Arthur Staggs

Arthur was born in 1912  and lived to be 101.  He spent part of his early life in northern France.  He became fluent in French, and returned to England just before the outbreak of the Second World War.  Arthur joined the Special Operations Executive and was parachuted into northern France in 1942.  He describes some of his experiences, including working with the French Resistance.  For his wartime work in France, Arthur was awarded the Freedom of the City of Lille in 1998, and the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in 2005.

The recording was made 6th July 2007 when Arthur was 95 years old.

Railway sabotage in WWII – Arthur is involved in sabotage work, including the railway workshops at Fives Lille.  Plastic explosives are used to destroy machinery in the workshops.  Arthur leaves the area by bicycle.

Spies, 5th column and devastation – The railway workshops are demolished and the German are unable to maintain railway transport.  Michel, who was the leader of the Resistance, goes back the next day to check the damage, and takes photographs to prove that the workshops have been destroyed.  This saves Lille from being bombed by the RAF, and the risk of civilians being killed.

Working with the French Resistance – Arthur is a radio operator but he also works with the French Resistance on sabotage work.

Blowing up the transport links behind the lines – Arthur is involved in any sabotage work which stops the Germans from being able to move around northern France.  This includes damage to viaducts, canal locks, bridges and tractors that pull barges along the canals.

Captured – The Germans are unable to find the saboteurs.  Arthur is caught by the Germans  following a raid looking for ration coupons.  Michel is killed in 1943.

Confronting the Nazis – After the raid, Arthur goes to Claude Bagein’s house. The Germans come and Arthur hides under the stairs; he and Claud are arrested and taken to the prison in Lille.  They maintain their story that they are involved in ‘black market’ activities.

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