Grave 643, Annoeullin Communal Cemetery, German Extenstion, Nord, France
Albert Ball was the first British ace idolized by the public. An engineering student when the war began, he joined the Sherwood Foresters before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1915. Described as an " introspective little chap," Ball was a loner with strong religious convictions who soon established a reputation as a fearless pilot and excellent marksman. On 22 August 1916, he scored his 11th victory when he shot down Wilhelm Cymera's two-seater. In just three months over the Somme, he scored his first 30 victories. With the introduction of the S.E.5, he reluctantly gave up his Nieuport 17. Flying the new scout, Ball's flight encountered Jasta 11 on the evening of 7 May 1917 and Ball was last seen by Cyril Crowe entering an extremely dark thundercloud. In the confusion that followed, Ball and Lothar von Richthofen both crashed. Ball was killed but the German ace survived. Officially listed as missing in action, it was several years before the details of Albert Ball's death were known. Although Germany officially credited Lothar von Richthofen with downing Britain's leading ace, there was little or no evidence to substantiate the claim. Moments before he crashed, Leutnant Hailer, a German officer on the ground, witnessed Ball's undamaged aircraft emerge alone from the clouds, 200 feet above the ground in an inverted position with a dead prop. Ball's death greatly disheartened the entire Royal Flying Corps.
Today, many of Ball's personal possessions can be viewed at the Albert Ball Memorial on the grounds of the Nottingham Castle Museum in England.
CAPTAIN BALL REPORTED TO BE SAFE.
Airman Who Brought Down 42 German Aeroplanes.
From Our Own Correspondent
There is just a gleam of hope that Captain Albert Ball, D.S.O., the brilliant young airman reported missing, may be alive though a prisoner.
Canon Keymer, of Nottingham, today received a letter from his son, the Rev. Bernard Keymer, a chaplain in the Royal Flying Corps in France. The writer says: "I know you will be sorry to hear about Ball, but glad he is safe."
The writer gives no foundation for this statement, and Captain Ball's family have so far no official information as to his fate.
Captain Ball, who is not yet 21 years of age, has to his credit 42 German aeroplanes shot down in many thrilling battles on the west front. He has thrice been awarded the D.S.O., and has the Military Cross. His father is an alderman and ex-mayor of Nottingham.
The young airman's career and many of his daring feats have been described at length in The Weekly Dispatch. He once set out in a hurry to do battle, clad only in his pajamas and overcoat, and on one occasion fought single-handed five enemy airmen, two of whom he accounted for.
He was a born flier and as fearless in the air as he was skilful.
It will be remembered that Captain Leefe Robinson, V.C., who brought down the Cuffley Zeppelin, was missing a long time before he was reported to be a prisoner at Karlsruhe.
The Weekly Dispatch - Sunday, May 20, 1917
"The S.E.5 has turned out a dud... It's a great shame, for everybody expects such a lot from them... it is a rotten machine." Albert Ball
"Won't it be nice when all this beastly killing is over, and we can enjoy ourselves and not hurt anyone? I hate this game . . ." Albert Ball in letters to his father and fiancée, 6 May 1917
2nd Lt. Albert Ball, 7th Bn. Notts. & Derby. R., T.F., and R.F.C.
For conspicuous skill and gallantry on many occasions, notably when, after failing to destroy an enemy kite balloon with bombs, he returned for a fresh supply, went back and brought it down in flames. He has done great execution among enemy aeroplanes. On one occasion he attacked six in one flight, forced down two and drove the others off. This occurred several miles over the enemy's lines.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 27 July 1916 (29684/7435)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
2nd Lt. (temp. Lt.) Albert Ball, M.C., Notts. & Derby. R. and R.F.C.
For conspicuous gallantry and skill. Observing seven enemy machines in formation, he immediately attacked one of them and shot it down at 15 yards range. The remaining machines retired. Immediately afterwards, seeing five more hostile machines, he attacked one at about 10 yards range and shot it down, flames coming out of the fuselage. He then attacked another of the machines, which had been firing at him, and shot it down into a village, when it landed on the top of a house. He then went to the nearest aerodrome for more ammunition, and, returning, attacked three more machines, causing them to dive under control. Being then short of petrol he came home. His own machine was badly shot about in these fights.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 26 September 1916 (29765/9419)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Bar
Lt. Albert Ball, D.S.O., Notts. & Derby R. and R.F.C.
For conspicuous skill and gallantry. When on escort duty to a bombing raid he saw four enemy machines in formation. He dived on to them and broke up their formation, and then shot down the nearest one, which fell on its nose. He came down to about 500 feet to make certain it was wrecked. On another occasion, observing 12 enemy machines in formation, he dived in among them, and fired a drum into the nearest machine, which went down out of control. Several more hostile machines then approached, and he fired three more drums at them, driving down another out of control. He then returned, crossing the lines at a low altitude, with his machine very much damaged.
(The award of the Distinguished Service Order is also announced in the Gazette of this date.)
Supplement to the London Gazette, 26 September 1916 (29765/9421)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Bar
2nd Lt. (temp. Capt.) Albert Ball, D.S.O., M.C., Notts. & Derby. R.
For conspicuous gallantry in action. He attacked three hostile machines and brought one down, displaying great courage and skill. He has brought down eight hostile machines in a short period, and has forced many others to land.
(The Distinguished Service Order was awarded in London Gazette dated 26th Sept. 1916. First Bar was awarded in London Gazette dated 26th Sept. 1916.)
Supplement to the London Gazette, 25 November 1916 (29837/11531)
Victoria Cross (VC)
Lt. (temp. Capt.) Albert Ball, D.S.O., M.C., late Notts. and Derby. R., and R.F.C.
For most conspicuous and consistent bravery from the 25th of April to the 6th of May, 1917, during which period Capt. Ball took part in twenty-six combats in the air and destroyed eleven hostile aeroplanes, drove down two out of control, and forced several others to land.
In these combats Capt. Ball, flying alone, on one occasion fought six hostile machines, twice he fought five and once four. When leading two other British aeroplanes he attacked an enemy formation of eight. On each of these occasions he brought down at least one enemy.
Several times his aeroplane was badly damaged, once so seriously that but for the most delicate handling his machine would have collapsed, as nearly all the control wires had been shot away. On returning with a damaged machine he had always to be restrained from immediately going out on another.
In all, Capt. Ball has destroyed forty-three German aeroplanes and one balloon, and has always displayed most exceptional courage, determination and skill.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 8 June 1917 (30122/5702)