High Flight

Spitfire Site

No art section devoted to the Spitfire should be left without this poem, the High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. High Flight by ...

No art section devoted to the Spitfire should be left without this poem, the High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

P/O Magee was a Spitfire pilot and his fame rests mainly on this poem, which endured as a favourite poem among aviators and astronauts ever since.

It was written in August 1941 while Magee was based at No. 53 Operational Training Unit in Llandow, Wales. Reportedly, one day he had flown up to 33,000 feet in a Spitfire Mk. I, his seventh flight in a Spitfire. As he orbited and climbed upward, he was struck with the inspiration of a poem – “To touch the face of God.” He completed the poem later that day after landing. The first person to read this poem later that day was almost certainly Air Vice-Marshal M.H. Le Bas, with whom Magee had trained, in the officers’ mess. Magee later also sent it in a letter to his parents.

John Gillespie Magee was killed on December 11 of the same year at the age of 19, whilst flying Spitfire VZ-H, serial number AD291, in a mid-air collision with Airspeed Oxford. The first and last verses from his poem are inscribed on his grave in Scopwick, Lincolnshire.

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