day, David Haig in his own 2014 play Pressure,[19] and Steven Cree in 2017's Churchill.


In 1940, he married Elizabeth Nancy Kidner. They had two sons: Scotland rugby player Peter Kidner Stagg (born 1941); and Alexander Martin Stagg (born 1944).

See also


  1. Aberdeen Press and Journal, June 25, 1975
  2. Buttle, Cameron (5 June 2019). "The RAF weathermen who helped save D-Day". BBC Scotland. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  3. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  4. Aberdeen Press and Journal, June 25, 1975
  5. "James Martin Stagg (British meteorologist)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  6. Fleming, James R. (2004). "Sverre Petterssen, the Bergen School, and the Forecasts for D-Day" (PDF). History of Meteorology. International Commission on History of Meteorology (ICHM). 1. Retrieved 7 August 2006. citing
    • Stagg, J. M., Forecast for Overlord, Ian Allan (1971), ISBN 0-7110-0251-7, and
    • Petterssen, Sverre, Weathering the Storm: Sverre Petterssen, the D-Day Forecast, and the Rise of Modern Meteorology, American Meteorological Society (2001), ISBN 1-878220-33-0
  7. Whitmarsh 2009, p. 31.
  8. Whitmarsh 2009, p. 33.
  9. Beevor 2009, p. 21.
  10. Wilmot 1997, p. 224.
  11. Wilmot 1997, pp. 224–226.
  12. Whitmarsh 2009, p. 34.
  13. Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 131.
  14. Beevor 2009, pp. 42–43.
  15. "No. 37300". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 October 1945. p. 4958.
  16. "No. 40053". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1954. p. 4.
  17. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  18. "Plaque unveiled to D-Day hero from Dalkeith". 13 June 2019. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  19. Maxwell, Dominic (5 April 2018). "Theatre: Pressure". The Times (72501). Times2. p. 11. ISSN 0140-0460.


  • Beevor, Antony (2009). D-Day: The Battle for Normandy. New York; Toronto: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-02119-2.
  • Ford, Ken; Zaloga, Steven J. (2009). Overlord: The D-Day Landings. Oxford; New York: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-424-4.
  • Whitmarsh, Andrew (2009). D-Day in Photographs. Stroud: History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-5095-7.
  • Wilmot, Chester (1997) [1952]. The Struggle For Europe. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 978-1-85326-677-5.

Further reading

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