High Flight - By John Gillespie Magee Jr.

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High Flight - By John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Post  Speed on Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:22 pm

High Flight
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
This is said to be the most evocative poem for aviators and is used in the Sermon at the annual Battle of Britain Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey.

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 windswept 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.

John Gillespie Magee Jr. History
During the dark days of the Battle of Britain, hundreds of Americans crossed the border into Canada to enlist with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Knowingly breaking the law, but with the tacit approval of the then still officially neutral United States Government, they volunteered to fight Hitler's Germany.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr., was one such American. Born in Shanghai, China, in 1922, Magee was just 18 years old when he entered flight training. Within the year, he was sent to England and posted to the newly formed No 412 Fighter Squadron, RCAF, which was activated at Digby, England, on 30 June 1941. He was qualified on and flew the Supermarine Spitfire.

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Re: High Flight - By John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Post  alpine on Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:37 pm

Very cool.
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Re: High Flight - By John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Post  ATAG_Catseye on Wed Jul 04, 2012 12:52 pm

My favourite poem - then Flander's Fields.

From his bio:

Magee was killed at the age of 19, while flying Spitfire VZ-H, serial number AD-291. The aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision with an Airspeed Oxford trainer from RAF Cranwell, flown by Leading Aircraftman Ernest Aubrey. 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.

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."

Magee's Grave, Scopwick
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."

A biography, Sunward I've Climbed, The Story of John Magee, Poet and Soldier, 1922–1941 was written by Hermann Hagedorn in 1942.
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Grounding in Reality

Post  Speed on Wed Jul 04, 2012 7:05 pm

I'm always tinged with a bit of guilt pretending to fly a fighter plane in the BoB being a soldier and knowing what war does to people, and also knowing that these young men and women sacrificed their lives and sufferered horrific injuries to safeguard the lives we take for granted today. In the twenty or so scenarios that I've modelled in mission builder based on each day of the BoB, I always list the casualties for that day at the bottom of my mission brief just as a reminder that many young pilots died doing what I was about to have fun at.

Having said that, when CoD works, it's challenging and fun, I enjoy our interaction among my squadron mates and in some small way I get a peak into the sights and sounds of that time in 1940. So I try not to take it too seriously and keep it in perspective. Not perfect, not real, but beats Duke Nukem!

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