Flying Officer Harold Eric Hunter (402060) served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force during World War Two. Born on 23rd March 1916, he was the son of Eric Douglas Hunter and Rose Amelia Hunter of West Melton, Canterbury, New Zealand.
Harold was the husband of Maire Ethel Hunter of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand. The couple had a daughter, Jill Hunter.
Flying Officer Hunter died in a flying accident at around 1230hrs on 16th March 1942 while attached to RAF 57 Squadron. He was the pilot on board Vickers Wellington X3599 when it came down on high ground in Co. Down.
The incident took place on the slopes of Black Stairs Mountain near the Glen River in The Mournes. The New Zealander pilot was 25 years old as he made the journey at 1045hrs from RAF Feltwell, Norfolk, England in poor weather conditions. Destination on the training flight was RAF Aldergrove, Crumlin, Co. Antrim on a cross-country training flight.
Six members of the seven-man crew died in the crash as the plane burst into flames. Wellington X3599 had clocked up 1230 hours of flying time. Weather played a significant role in the accident with thick cloud descending on the hills.
Harold Eric Hunter’s grave is in Glenalina Extension, Section AS, Grave 127 of Belfast City Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Antrim. In 2015, his daughter, Jill Rivers visited the grave. She spoke of Harold being a “man of the mountains”, having met his wife on Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest peak, tragically dying in the Mourne Mountains and laying to rest in the Belfast Hills. Ulster Aviation Society recovered both engines from the crash site in 1984.