High Flight by PO John Gillespie Magee (Jn) (1922-1941)

In memory of Sergeant (Pilot) Paul Klipsch (1917-1940)

In June 1998 Channel 4's 'Time Team' archaeologists dug up Paul Klipsch’s plane and tried to deduce what had happened to him on 23 May 1940 when he was shot down and killed. Eric Wynn Owen, Paul's step-brother, took part in the programme and read the very moving poem, 'High Flight' during the closing sequence as a Spitfire danced and dived about the sky over the site of the crashed aircraft.

PO John Magee (Jn)

Pilot Officer John Magee (Jn) (above) of No 422 Squadron, RCAF, wrote this poem in August 1941 at RAF Llandow, Wales, after he had flown a Spitfire MKI to 33,000 feet.

John's English mother and American father were Anglican missionaries and from the age of 9 until shortly before he enlisted in the RCAF in 1940 John was educated in England. He himself was killed on 11 December 1941, in a mid-air collision with an Oxford trainer in cloud cover.


Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
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 windswept 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.