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Canadian Virtual War Memorial

John Gillespie Magee

In memory of:

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee

December 11, 1941

Military Service


Service Number:

J/5823

Age:

19

Force:

Air Force

Unit:

Royal Canadian Air Force

Division:

#412 Falcon Squadron (Promtus Ad Vindictum)

Additional Information


Born:

June 9, 1922
Shanghai, China

Son of the Reverend John Gillespie Magee and Faith Backhouse Magee, of Washington, D.C., United States. John began his education at the American School, Nanking (1929-1931). In 1931, he moved with his mother to Britain where he continued his education first at St. Clare's near Walmer, Kent (1931-1935) and then at Rugby School (1935-1939) winning the Rugby School's poetry prize in 1938. In 1939 he moved to the USA to live with his aunt in Pittsburgh and attended Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Connecticut. He earned a scholarship to Yale University, where his father was then a chaplain, in July 1940 but did not enroll, choosing instead to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force in October of that year.

In October, 1940, at age 18, John Magee Jr. went to Canada and enrolled in the RCAF. After his flight training, he went back to England as a commissioned pilot officer. In the course of his training in the Spitfire aircraft, he was assigned to make a high altitude flight 'into the stratosphere'. On landing, he went to his quarters and there wrote his now famous sonnet on the back of a letter to his mother

High Flight
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Commemorated on Page 37 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance. Request a copy of this page.

Burial Information


Cemetery:

SCOPWICK CHURCH BURIAL GROUND
Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

Grave Reference:

Row 3. Grave 33.

Location:

Digby aerodrome was built towards the end of the First World War and after the war it functioned as a permanent unit of the Royal Air Force. In 1937 it became a member of No 12 Fighter Group in which it remained until the end of the Second World War.

Digby was one of the original sectors of Fighter Command and in the early days of the Second World War was very active in the defence of northern England. No 42 (Fighter) Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force (known as the Red Indian Squadron from the emblem which it carried) was formed there in April 1942. On September 16, 1942, the sector was taken over by the RCAF and until the end of the war was known as Royal Canadian Air Force Station, Digby.

The 37 Canadian airmen buried at Scopwick lost their lives while stationed at Digby. They include an American airman who served with the RCAF, P/O J G Magee, and author of the poem 'High Flight'.

Scopwick Church Burial Ground contains 50 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War and five German war graves. The graves form a plot in the top half of the burial ground. The Cross of Sacrifice in the corner of the plot was unveiled by the Air Member, Canadian Joint Staff on June 1, 1950.

Information courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Digital Collection

Send us your images
  • Newspaper clipping– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Newspaper clipping– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Newspaper clipping– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Newspaper clipping– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Newspaper clipping– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Newspaper clipping– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Poem– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Burial Card– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Document– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Biography– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Biography– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Biography– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Photo of JOHN GILLESPIE MAGEE– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Photo of JOHN GILLESPIE MAGEE– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Biography– Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Photo of John Gillespie Magee 1
  • Photo of John Gillespie Magee 2
  • Photo of John Gillespie Magee 3
  • Newspaper Clipping– Memorialized on the pages of the Globe and Mail. Submitted for the project, Operation Picture Me
  • Newspaper clipping– In memory of the men and women memorialized on the pages of the Winnipeg Evening Tribune. Submitted for the project, Operation: Picture Me
  • Station Badge– John Gillespie Magee, Jr was just one of the many personnel from the Canadian forces who served at Digby.
The first of the Canadian squadrons arrived here in December 1940, No 402 Squadron, and this resulted in a partnership between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force that lasts to the present day. The station itself became RCAF Digby in September 1942 and remained so until the end of the war (hence the inclusion of a maple leaf in our Station badge). No fewer than 13 RCAF squadrons operated from Digby and it's satellite stations, flying day and night fighter aircraft.
  • Scopwick Church Burial Ground– There are 37 Canadian airmen buried at Scopwick who lost their lives while stationed at Digby, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom. They include an American airmen who served with the RCAF, P/O John G Magee, author of the poem 'High Flight'.
  • Grave Marker– Marker stone to P/O J. G. Magee in Scopwick Church Burial Ground, Lincolnshire, England.  Personal inscription reads: Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth put out my hand and touched the face of God.

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