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Lieutenant Commander JAMES HENRY SUMMERLEE, MID, RN (Rtd), later Captain, BEA Helicopters, Part 2 of 2

Made available by Mrs Val Summerlee

Jim Summerlee (click photographs to enlarge)

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HMS Implacable - 813 Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet


Landings in the Bay
Firebrands and Sea Hornets


He just can't miss

Steady as she goes


The Cleopatra (Dido-class AA cruiser) on the Gib "Coalsheds"

HMS Vanguard (battleship) in Algericas Bay

Coalsheds again - Implacable, Vengeance, Bulawayo
 (ex-German oiler, now fleet auxiliary)

Off Europa Point - Freddie Wilcox, Dapper Berrill Jock Tofts, Allan Griggs, Pete Harvey

Our very smart bandmaster - "Bandy Ough"


Admiral Sir Philip Vian in the distance
Freddie Wilcox & Dapper Berrill (with the very famous Admiral in the palm of their hands)

The Rock from the S.E.

Operation Pinwheel

Mr "Danny" Kaye, The Blackburn Rep & 813 Squadron concert pianist

The hangar for the Firebrands of 813 in HMS Implacable
March 1950

Showpiece - Lt (E) Bannister poses

Dog (Duty) destroyer - HMS Alamein

HMS Implacable and HMS Alamein

What price she flies???

Waiting for the boat - (sitting) Danny Kaye, Jim, Freddie Wilcox, Duncan Lang, Jack Hayster, (standing) Staff Type

Just one of a number of photos in Valberg with the Ski Club de Nice


right - Lord Louis Mountbatten prepares to
leave Mers-el-Kebir in HMS Liverpool (light
We left later - watched by Lady M


Smokey - "Attention on the F' Deck, Face to Port." Smokey did

A flamer - Allan Harding

Re-entering Gib - Band on flight deck, work on hangar deck

Goodbye to Gibraltar
Pete Harvey, Mr D Kaye, Jock Tofts on the flight deck


"Mousing" (training batsmen) in the UK and on any available carrier



               RUN UP




Don Radford, Junior Turnbull (M for Mouse), Willie Lawrence (M), Doug Baker (M), Colin Hook, Pincher Martin (M), Al Hickling (M),  Bill Hawley (M & B for Batsman) - (Dope), Sleepy Wigg

"Old Prof" does not miss a trick

Flashman Hawley the Demon Batsman
Jock Hamilton smoking behind

CUT!! YOU ?!!?xx
Junior, Mike Stanley, Senior Prof Algy Groombridge
(carrier-borne this time -  on HMS Vengeance)

Shoot Son. James Tuttle & Dick Bates, Lt's USN

How do you do? Shaggers & Sheepy (Lamb)


Jock Lowe, Jim, Shorty Hamilton, Al Hickling

Our popular C.O.
{El Baroni de la Contre Conception de la Lina}
Lt. Cdr C.K. (Chicko) Roberts

Now where can I stow MY B...... Gear
Johnny Mortimer & Joe Honeywill

Mice or Men Again
Jock Lowe (smiles nervously), Shorty Hamilton (reaching for a gun), Al Hickling (flogging his shoes back)


Algy Groombridge & Doc Tom Boy Wade
Aces - all

Bill Hawley & Johnny (Curly) Blunden
Devil Dogs of the Air

Sunday morning stroll - Sheepy Lamb, Norman Sharrock

My Deayah! The D.L.'s & the Batsmen! I just couldn't see a thing for this blawsted sun!


LA.PM Daniels & Electrician Lunness

Repairs? Preparing to leave Vengeance
(Jim standing, in whaler)
More Mousing Ashore?

standing - Aussie, Shorty, Chiefy, Pip Powell
sitting - Jim, Johnny Scotney, Boris Morriss (?), Jack
(ashore - but not known when or where)

1 9 5 2 ? 1 9 5 6


After an accident in the mess, transferred to RNAS Gosport on 17 April 1952 for training on Sikorsky S51 helicopters. First posting was to HMS Vulture, RNAS St Merryn, Cornwall, as a SAR (Search and Rescue) pilot for 4 or 5 months.

On the 9 Nov 1953, he was loaned to the Royal Australian Navy and served on HMAS Sydney in the Korean War theatre on SAR. He flew out in a Constellation, joined Sydney in Singapore, and returned home at the end of hostilities from Singapore to Stanstead in Essex in an Avro York. While out in the Far East, he travelled by boat from Kure, Japan to visit Hiroshima.

After leave, posted to HMS Seahawk, RNAS Culdrose in June 1954 as search & rescue pilot. Following a  quick conversion course to Sikorsky S55's at HMS Daedalus, RNAS Lee-on-Solent,  he was posted to fleet carrier HMS Eagle on 6 February 1956 as Commanding Officer of the Search & Rescue unit. During this time, Eagle took part in the Suez Campaign, and Jim received two Commendations. One, to the whole crew was from the Commander-in-Chief for rescuing Lt. Lyn Middleton (who commanded carrier HMS Hermes in the 1982 Falklands War and later went on to become an admiral). The second was a Mention in Despatches for flying in and out of the War Zone at Suez, taking in medical supplies and bringing out the wounded. Jim lifted out Lyn Middleton on a second occasion, and narrowly missed doing so on a third. This was off the south coast of Malta when the resident crew at Halfar did the job.

HMAS Sydney and Korea

HMAS Sydney underway

presumably taken from her SAR helicopter hovering ahead

SAR Unit and helicopter on Sydney, in Kobe, Japan

return to UK in an Avro York
 .......  HMS Eagle, including Suez

Eagle - speed trials

"Big J", working a full flight deck

Rear Admiral Power, F.O.A.C. - "A Man we all Admired" (Sir Manley, KCB, CBE, DSO*, commanded 26th Destroyer Flotilla which sank Japanese heavy cruiser Haguro in May 1945, promoted Rear Admiral 1953, Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers 1956-57)

(unidentified), G.O.C. Cyprus, Rear Admiral Power

G.O.C. Cyprus and the Captain, The Maclean of Maclean, (unidentified)

Jim ranging a helo at Malta, Captain Maclean on lift

HMS Eagle, undated - Lift off

Eagle and rest of "our Carrier Air Group"
(possibly Albion and Bulwark)

Fleet Auxiliary Wave Conqueror. Val took passage in her Gib to Malta. Here, outbound again, Gib to Malta, preparing for Suez

HMS Eagle, dated 14 June 1956. Piloted by Jim Summerlee, with crewmen Mitchell and Hazel (testing winch) off Cyprus. Note side arms.


HMS Eagle, Beirut

HM Minelayer Manxman as we turn in Bosphorus

HMS Manxman, Turkey (?)

HMS Eagle, dated 28 August 1956, The Helicopter Rescue Unit.
seated centre - Pete Ragley, Jim, and Chief "Duff Cooper"

Following a Wyvern bombing attack on the fortified Coastguard Station at Port Said during the Suez campaign:

"Lt Cdr Bill Cowling, recognising that his aircraft had been hit (by flak), climbed to 1200 feet but had to throttle back. Eagle having acknowledged his Mayday call, Cowling ejected from his Wyvern some five or six miles from Port Said. As he landed in the sea, a Whirlwind helicopter, flown by Lt Cdr Jim Summerlee, was nearby transporting wounded soldeirs back to the carrier. Cowling was quickly hauled aboard and, although he had to stand up for the journey, was soon back aboard Eagle." (page 31)

"Crises Do Happen: the Royal Navy and Operation Musketeer, Suez, 1956" by Geoffrey Carter, Maritime Books, 2006

1 9 5 7 ? 1 9 5 8


Returned to the UK in Jan 1957 and was posted to HMS Seahawk, RNAS Culdrose. Then on 19 Feb 1958, joined the RAF?s Air Torpedo Development Unit (ATDU) dropping experimental torpedoes in a deep water range off the Isles of Scilly. His last flight before leaving the Royal Navy on 7 Aug 1958 was in a Whirlwind V11 for ATDU.



1 9 5 8 ? 1 9 8 2


General Flying 1958-64

Did a Civil Licence course at Air Service Training (AST) Hamble (at his own expense, which ate up most of his gratuity), and joined Helicopter Services Ltd on 3 Nov 1958. Started in South Wales flying Bell 47G's with concrete skips slung underneath for the construction of an offshore cooling caisson for Aberthaw Power Station. Then various charter work, before joining BEA Helicopter Experimental Unit based at the Beehive, Gatwick on 2 Jun 1959. Next five years was also on general charter work, mostly crop-spraying in Scotland during the summer months, but also providing engineering assistance during the building of the M1, Britain's first motorway. Some of the more interesting flying work in this time included:

1959 -  ITV Anglia (including 19 Aug & 10 Sep), flying Lady Mountbatten from the Paraplegic Games at Stoke Mandeville to her home at Broadlands on the River Hamble, working with Rank Films (22 Sep)

1960 - BBC TV interviews  (31 Mar & 6 Jun)

1961 - Hammer Films

1963 - BBC, Anglia TV (19-20 April), Pathé (14-16 Aug, 20 & 25 Sep), World Wide Photo?s (17 & 26 Aug), MGM (including 21 and 22 Aug) and National Geographic (12 Oct)

1964 - Beatle?s in their first film at Gatwick (13 Mar)

Penzance to Scillies ?Bus Service? 1964-82

Transferred to Cornwall on 18 April 1964, where BEA started the first civilian passenger service using helicopters. Initially flying from the grass airfield at St Just in Penwith to the Isles of Scilly then moved to a purpose built heliport at Penzance. During the winter months, sometimes went to Beccles in Suffolk and Aberdeen, Scotland flying out to the North Sea gas and oil rigs respectively. Back on the Penzance-Scilly run in 1967, Jim was the first person to spot oil tanker Torrey Canyon fast aground on the Seven Stones Reef during his early morning flight on 18 March. Other points of interest in this period included:

1966 - Penzance Film Charter (11 Jul)

1967 - photo charters for Torrey Canyon (21, 25 (2 charters), 27 (2), 29 (2+2) & 30 (3) Mar). On 8 Aug, and accompanied by his wife on what happened to be their 18th wedding anniversary, met the Queen & Prince Phillip on the Isles of Scilly and later on board the Royal Yacht Britannia for a cocktail party, where they also met Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

1969-71 - flying from Beccles to oil rigs (14-24 Feb 1969), Aberdeen to oil rigs (10-14 Nov 1969, 30 Dec-3 Jan 1970, 18 Dec-8 Jan 1971, 27 Jan-10 Feb 1971)

1973 - started training on the new S58T helicopter (1 Oct)

1974 - flying from Beccles to oil rigs (21 Feb-4 Mar)

1978 - received Queen?s Commendation for Services to Aviation in the New Year Honours List (1 Jan)

1982 - retired after completing 30,000 crossings to the Isles of Scilly (28 May)


Bristol 171 at Gatwick - with the Jackson family. Mrs Jackson was the sister of Val's Divisional Officer in the WRNS

Jim with Ron Digg, Manager Penzance

Jim made the first sighting of the stranded tanker and reported her on the outbound trip from Penzance to Scilly ....

.... the photograph was taken on the return to Penzance. Val and Jim subsequently helped with the clean-up of oil-damaged sea birds

Val and Jim at Lands End in 1982

..... inevitably with their dogs

In retirement Jim continued his love of fishing as a very keen fly fisherman as well as bass beach fishing. He also started a long association with the Sennen Cove Lifeboat, located near Lands End, Cornwall as a Committee member, Chairman, and Honorary Secretary for ten and a half years, retiring at age 70.




Defence Medal

1939-45 War Medal

UN Korea Medal

Naval General Service Medal
 with clasp
Mention in Despatches

Queen's Commendation for Services to Aviation

awarded 31 December 1977


Wren Valerie Summerlee (née Smith)

Defence Medal
1939-45 War Medal




Two of Jim's flying colleagues

I am glad to say that partly because of this story, two of Jim's oppos - David Hamilton and Al Hickling, who feature on these pages are now in touch with him after a gap of over 50 years

Gordon Smith


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revised 10/7/11