Lincolnshire Co-op volunteers, who worked on the big clean event at Wellingore helping to create a memorial park honouring second world war pilot John Magee who wrote the poem, High Flight.
Lincolnshire Co-op volunteers, who worked on the big clean event at Wellingore helping to create a memorial park honouring second world war pilot John Magee who wrote the poem, High Flight.

Volunteers cleared a green space that will become a community memorial park honouring a second world war pilot and poet.

Staff from the Lincolnshire Co-op funeral home in Newark were among volunteers who cleared pathways, pulled up weeds and tidied flowerbeds in Wellingore to create the High Flight Memorial Park.

Lincolnshire Co-op organised the Big Co-op Clean and recruited volunteers from its stores, as well as local residents.

The space is being developed by Wellingore Parish Council and will commemorate Pilot Officer John Magee, author of the well-known poem, High Flight.

The Anglo-American aviator was one of hundreds who crossed the border into Canada to enlist with the Royal Canadian Air Force before the United States became involved in the war.

Pilot Officer Magee was assigned to No 412 (Fighter) Squadron at RAF Digby where he trained in a Supermarine Spitfire.

It was during a test flight of a Spitfire Mk 1, which reached a height of 33,000ft, that he gained inspiration for High Flight, which starts with the line: “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.”

Pilot Officer John Magee
Pilot Officer John Magee

'People from all over the world visit Wellingore'

Three months later, having taken off from RAF Wellingore, Pilot Officer Magee was killed in a mid-air collision with an Oxford Trainer from Cranwell Airfield.

The collision happened over the hamlet of Roxholm, between RAF Cranwell and RAF Digby. He was 19.

After his death, Pilot Officer Magee’s poem became a symbol of the Forces.

Mr Roger Cole, chairman of Wellingore Parish Council, said: “People from all over the world visit Wellingore and are surprised that we don’t have a memorial for John Magee.

“This is now becoming a reality thanks to the people who are here, supporting our work and helping us break ground to create the memorial park.”

Volunteer Mr Richard Busby was formerly in the RAF and now works within the Co-op’s health and safety team.

He said: “It is important to create and sustain memorial parks like High Flight, as they are a place to pay our respects to the sacrifice made by previous generations. It is those sacrifices that enable us to enjoy the freedoms we have today.”