Some Anecdotes from "Mr. Alan Summerbell".
(Corporal Fitter 2A. RAF Ret'd)

Revised October 2010.

IN MEMORIAM: - It was with feelings of great sadness that I learnt in December 2008 from his daughter Jill that my dear friend Alan had passed away shortly before his 89th Birthday, may he rest in eternal peace! 

The following anecdotes from Iraq and RAF Habbaniya were recounted to me during my meetings and various discussions with Alan who briefly served with the "Communications Flight" in late 1941.
Alan stated that he had a great respect for my father and felt that he was a much liked Officer who cared for the men under his Command.
He was also kind enough to give me permission to reproduce a painting of a Valentia at Habbaniya by his Artist friend Mr. Reg Sampson. See bottom of this page.

"Antics in an Audax"
Alan Summerbell described to me how one day Flt Lt Skeet was to Flight Test an Audax at Habbaniya and had invited Alan to fly with him. After satisfying himself that the Aircraft was fully Airworthy, Flt Lt Skeet flew low along the almost mile long Station perimeter fence in front of the hangar area just a few feet above the Iron Spikes, waggling the Aircrafts Wings in a display of skillful exuberance! (This was obviously not part of the approved Test Flight procedure!)

"A Brush with Blighty Time."
One morning at RAF Habbaniya Alan Summerbell was found asleep by an officious Orderly Sergeant of the Depot during a 4.30 a.m. Billet check. Not aware that Alan was on Communications Flight, working "Blighty time" (8.00-17.00 hrs.) the Sgt marched Alan to the Depot Commander's office where he was charged firstly with not rising at Reveille and, when he explained that he had risen but, not being on duty until 8.00. he had returned to bed, secondly with being in bed after Reveille. As it appeared that, despite anything he said, it appeared he was to be used as an example Alan resigned himself to having a blot on his record. He was given a "Severe reprimand".
However on arriving somewhat late at Comm Flt. for his work schedule, he was marched into the office of his Commanding Officer (Flight Lieutenant Skeet) and charged with being late for duty. Alan explained the reason for his lateness and states, "I saw a Blue Light flash in my C.O.'s eyes, he dismissed this latest charge and told me to get on with my job." Shortly after Alan was told by Flt. Lt. Skeet that he had seen the Depot C.O. and, as any charge should be tried by an airman's own C.O., the "Severe reprimand" would be expunged and would not appear on his record.

"A Double Dose of Blighty"
Soon after the Americans had entered the War they were moving men and equipment to the Middle East. On one occasion a British Airmen whose unit was out in the desert under canvas had been given a Seven Day Leave Pass (it took that long to get anywhere because hitching lifts was the only way one could travel off duty).
A chance encounter with a Yank' gave the Brit' the offer of a very unofficial return trip home to Blighty with a promise to get him back to his Unit before his pass expired. As home leave from the Middle East in wartime was unheard of and having not seen his wife since being posted, the Airman jumped at the chance to spend some time with his wife and family.
So off he went and duly on time he returned to his Unit and continued with his duties, keeping very quite about his unofficial exploits.
Some months later, he was called into his C/Os Office to be told that a letter had been received concerning his wife. His C/O asked him to sit down as he had some worrying news. "Well my lad" said the C/O " I understand that your wife has become pregnant, so under these circumstances we're going to arrange for you to have some Compassionate Leave in order for you to try and sort out any problems you may have at home". Stunned by his amazing good fortune the Airman thanked his C/O and trembling with relief and excitement he left the C/O's Office looking forward to his second trip home in that year!

"A B17 Botch Up!"
One day in late 1941 a Flight of B17 Flying Fortresses were due to land at RAF Habbaniya on the main Airfield just outside the Main Station. Some months earlier after the Battle with the Iraqi forces in May 1941 a trench had been dug on the perimeter of the Airstrip to bury the bodies of the Iraqi casualties.
Ignoring instructions to the contrary the B17s proudly made their landing in formation resulting in one of the Aircraft running into the soft ground of the trench, becoming bogged down and completely immobilized much to the embarrassment of the American Flight Officer concerned and the amusement of the observing British Officers and Flight Crews.

The Painting reproduced here by kind permission of Mr. Summerbell depicts a Vickers Valentia of the Communications Flight parked on the dried lakebed Airfield outside the perimeter fence at RAF Habbaniya, the crew stand alongside in front of the RAF roundel and 3 Arabs in their white clothing stand near to the wings. Other Aircraft can be seen parked in the distance and above flies a Wellington Bomber.