Mr. William Summerbell was born in Newcastle-On-Tyne, England on August 26, 1888. In his early career, prior to service for the Ordnance Corps, he worked as a gun and breech mechanism production engineer for the Bethlehem Steel Company and later as an Ordnance production inspector for the Savage Arms Company.
He began work for the Office Chief of Ordnance in Washington, D.C. on August 19, 1918. In 1922, he established an automatic gun production section at Watervliet Arsenal, New York. After three years, he was placed in charge of War Department fuze and bomb design in Washington, D.C. He served in this assignment for twelve years, and in 1937 became chief civilian engineer of the cannon section, Artillery Division.
In 1940, he designed and developed a new breech mechanism which became standard on 90mm automatic antiaircraft guns. He invented new design concepts for sliding, drop-block breeches, which allowed faster rates of fire, simplified operation, and better weapon reliability. As special liaison engineer to Watervliet Arsenal, he represented the Chief of Ordnance from 1946 until his retirement in 1948. Mr. Summerbell died on February 20, 1949.