Albert Ball VC killed 100 years ago.
Fri Mar 23, 2018 14:18

Here is another article I wrote in time for May 7th last year:

100 Years on- Albert Ball VC Remembered.
(Published on April 4, 2017)
Follow Paul Davies
Aviation Historian.
100 Years ago, on May 7th, Albert Ball, a 20 year old lad from Nottingham was killed fighting for Britain, his family and his fiancee, Flora. Today, he is remembered as the first Publicized English fighter pilot, an ace of WW1 with 44 victories in the air.Here is part of an interview I did for the BBC some time ago:Albert Ball was neither steeped in military life nor dogged by poverty.

Pilot and aviation historian Paul Davies said: "Ball was the first British pilot to become a celebrity, he was taken to the heart of the nation which needed good news, helped by his boyish looks and patriotic attitude."

Born in 1896, his well-off businessman father made sure he attended a good public school in his native Nottingham.

Mr Davies says: "Ball grew up believing he had to put his country first, he had 'Britain' running through him like letters in a stick of rock.

"Desperate to live up to his father's expectations and his own sense of duty, the war was in some ways an ideal opportunity."Ball's visits to his home in Nottingham caused a media frenzy, and the doorway where he posed survives.

He arrived in France in February 1916 and immediately began to gain victories. While lacking the methodical wisdom of Mannock and McCudden, he had his own strengths.

"He was a mix of extraordinary bravery and boyish naivety. He became known for charging straight into enemy formations yet was embarrassed by public attention.

"He disliked the act of killing but felt it was a necessary thing to do to defend his country," says Mr Davies. Ball's crash site is still marked by the original memorial

On 7 May 1917, near Douai, Ball became involved in swirling dogfight. Ball pursued an opponent into low cloud but moments later his plane reappeared, upside down. It crashed behind German lines.

Claims Ball had been shot down were disproved as his plane and body suffered no bullet damage. The nation was shocked and confused.

Mr Davies says his air experience might give him an insight into what happened: "The dogfight came at the end of the day and everyone was running low on fuel, perhaps this made his engine fail.

"But also by this stage of the war he was far more disillusioned, he had seen a lot of friends die. He was physically and mentally weary.

"It could be this meant he became more disorientated in the cloud, rolled his plane and reacted more slowly when he came out of it."

He was buried with some pomp by the Germans and his father paid for a memorial at the crash site. Ball was due for home leave at the end of May 1917 and would have survived the war, married his fiancee and risen to some position in business or politics. Today, he is remembered for his bravery, in charging head long into great numbers of enemy aircraft, often alone. Remember Ball!

Paul Davies

Paul Davies
Aviation Historian.
His legend is as strong today as it was when he was made the first publicized ace of the Royal Flying Corps (RAF from April 1st 1918). I have written many times about this remarkable man and am thrilled to see interest in his life continues and that long out of print books about him are now being republished, radio and TV documentaries, programmes and magazine and news articles are being made ready to carry on telling the story of a remarkable man. Captain Albert Ball VC was the first serviceman to be presented with three DSO awards, to go with his other awards and medals. After he was killed, he was recognized with a Posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery. His example shone out despite the huge sacrifice and losses of WW1 in the Somme Battles. One pilot, after Ball was killed, found his courage wavered when in air combat. To give him heart, he pinned a note to his cockpit dashboard, it read simply:He Must Fall-Remember BALL! 100 years on, we should remember him and that lost generation of young men in war. Paul Davies

There are 5 other comments.

Click here to receive daily updates