Nottingham and 56(R) Squadron Remember Captain Albert Ball VC DSO** MC
Raised in Nottingham, Captain Albert Ball joined the Sherwood Foresters at the outbreak of the First World War and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in October 1914. He learnt to fly in his spare time and, after gaining a pilot’s license in October 1915, transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he undertook training at the Central Flying School before being awarded his “wings” on 26 January 1916.
In February 1916, Captain Ball joined Number 13 Squadron in France, flying reconnaissance missions before being posted to Number 11 fighter Squadron in May. He remained there until his return to England on leave in October. During this period he accrued many aerial victories, earning two Distinguished Service Orders and the Military Cross, and became the first British fighter ace to capture the public’s imagination. Captain Ball was anxious for a return to action and, following his leave, he was posted to Number 56 fighter Squadron, which deployed to the Western Front in April 1917. Once there, he continued his record of victories until his final flight on 7 May 1917. Throughout his flying service he was primarily a “lone-wolf” pilot, carefully stalking his prey from below until he drew close enough to use his top-wing Lewis gun, angled to fire upwards into the enemy’s fuselage, a technique which earned him 44 victories.
Tragically, Captain Ball crashed to his death in a field in France whilst pursuing the Red Baron’s brother, Lothar von Richthofen. During the engagement, he managed to force von Richthofen to the ground but shortly afterwards he emerged from a cloud bank upside down and crashed before he could recover.
Captain Ball was buried with full military honours by the Germans in an extension to the Annoeullin town cemetery and he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. After the war, his father insisted that his son should remain buried where he was and set up a trust fund to pay for the maintenance of this special grave by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The grave remains there to this day and is the only British grave in the German Extension. Captain Ball is also commemorated by a statue and plaque in the grounds of Nottingham Castle; his Victoria Cross, other medals and memorabilia are displayed in the museum at Nottingham Castle.
The Nottingham branch of the Royal Air Force Association organise an annual ceremony at Nottingham Castle to remember Captain Albert ball VC DSO** MC. This year’s event was held on the 7 May 2012, the 95th anniversary of his death. In attendance were the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, members of the Ball family, members of 56(R) Squadron with their Squadron standard, ex-Service organisations and Standards, Air Training Corps cadets and the Army Cadet Force band. Despite the rain, there was a magnificent turn out of spectators for the ceremony and they were rewarded with a wonderfully moving dedication delivered by the Chaplin. This was followed by the laying of wreaths, a general salute and a march past by the Army Cadet Force band and the Air Training Corps.
Warrant Officer Tom Mew