Major Lanoe George Hawker V.C. England’s 1st Ace1890/1916
The son of a Distinguished Military family, Hawker was born on the 30th of December 1890 at Longparish, Hampshire, England. He was educated at Stubbington House School and then at 11 yrs old to The Royal Navy College in Dartmouth, although highly intelligent and a keen sportsman, his grades didn’t reflect this and a Naval career seemed unlikely.
And so, he entered The Royal Military Academy in Woolwich before joining the Royal Engineers as an Officer Cadet. A clever inventor, Hawker developed a keen interest in all mechanical and engineering developments. During the summer of 1910 he saw a film depicting the Wright Flyer and after attending an aircraft flying display at Bournemouth.
He quickly gained an interest in Aviation, learning to fly at his own expense at Hendon Aerodrome. On the 4th of March 1913, he was awarded Aviators Certificate No.435 by The Royal Aero Club. Promoted to 1st Lieutenant in October 1913, he was posted to Cork Harbour with the 33rd Fortress Company. His request for attachment to The Royal Flying Corps was granted and he reported to the Central Flying School at Upavon on 1st August 1914.
Hawker was posted to France in October 1914, as a Captain with No.6 Sqn. R.F.C. flying Henri Farmans. The squadron soon converted to the B.E.2c and Hawker undertook numerous reconnaissance missions, into 1915 being wounded once by ground fire. On the 22nd Of April he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for attacking a German Zeppelin shed at Gontrode by dropping hand grenades at low level, below 200ft from his B.E.2c. He used a tethered German Balloon to shield him from enemy fire from the ground while he made successive attacks. During the 2nd battle of Ypres, Hawker was wounded in the foot by ground fire. For the remainder of the battle he had to be carried to and from his Aircraft but refused to be grounded until the battle was over.
Jameson, as the man made himself known was a clerk at the Consulate. The Consul would like to meet with us to explain the political situation with regard to our mission. All the arrangements had been made and in the Consular stables three good horses awaited our approval, which was excellent news.
Jameson, ushered us through to meet the Consul, after the introductions were dispensed with, the Consul said, ‘Make yourselves comfortable, Gentlemen and I will update you on the situation as it stands. There is a lot of unrest caused by various factions who seek to overthrow the Monarchy and turn Russia in to a Bolshevik Republic.
‘How will this effect our mission?’ I asked. ‘Probably not at all, as long as you are aware that feelings are running high and all foreigners are being viewed with suspicion, once you are clear of the coast and up in the mountains you should be fine, but I would be lacking in my duty if I did not make you aware of the situation.’
‘Any foreseeable problems likely to arise once we reach the Carpathians, that we should know about?’ I questioned. ‘There are gangs of Brigands operating along your route, but there are two of you and you are both armed with modern weapons, so it is highly unlikely that they would chance their arm with you. One thing that will interest you, the wolf packs appear to be on the increase, so build your fires high and sleep close to them.’ was the Consul’s advice.
A wagon and four oxen so that I may find the mine that these stones originated from, I am familiar with the immediate vicinity, so I don ‘t imagine it will be that hard to find. I could see Mynheer de Klerk considering my offer, then he spoke offering me a counter proposal.
‘And what collateral are you offering me in return for my investment?’ he queried. A fifth share in whatever is found, and you can keep the diamonds on the table as a gesture of good faith,’ I stated. ‘You must be very sure of yourself to virtually give away a fortune in uncut diamonds, I am in, but on my terms, you are the beggar at this table.’
‘I am prepared to offer a wagon, two oxen and a month’s supplies, but only on the condition that Henrik accompanies you to look after my interests.’ ‘You drive a hard bargain Mynheer de Klerk, but I accept it will be a pleasure to ride with Henrik again.’
‘Do you wish to draw up some form of contract, a document to cover your share?’ I offered. ‘I know from Henrik that you are a man I can trust, you are after all leaving a small fortune in uncut diamonds with me, how can I lose? if you return at noon tomorrow everything will be ready for you.’
‘I have a little unfinished business at the township, I will return there now and see you tomorrow, and once again I owe you my thanks, I said in lieu of goodbye.
James arrived promptly at 10.00 a.m. the following morning, with all his belongings in a large steamer trunk. I summoned McGinty to assist him up the stairs with it and to help him to his room.
I allowed him what I considered was a reasonable time to acquaint himself with his surroundings and settle in, then I knocked on his bedroom door. He opened it almost immediately, and bade me enter, his trunk was open on the floor and all that was left inside were several pairs of shoes and his books.
I asked him, ‘Was now a convenient time to show him around and explain his duties?’ ‘I don’t see why not?’ he immediately replied. I showed him the two rooms that I intended to use as consulting rooms, one for each of us, he commented that his was more than adequate for his needs.
I then led him down to the cellar, explaining on the way that this was where all my experiments were carried out, and that any of my thesis he had read were formulated in this very room.
I unlocked the door and ushered him inside, ‘Its huge, not at all what I expected, although to be quite honest, I have no idea what I really expected? he stated.
‘This, if you wish to call it that, is the nerve centre of the business, this is where I check specimens and attempt to formulate new and advanced cures, I would appreciate if you would assist me in this work,’ I stated. ‘I would be honoured to assist in any way that you require.’ once again his answer was perfect.
Captain Albert Ball V.C. – British Ace 1896 / 1917 Pt.2
In June 1915, Ball decided to take private flying lessons at Hendon Aerodrome, which would in turn give him an outlet for his interest in engineering and also possibly help him to see some action in France sooner. He paid to undertake training at the Ruffy – Baumann School which charged £75 – £100 for instruction which in those days was a major investment. Ball would wake at 3.00 a.m. to ride his motorcycle to the Flying School for flying practice at dawn, before beginning his daily military duties at 6.45 a.m. his training at Ruffy – Baumann was not unique, Edwin Cole was learning to fly there at the same time. In his letters to home, Ball recorded that he found flying “great sport”
Although considered an average pilot at best, by his instructors. Ball qualified for his Royal Aero Club Certificate No.1898 on the 15th of October 1915 and promptly requested a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps. He was seconded to No.9 ( Reserve ) Squadron R.F.C. on the 23rd of October and trained at Mousehold Heath Aerodrome near Norwich. In the first week of December he soloed in a Maurice Farman Longhorn after standing duty all night, and his touchdown was rough. When his instructor commented sarcastically on the landing, Ball angrily exclaimed that he had only had 15minutes experience with the plane, and if this was the best instruction he was going to get he would return to his previous unit. The instructor relented, and Ball then soloed again and landed successfully in five consecutive flights. His rough landing was not the last Ball was involved in, He survived two others. He completed his training at Central Flying School, Upavon and was awarded his pilots wings on 22nd of January 1916. A week later he was officially transferred from the North Midlands Cyclists Company to the R.F.C. as a pilot.
I was delighted by his reply, it would appear that in James Cameron I had found the Junior Partner that I was seeking. I enquired, ‘How soon can you move in and begin practicing?’
‘I have booked into a hotel overnight, so with your permission I will move in tomorrow morning after breakfast if that is not inconvenient?’ He replied.
‘That will be just perfect, I will tell Mrs Mc Ginty to air a room for you, once you are settled in, I will show you around and explain your duties. ‘The remainder of the staff will be here on Monday, you have met Jenny briefly, but I will introduce you properly.’ I explained.
‘What may I call you?’ He asked. ‘Jack is fine or if patients are present Doctor Jack, likewise I shall call you James or Doctor James as circumstances dictate.’ I replied.
‘If you have no objections I would prefer to be addressed as Jimmy or Jim, James is a little formal, I want to be accessible to my patients.’
I liked his attitude, he thought on his feet, and I had the feeling that he was just exactly what my practice needed.
My Father had been in contact with the British Consul in Sevastopol, relationships with the Russians were still a little strained, but it was considered safe for us to travel there. My Father arranged for the purchase of three good horses to be waiting at the Consulate for our arrival.
The Russians should not present a problem as we had no plans to stay in Sevastopol any longer than deemed necessary. Our plan was to follow basically the same route that my Father had taken many years previously. To this end he had supplied us with maps of the Carpathians, which clearly showed the route to Karlstadt. To two seasoned campaigners like Jock and myself, finding it should be easy, Its what happened then that might be the hard part.
We left that weekend, with the fond regards of my Mother and Father ringing in our ears. I felt bad about having to deceive my Mother, but my Father had assured me that it was a necessary evil, at least until I had visited Karlstadt and its castle.
Neither Jock nor I were very good sailors, I suppose as sea voyages go it was uneventful enough, but we both preferred the feel of dry land under our feet, whoever’s it was. As soon as we had docked and unloaded our possessions safely, We asked for directions to the British Consulate. Unbeknown to us, they had despatched a man to meet us, who soon made himself known. That immediately solved the language difficulty, he spoke Russian like a native.
I arose early, ate a little breakfast, then fed and watered my horse, then said my farewells to the township and set off to thank Mynheer de Klerk. It was a pleasant morning and I enjoyed the ride, why would I not, I had a small fortune in uncut diamonds at my waist and the prospect of finding their source and becoming even richer.
The township and my unfinished business could wait until I was ready to return there, at the moment I had more pressing matters to attend to.
I rode over to Mynheer de Klerk’s place of business and knocked on the door, it was opened by a smiling Henrik, who I was pleased to see looked none the worse for his ordeal. I gave his Father my grateful thanks for sending men out to search for me, he replied, ‘You gave up your horse and canteen of water to save my son’s life, it was the very least I could do.’
‘I am delighted that Henrik made it home safe and sound, I would hate to think of him perishing out in the veldt. Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, I have a little business to discuss with you, a little diamond business.
I noticed that the moment I mentioned diamonds I had Mynheer de Klerk’s full attention. I unhooked the pouch belt, opened it and slowly poured its contents on to the table. For a few moments the silence was overwhelming then Mynheer de Klerk asked, ‘What is it that you require from me, you have aroused my interest?’
I felt extremely flattered and slightly embarrassed by his compliments, I had never pictured myself in the guise of role model. But in a way he was correct, I was looking for someone with attitudes similar to my own and James certainly seemed to possess them.
I made a spur of the moment decision and decided to offer him the position, he was not perfect but he had shown a willingness to learn and he was by far the better of my applicants.
I enquired, ‘ If I offered you this position, have you somewhere to live in London?’ ‘I may have misunderstood, but I was under the impression that I would be residing at the surgery, have I made a dreadful mistake?’ was his concerned reply.
‘Not at all, I can get Mrs McGinty to sort out a room for you and you may have your meals with me, if that is not an inconvenience, but of course that will be taken from your salary,’ I stated.
‘I find that very agreeable, I made some enquiries about the price of rooms in London and I had thought that it might become a problem.’ he stated honestly.
‘Right! back to business, how would you feel if for starters I offered you a fifth of the net profit that the surgery makes, less your room and board, this is for an initial twelve months then I will review it. But please be aware that I do free clinics for the poor and needy for which the surgery receives no income,’ I wanted no secrets between us.
‘I do believe that you mentioned that fact in your advertisement, and I am all for it, everyone should have access to Medical treatment no matter what their income.’ he agreed.
Captain Albert Ball V.C. – British Ace 1896 / 1917
Albert Ball was born on the 14th of August 1896 at a house on Lenton Boulevard, Lenton, Nottingham. After a series of moves throughout the area the family settled at Sedgley in Lenton Road. His parents were Albert Ball Snr, a successful businessman who rose from employment as a plumber to become Lord Mayor of Nottingham, and who was later knighted, and Harriet Mary Page, his Mother. The young Albert had two siblings, a brother and a sister. His parents were considered both loving and indulgent. In his youth Albert had a small shed in the back garden, where he tinkered with engines and electrical equipment. He was raised with a knowledge of firearms, and conducted target practice in Sedgley’s gardens. Possessed of keen vision he soon became an crack shot. He was also deeply religious, however this did not curb his enthusiasm for such boyhood pursuits as steeple jacking. On his 16th birthday he accompanied a workman to the top of a tall factory chimney and strolled about totally unconcerned by the height.
Ball studied at the Lenton Church School, The Kings School, Grantham and The Nottingham High School before transferring to Trent College in January 1911, at the age of 14, as a student he displayed only average ability, but was able to develop his curiosity for all things mechanical. His best subjects were carpentry, modelling, music and photography. He also served in the Officer’s Training Corps. When Albert left School in December 1913, aged 17, his Father helped him gain employment at the Universal Engineering Works near the family home.
Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, Ball enlisted in the British Army, joining the 2 / 7th ( Robin Hood ) Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters ( Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment ). Soon promoted to Sergeant, he gained his commission as a second lieutenant on the 29th of October 1914. He was assigned to the training of recruits, but this rear echelon role frustrated him. In an attempt to see action, he transferred to the early the following year to the North Midlands Cyclist Company, Divisional Mounted Troops but remained confined to a posting in England. On the 24th of February 1917, he wrote to his parents, “I have just sent five boys to France, and I hear they will be in the firing line on Monday, it is just my luck to be unable to go.
He was a little hesitant at first, which I put down to nerves, but he soon relaxed and explained his reasons, both for becoming a physician and wishing to become my Junior.
His work at Medical school, of which he showed me some samples, was clear and concise, he was quite obviously conversant with the subjects dealt with. To me that showed interest in the subject and a willingness to learn, then two things I would insist upon in my Junior.
He also admitted his weaknesses and failings, he was totally candid with me a fact that I both respected and appreciated. Thus far I liked what he had to say.
I interrupted his flow of rhetoric to ask the question Why Whitechapel, why me? he appeared to pause for a moment to get his thoughts in order then stated, ‘Whitechapel is for the most part slum dwellings where pestilence thrives, Whitechapel needs dedicated Doctors.’ I liked what I heard, I sensed the touch of the zealot about him.
‘And me!’ I repeated, ‘Why me?’ ‘Because I have read and studied all of your dissertations in the Medical Press and you are the kind of forward thinking Doctor that I myself would seek to emulate, and I say this in all honesty, not to curry favour in any way with you.