Newmarket’s Own Spitfire – AD540- “Blue Peter”
During World War Two great efforts were made to involve communities in donating funds for the war effort. One such was launched in 1941 here in Newmarket and the sum of £5,100 was raised for pay for a Supermarine Spitfire, which was to be named “Blue Peter” after the winner of the 1939 Derby.
Spitfire LF Mk 5B – AD 540 was duly built at Castle Bromwich (where her test flight was carried out by Alex Henshaw) and as promised, was named “Blue Peter”. It is a moot point whether she was a 5A or a 5B, records differ.
One record shows here issued first to 122 Squadron, but certainly when 242 Squadron re-formed at RAF Turhouse (Edinburgh) in April 192 and converted from Hurricanes to Spitfires, AD540 was one of their aircraft and received the call sign “R” Robert. The squadron code from April 1942 was LE. 242 squadron was at one time commanded by Douglas Bader (flying Hurricanes)
She was the aircraft of Pilot Officer David Hunter-Blair on May 23rd, 1942, who, at 1pm, took off from RAF Ayr to provide aerial cover to the approaching liner “Queen Mary” laden with US servicemen. On the way, Blue Peter, and a second Spitfire, piloted by Flight Sergeant Gordon “Matt” Mathers, were directed to investigate a suspected enemy sighting inland.
Soon, at an altitude of 20,000ft, Blue Peter was seen to behave erratically, and then descend through the clouds. David Hunter Blair apparently had fallen unconscious due to a fault in the oxygen system, and regained consciousness as the aircraft plunged to a lower altitude.
Unable to regain control, he baled out. However, his parachute did not deploy fully before he landed, and he died in the remote valleys of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn in South West Scotland. He was nineteen years old
David Hunter-Blair came from a landed family living at Blairquhan Castle, only 15 miles from where he had lost his life. After private schooling, eventually going to Eton, he joined the Royal Air Force, going to America for flying tuition
The BBC made a film abut the history of Blue Peter which goes into great detail and is well worth a look here on You Tube which covers the life of David Hunter-Blair, the history of Blue Peter and the salvage of the wreckage.
There are two other video clips on You Tube that cover the story:
The wreckage of Blue Peter lay buried where it had crashed, until it was discovered 51 years to the day after the crash, by a team including members of the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Group led by Ralph Davidson, chairman of the Scottish region of The Spitfire Society. This is recorded in great detail click here.
There is seemingly work under way to rebuild an airworthy Spitfire incorporating the remains of Blue Peter (2020).