Some Anecdotes from
"Mr. Alan Summerbell".
(Corporal Fitter 2A. RAF
Revised October 2010.
- 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
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
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
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.