Gillespie Magee, Jr. was born in China on June 9, 1922 to an English mother
and an American missionary father. He started his education in Nanking,
speaking English at school and Cantonese at home. In 1931 his mother took
him to England where he studied the Classics and English literature. Magee's
talent for poetry and writing was evident at an early age. As war loomed
he was sent to the United States to study at a private school. Accounts
of the Battle of Britain motivated Magee to turn his back on a scholarship
to Yale University and he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in Toronto
in October 1940. He did his service flying training at Ottawa.
In July 1941 Pilot Officer Magee set sail for England and RCAF 412 Squadron.
Magee wrote High Flight on September 3, 1941. He started it at 30,000 feet and finished soon after landing. The poem offers an uncanny insight into the joy of flying and its power to elevate the spirit.
John Gillespie Magee died in his Spitfire December 11, 1941 at the age of 19.
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