breaking through the clouds, combat, High Flight, JohnGillespie Maggee Jr, pilot officer, Royal Canadian Air Force, shanghai china, sign off, surly bonds of earth, television stations, touched the face of God
I have fond memories of this poem. For those of us old enough to remember …. television stations didn’t stay on for twenty-four hours a day. They signed off at the end of each business day. As a kid, I would stay up late just to view the stations signing off the air. This poem was read as many of the stations ended their day. Usually, a video of an aircraft breaking through the clouds accompanied the reading. For some reason, I thought this was the coolest. Unfortunately, my familiarity with this poem didn’t end at childhood. I have performed numerous funeral services in which families and friends requested me to read this poem, especially those who served in the armed forces.
What you may not know is High Flight was composed by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, the son of missionary parents, Reverend and Mrs. John Gillespie Magee; his father was an American and his mother was originally a British citizen.
He came to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF and graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941.
In August or September 1941, Pilot Officer Magee composed High Flight and sent a copy to his parents. Several months later, on December 11, 1941 his Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19 years of age, crashed to his death. His remains are buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire.
I share it so it will be cherished by another generation, before it is lost forever.