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11 November 2011

A tribute to John Gillespie Magee
'The Pilot Poet'

Team members from Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire (AHL) are currently putting the finishing touches to a weekend of events that are being arranged as a tribute to Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, ‘The Pilot Poet” who wrote the world famous aviation poem ‘High Flight’.

The events on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December, 2011 will commemorate the seventieth (70th) anniversary of the mid-air collision over Lincolnshire, in which P/O John Gillespie Magee lost his life. This accident happened on 11th December 1941 while Magee was serving with 412 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) at RAF Digby and whilst he was dispersed to RAF Wellingore. He was just nineteen (19) years old and was buried with full military honours at Scopwick Cemetery near Digby aerodrome.

AHL will be hosting a talk about this inspirational pilot on 10th December in the Conference Room at the Lincoln Hotel on Eastgate, Lincoln from 2pm to 4pm. The main speaker will be Roger Cole, who will be joined by Lincolnshire actor Colin McFarlane who will read some of Magee’s works. Admission to the event will cost £5.00 per person, with proceeds being donated to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
Tickets will be available on the door, but reservations can be made by contacting AHL in advance: via email to David@aviationheritagelincolnshire.com or by telephoning 01529 308137.

On Sunday 11th December the focus of the weekend will move to Lincoln Cathedral. During the Matins Service at 11am readings from ‘High Flight’ will be made by a pupil from the Rugby School, where Magee was a former pupil; and a serving officer from the Royal Air Force College Cranwell.

After Matins a short commemoration will take place in the Airman’s Chapel at the Cathedral, where the Reverend Hugh Magee, the brother of John, will lay a wreath before other readings of his poetry will be made.

John Gillespie Magee was one of many Americans who broke his country’s law on neutrality and crossed the border into Canada and volunteered to join the RCAF. The international nature of this story is reflected in the invitations that have been sent out for dignitaries to attend the events. These include:

  1. Representatives of 412 Squadron RCAF
  2. Officials from the American and Canadian Embassies
  3. Senior members of the RAF
  4. Civic representatives from Lincolnshire

The John Gillespie Magee events are designed to highlight Lincolnshire's North American aviation connections and to pay tribute to the ‘The Pilot Poet’ who wrote ‘High Flight’.

AHL is funded by an award of £436,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Further reading:

Wikipedia entry for John Magee is HERE.


AHL Report on the John Magee Commemorative Weekend

John Gillespie Magee – ‘The Pilot Poet’

The events of Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December, 2011 organised by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire (AHL) commemorated the seventieth (70th) anniversary of the mid-air collision over Lincolnshire, in which P/O John Gillespie Magee lost his life.

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee was killed in a collision with an aircraft from RAF Cranwell on 11th December 1941 while Magee was serving with 412 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) at RAF Digby and whilst he was dispersed to RAF Wellingore. He was just nineteen (19) years old and was buried with full military honours at Scopwick Cemetery near Digby aerodrome.

At the request of the Reverend Canon Hugh Magee, the brother of John, the weekend’s events commenced with a short service and a private act of remembrance at Scopwick Cemetery on Saturday morning led by Reverend A T Coates RAF, Chaplain at RAF Digby. Accompanied by family and friends and around twenty local villagers, Hugh Magee laid a wreath on his brother’s grave. The Last Post was sounded in memory of P/O John Gillespie Magee and an honour guard of US Air Force, US Navy and Canadian Army personnel flanked the war graves in the cemetery.

On Saturday afternoon Roger Cole gave an informative and thought provoking talk about the inspirational pilot to more than seventy five people in the Conference Room of the Lincoln Hotel. Some extracts from Magee’s poems were read by Hugh Magee and Phil Bonner, with proceeds from the talk being donated to the RAF Benevolent Fund. In the evening AHL also hosted a dinner for invited guests at the Lincoln Hotel.

The Sunday morning service of Choral Matins at Lincoln Cathedral included a commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the death of John Gillespie Magee. Invited guests included the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Lincoln, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach KCB CBE FRAeS, representatives of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force and Canon Hugh Magee, his wife and family friends.

During the service John Magee’s poem “High Flight” was read by Alistair Blundy from Rugby School and Flight Lieutenant Ed Jackson from the Royal Air Force College Cranwell. A second John Magee poem “Per Ardua” was read by Flight Lieutenant Emma Gallagher from the Royal Air Force College Cranwell, after which Hugh Magee laid a wreath in honour of his brother.

After the service Hugh Magee re-laid the wreath in the Airmen’s Chapel in the North Transept of the Cathedral. The guests attended a post service function in the Bishop’s Palace opposite the Cathedral.

John Gillespie Magee was one of many Americans who broke his country’s law on neutrality and crossed the border in 1940 into Canada and volunteered to join the RCAF. The events of this weekend highlighted Lincolnshire's North American aviation connections and they paid an emotional tribute to the ‘The Pilot Poet’ who wrote ‘High Flight’. AHL is funded by an award of £436,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The wreath was laid at the altar in Lincoln Cathedral Scopwick Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery The Last Post was played at Scopwick Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery
     
Hugh Magee lays a wreath at his brother’s grave John Gillespie Magee’s grave at Scopwick Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery Rev Canon Hugh Magee re-lays the wreath in the Airmen’s Chapel at Lincoln Cathedral


Photo Credit: Howard Heeley – Down To Earth Promotions