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. Magee was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States officially entered the war and is most famous for his poem "High Flight."
He was killed at the age of 19, while flying Spitfire VZ-H which had departed with other members of 412 Squadron from Royal Air Force (RAF) Wellingore. The aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision with an Airspeed Oxford trainer from Cranwell, flown by another airman. The two aircraft collided just below the cloud base at about 1,400 feet Above Ground Level, 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. The other pilot 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.
Image copyright 2015 Jon Burch Photography
April 27th, 2013
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