I am very sad to note the passing of David Backhouse Magee, John Gillespie Magee, Jr.’s brother. David passed away on March 11, 2013, in White Plains, NY, after a brief illness. David was born in Kuling, China, on July 6th, 1925, the second child of John and Faith Magee. David was one of two Magee brothers who was born in China (old brother John was born in Shanghai, China; Christopher was born in Japan in 1928, and Frederick Hugh was born in England in 1933).
During John’s training in the Royal Canadian Air Force, David was John’s confidant. John often wrote to David about thoughts, feelings and experiences that were happening to John on almost a daily basis.
Many of the letters John wrote to David began with “Frater,” Latin for “Brother.” Many times the letters would end with a request for David to keep the letters from being read by anybody else in the family (and having read some of those letters, I can certainly understand why!).
Perhaps inspired by his older brother, David entered into the Army Air Corps in 1943 and served until the end of the war in 1945. The “rest of the story” of David’s life can be found on the NY Times website:
After John Jr. joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, and before he began his flight training, he experienced a seemingly interminable period of time waiting to begin flying. John was posted at the RCAF Base at Trenton, Ontario, and standing guard duty outdoors during extremely cold Canadian nights. He wrote a heartfelt letter to his brother David, pouring out his feelings and emotions. John, who always felt that his own death was not far away, gave what might be considered a final message to David:
“Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave et vale!”
I’m sure that David understood the message. Please pardon me, but I would like to resend that message, written some 73 years ago, from brother to brother:
“And forever, brother, hail and farewell!”