John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (1922-1941)
Oh! I Have slipped the surley bonds of earth
The poet John Magee was a young Spitfire pilot when he wrote High Flight. The son of an American Father and an English mother, he was educated in America. On the outbreak of the second world war he joined up as a volunteer in the Royal Canadian Air Force which brought him back to England as a fully-fledged pilot. It was while stationed in Britain during September 1941, that he wrote "High Flight". Two months later, on December 11th, and just three days after America entered the war, John was killed in a mid-air collision over Linconshire.
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.
He was 19 years old.
|"Pop" went on his last mission and finally passed away on October 28, 1999. During his funeral service I read out his favourite poem, High Flight", with the following added stanza that "Pop" had penned just before he was incapacitated.|
Onward, and with trembling thunder,
Out into the darkness we all flew,
Each dreading of that awful task,
We knew we had to do.
Enfolded in His arms,
A few of us came through,
And knew, somehow, that we'd reached out
And touched the face of God"
(G. H. "Pop" Porter 1997)
|According to his wishes, his ashes were scattered in a private ceremony at a prior WW2 RAF base, now located at Exeter airport.on November 17, 1999.|