English Soldier’s Life is Saved by His Knowledge of French Slang

Arthur Staggs was a soldier who was parachuted into enemy territory of France during WWII. He recently passed away at 100 years old.

November 17, 1942 marked the day that Arthur dropped into the north-central France. He and two other members of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) missed the targeted landing site. Instead the men landed near the Forest of Fontainebleau.

The men buried their parachutes so enemy soldiers wouldn’t spot them. Once they familiarized themselves with their position, they caught an early departing train to Paris where they then made the trip to the safe house.

Once at the safe house, the men were given orders to begin sabotaging railways and industrial locations.

One of the occasions he was disguised as a technician who was tasked to synchronize the sound for “talkie” films. He carried radio equipment and in order to keep his cover, he bribed customs officials and threatened them by showing the end of his revolver.

Proving resourceful, Staggs hid his radio under meat and eggs in a basket.

His secret missions didn’t last long. In December of 1943, the safe house where he was hidden in Roubaix was searched. He was arrested and taken to Lille and imprisoned there.

While he was in the Lille prison, he tore up photos that may incriminate his colleagues and ate them. He was also forced to listen to the executions.

Because he knew many of the popular French slang terminologies, he was released due to lack of evidence.

After he was released from prison, Arthur lost contact with London and joined the French Resistance.

Paris was liberated in 1944 and it was here when he met with a SOE intelligence officer who told him that the SOE believed that he was dead.

Arthur Staggs was born in Bow, east London on November 17, 1912. His mother died in 1914 when young Arthur was only two years old. That year his father joined the Royals Engineers and Arthur was placed in an orphanage.

When WWI ended Arthur’s father returned to London with a Frenchwoman. She would become his stepmother and they all moved to Roubaix, France. When WWII began, Arthur returned to England so he could join the Army.

While he worked with the military police and the Intelligence Corps and his knowledge of the French language enabled him to join the SOE.

After he he completed parachute training, he attended the SOE radio school located at Thame Park.

After his war effort, Arthur moved to Buford where he worked for a local grocer.

Later he moved to Thame with his family and worked as a sales representative until he retired at the age of 70.

This is Oxfordshire reports: Arthur died on August 22, 2013 and his funeral took place at Saint Mary’s Church in Thame on September 10.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE