COUNTY YARNS - The most important weather forecast in history

James Stagg - the D-Day weather forecaster
James Stagg - the D-Day weather forecaster

The Sussex ports of Newhaven and Shoreham played important supporting roles in the Allied invasion of Normandy that took place 70 years ago today on 6th June 1944.

Local people who were school kids at the time still tell stories of how, overnight, fields that had been full of men and the machines of war were suddenly quiet and empty.

As it happens D-Day occurred 24 hours later than planned. The landings were postponed on the advice of meteorologist Group Captain James Stagg. A fierce storm in the English Channel threatened to swamp the vulnerable landing craft. Stagg predicted the weather would ease by June 6 and based on this forecast the Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D Eisenhower made the momentous decision to go a day late.

A new play depicting Stagg’s part in Operation Overlord has just opened in Sussex. “Pressure” is the work of David Haig who also plays the meteorologist. Haig is best known for “My Boy Jack”, a play (and TV drama) about Burwash resident Rudyard Kipling who lost a son killed in the Great War. “Pressure” is on at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre from now until June 28.

Stagg was born in Scotland but upon retirement came to live in Seaford. Surely it was no coincidence that he chose to settle on the Sussex coast where he could keep an eye on the weather and the moods of the English Channel, just as he had in 1944? James Stagg died in June 1975.