11.12.1941 No. 412 Squadron Spitfire Vb AD291 VZ-H P/O. Magee
Operation: Training formation practice.
Date: 11th December 1941
Unit: No. 412 Squadron (Canadian)
Type: Spitfire VB
Location: Roxholme Hall, Sleaford, Lincolnshire
Pilot: P/O. John Gillespie Magee J/5823 RCAF Age 19. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the way back to RAF Wellingore, P/O. Magee’s Spitfire came out of the mist at about 400 feet and collided in mid-air with an RAF Cranwell-based Oxford trainer aircraft.
A local farmer witnessed the crash saying that the Fighter pilot struggled to open his canopy and then standing up he jumped from his aircraft but his parachute had insufficient time to fully deploy and he crashed to the ground being killed on impact.
Both aircraft crashed near to Roxholme Hall just outside Seaford.
On 13th December Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee was buried with full military honours at Scopwick cemetery where some 70 other Commonwealth war veterans would come to rest following military service.
Back at base that evening the station commander ordered all pilots to attend a lecture on flight safety and watch a film entitled 'Caution in flying'.
His poem (shown right) can be found in our Poetry section.
Left: Grave at Scopwick Church.
P/O. John Gillespie Magee. Scopwick Church Burial Ground. Row. 3. Grave 33. Son of John Gillespie Magee and Faith Backhouse Magee, of Washington, D.C., USA.
With thanks to the following: The CWGC 'Fighter Command Losses' - Norman Franks.
Magee's gravestone includes words from his now-famous poem:
'Oh, I have slipped
the surly bonds of earth
put out my hand
and touched the face of God'.
This poem reaches a wider audience than WW2 interests: President Ronald Reagan quoted it in his remarks following the loss of the astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger.