Captain Albert Ball V.C. – British Ace 1896 / 1917 Pt.5
Ball then requested a few days off, but to his dismay, He was temporarily re-assigned to aerial reconnaissance duty with No. 8 Squadron. Where he flew B.E.2’s from the 18th of July until the 14th of August. During this posting Ball undertook an unusual mission, he flew a French espionage agent across enemy lines. Dodging an attack by three German fighters, as well as anti-aircraft fire, he landed in a deserted field, only to find that the agent refused to get out of the aircraft. While he was on reconnaissance duties with No.8 Squadron, The London Gazette announced he had been awarded the Military Cross, “For conspicuous skill and gallantry on many occasions” particularly for one occasion when he attacked six enemy aircraft in one flight.” Throughout his career this was not unusual, Ball generally attacked on sight of the enemy, regardless of the odds. He professed no hatred for his opponents, writing to his parents he stated,” I only scrap because it is my duty …. nothing makes me feel more rotten than to see them go down, but you see it is either them or me, so I must do my duty best to make it a case of them.”
Ball’s 20th birthday was marked by his promotion to temporary captain and his return to No.11 Squadron. He destroyed three Roland C.II’s in one sortie on the 22nd of August 1916, the first RFC pilot to do so. He ended the day by fighting 14 German aircraft some 15 miles behind their lines. With his aircraft badly damaged and out of fuel he struggled back to Allied lines to land. He transferred with a cadre of No.11 Squadron to No. 60 Sqn. on the 23rd of August 1916. His new commanding officer gave Ball free rein to fly solo missions, and assigned him his own personal aircraft and maintenance crew. One of the squadron mechanics painted up a non-standard red propeller boss; A201 became the first of Ball’s aircraft to be fitted with this boss. He found that it helped his fellow squadron members to identify his aircraft and in doing so confirm his combat claims. By the end of the month he had increased his victory tally to 17 enemy aircraft.
To Be Continued …………..
(C) Damian Grange 2019