Carsphairn Archive

The 23rd May 1942

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242 Squadron was posted to RAF Ayr. On 23rd May 1942 Pilot Officer Hunter-Blair's flight was sent on a mission over the Clyde estuary to provide cover for the Queen Mary.

This famous liner became a troop ship during WWII and had just steamed across the Atlantic Ocean alone bringing thousands of US servicemen to the UK.

She was one of the fastest ships afloat and could maintain speeds of 30 knots plus, faster by far than the convoys of merchant ships bringing food to our besieged isle, chugging along at 8-9 knots.

When the Queen Mary slowed down to steam up the Clyde she became prey to enemy attack from the air and what a target she presented - large, slow and alone - a sitting target.

The weather was appalling that day with driving rain and low thick cloud. At 1300 hrs David Hunter-Blair took off on patrol but he plus another plane in his section were sent inland to search for enemy aircraft in south Ayrshire.

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At around 20,000' R for Robert was seen to behave erratically as the other member of the flight broke away. Nothing more was heard from Pilot Officer Hunter-Blair.

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Flight Commander Douglas Benham and another officer took off at 14.05hrs to search for him but returned without finding any trace of the missing aircraft.

Whether he lost control of his plane, suffered oxygen failure or passed out we will never know but the pilot managed to bale out just before his plane crashed 1500' above sea level onto Cairnsmore of Carsphairn.

The aircraft was seen to crash by Jim McGarva, who was digging drainage ditches near what is now the Clennoch bothy and who ran to the scene taking some 20 minutes to reach it.

The crash in his words "was just sort of steaming" but he established that no pilot was on board the wreck and on surveying the surrounding area saw what he thought was smoke coming from another hill.

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He set off to investigate and found the smoke to be the pilot's parachute billowing in the wind. Unfortunately it had been utilised too late and failed to save the life of David Hunter-Blair.

The War Department sent a team to retrieve what they could from the wrecked aircraft and Jim Bell, who lived at Craigengillan in 1942, remembers dragging bits of the crashed plane down the hill for the War Department men to take away. The rest was buried on the hill.