Captain Albert Ball. V.C. – British Ace 1896 / 1917 Pt.3
On the 18th of February 1916, Ball joined No.13 Squadron at Marieux in France, flying a two – seat Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c on reconnaissance missions. He survived being shot down by anti – aircraft fire on the 27th of March. Three days later he fought the first of several combats in the B.E.2c. He and his observer Lieutenant S.A.Villiers fired a drum and a half of Lewis gun ammunition at an enemy two – seater but were driven off by the intervention of a second enemy aircraft. After this inconclusive skirmish, Ball wrote home to his parents in one of his many letters, ” I like this job, but nerves do not last long and you soon need a rest.” In letters home to his Father he discouraged the idea of his younger brother following him in to the R.F.C. Ball and Villiers tried unsuccessfully to shoot down an enemy observation balloon in their two – seater on the 10th of April. Ball’s burgeoning skills and his aggressiveness gained him access to the Squadron’s single seat Bristol Scout later that month. April the 19th also saw Ball’s first letter home that mentioned plans “for a most wonderful machine …… heaps better than the German Fokker” it is now generally believed that these “plans” were unconnected with the design of the Austin -Ball A.F.B.1, with which he later became involved.
On the 7th of May 1916, Ball was posted to No.11 Squadron, which operated a mix of fighter aircraft, including the Bristol Scout, Nieuport 16 an d Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b pushers. On his first day of flying with his new unit, Ball wrote home complaining of fatigue. He was unhappy about the hygiene of his assigned billet in the nearest village, and elected to live in a tent on the flight line. Ball built himself a hut to replace the tent and cultivated a small garden.
To Be Continued…………………….
(C) Damian Grange 2019