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 was 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.
Oh! I have slipped the surly
bonds of earth
John Gillespie Magee, Jr.