Captain Albert Ball V.C. – British Ace 1896 / 1917 Pt.4
Throughout his flying service Ball was primarily a “lone wolf” pilot, stalking his prey from below until he drew close enough to use his top-wing Lewis gun on its Foster mounting angled to fire upwards into the enemy’s fuselage. According to fellow Ace and Victoria Cross recipient James McCudden, “It was quite an art to pull this gun down and shoot upwards, and at the same time manage one’s machine accurately.” Ball was as much a loner on the ground as in the air, preferring to stay in his hut on the flight line away from other Squadron members. His off – duty hours were spent tending his small garden and practising on his violin. Although not unsociable per-se, he was extremely sensitive and shy. Ball acted as mechanic on his own aircraft, and as a consequence, was often untidy and dishevelled. His singularity in dress extended to his habit of flying without helmet and goggles, and he wore his thick black hair much longer than regulations permitted.
While flying a Bristol Scout on the 6th of May 1916, Ball scored his first aerial victory, diving down a German reconnaissance aircraft. He then switched to Nieuport’s, bringing two LVG’s on the 29th of May and a Fokker Eindekker on the 1st of June. On the 25th of June, he became a balloon – buster and an Ace by destroying an observation balloon with phosphor bombs. During the month he had written to his parents admonishing to them to try to “take it well” should I be killed in action “for men tons better than I go in their hundreds every day” He again achieved two victories in one sortie on the 2nd of July, bringing down a Roland C.II and an Aviatik to bring his score up to seven.
To Be Continued……………..
(C) Damian Grange 2019