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High Flight – a poignant poem known by flyers throughout the world.

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The Spitfire & RAF Wellingore

Together, this famous fighter and Wellingore Airfield combined to stimulate the evocative writing of John Magee.

The Spitfire

Described as one of the most important aircraft of World War 2, this aeroplane and the men who flew them helped to turn the tide of the air invasion by Germany, from desperation to hope. It was designed to out manoeuvre all other aircraft and became the scourge of the German Luftwaffe.

Spitfire V was reputedly the best handling Spitfire of all, and first went into service in the spring of 1941. It became the mainstay of Fighter Command and was fitted with a centrifugal supercharged Merlin engine capable of a maximum speed of 369 mph. The Mk VB carried four machine guns and two 20mm cannon. This fire power, together with its speed and unique manoeuverability, gave the men who flew them a sense of invincibility.

On 7 August 1941 John Magee had flown his first Spitfire in training at Llandow in Wales. Skilled pilots were in high demand, the training was of necessity short. Magee was quickly transferred to join the Canadian 412 Squadron at Wellingore early in September.

RAF Wellingore

Wellingore airfield was set up as a satellite airfield in World War 2 and it was from this airfield that John Magee flew the Spitfire to defend England against invading German enemy aircraft.

Today, the village has few outward signs remaining from the war, but beneath the surface there are many fascinating remnants of this critical time in world history. The main runways of the airfield are still largely intact together with perimeter “pill boxes” nearby. Under the camouflage of trees are the remains of emergency camp facilities later used as a prisoner of war camp.

Within the village the house which was requisitioned as an officers’ mess still shows the scars of discarded cigarette stubs trodden into the wooden flooring. It was here that both Douglas Bader and Guy Gibson ‘messed’ at a time when the younger Magee was billeted in a cottage in the driveway. Many of John’s best poems were written here.

Across a narrow road, next to the church, lies Wellingore Hall where many of the service crew for the airfield lived. Later in the war this was where prisoners of war were held and interrogated, those who had served their usefulness were then transferred to the more open prison camp nearer the airfield.

Visitors to the village can stay at a local pub and visit places of local interest. Wellingore stands on rising land mid way between Lincoln and Grantham. The church spire continues to be used as an identifiable land mark, as it undoubtedly was in World War 2 and the airfield remains as a constant reminder of the acres of flat Lincolnshire agricultural land which was identified as ideal for the rapid creation of numerous similar airfields.

Visits and Tours

In response to visitors from all over the world, guided tours can be arranged to include visits to Wellingore airfield and the adjacent camp site (later to become a POW camp), Wellingore village with its splendid Church and Hall and the house where John Magee was billeted. Costs are based on numbers in a group and the length of the visit required. For further details please complete the enquiry form.

Spitfire Mk VB

Spitfire Mk VB


John Magee Memorabilia

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  1. Chase the Shouting Wind

    Chase the Shouting Wind

    A must have for anybody who wants to know about John Magee’s life and poetry. Fully illustrated. Pre publication special orders. Read More

    £30.00

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  1. Touch the face of God

    Touch the face of God

    This collection of poems has not been printed together before which, in its unusual concertina layout, make it truly unique. Read More

    £12.00

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View all John Magee Memorabilia