Saturday, January 25, 2014

High Flight


John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (9 June 1922 – 11 December 1941) was an American aviator and poet who died as a result of a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire during World War II. He was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States officially entered the war. He is most famous for his poem "High Flight."

Magee was killed at the age of 19, while flying Spitfire VZ-H, serial number AD-291. He had taken off with other members of 412 Squadron from RAF Wellingore (near Navenby & RAF Digby, and about three miles northwest of RAF Cranwell), which has now reverted to agriculture. The aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision with an Airspeed Oxford trainer from Cranwell, flown by Leading Aircraftman Ernest Aubrey Griffin. The two aircraft collided just below the cloud base at about 1,400 feet AGL, at 11:30, over the hamlet of Roxholme, which lies between RAF Cranwell and RAF Digby, in Lincolnshire. Magee was descending at high speed through a break in the clouds with three other aircraft.

At the inquiry afterwards a farmer testified that he saw the Spitfire pilot struggling to push back the canopy. The pilot stood up to jump from the plane but was too close to the ground for his parachute to open, and died on impact. Griffin was also killed.

Magee is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Scopwick in Lincolnshire, England. On his grave are inscribed the first and last lines from his poem High Flight:

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth –
Put out my hand and touched the Face of God."

Part of the official letter to his parents read: "Your son's funeral took place at Scopwick Cemetery, near Digby Aerodrome, at 2:30 P.M. on Saturday, 13 December 1941, the service being conducted by Flight Lieutenant S. K. Belton, the Canadian padre of this Station. He was accorded full Service Honours, the coffin being carried by pilots of his own Squadron."


2 comments:

  1. Great picture of the Spit! I've got a picture somewhat similar in my office, not wheeling about like that one however. More coming at you through a break in the clouds.

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    Replies
    1. And you know my love for the Spitfire.

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