Captain Albert Ball V.C – British Ace 1896 / 1917 Pt. 6
Ball then took leave in England, his feats in France had won considerable publicity. He was the first British ace to become a household name, and discovered that his fame was such that he could not walk down the streets of Nottingham without being stopped and congratulated. Prior to this the British Government had suppressed the names of its aces in contrast to the policies of the French and Germans who unashamedly used them for propaganda purposes, but the losses of the Battle of the Somme, which had commenced in July made it politic to publicise our successes in the air. Ball’s achievements had a profound impact on budding flyer Mick Mannock, who later became Britain’s top-scoring ace and also a Victoria Cross recipient.
Upon his return to No.60 Squadron in France, Ball scored morning and evening victories on the 15th of September flying two different Nieuports, on the evening mission he armed his aircraft with eight Le Prieur rockets, fitted to the outer wing struts and designed to fire electronically. He intended to use them on an observation balloon. As it happened he spotted a formation of three Roland CII’s and broke their formation by salvoing his rockets at them, then downed one of the aircraft with machine – gun fire. After this exploit he settled in to an improved aircraft Nieuport 17 A.213. he had it rigged to fly tail – heavy to facilitate his changing of ammunition drums in the machine-gun, and had a holster built in to the cockpit for the Colt automatic pistol that he habitually carried. Three times during September he scored triple victories in a day, ending the month with his total score standing at 31 making him Britain’s top – scoring ace. By this time he had told his Commanding Officer that he had to have a rest and that he was taking unnecessary risks because of his nerves. On the 3rd of October he was sent on leave, en route to a posting at Home Establishment in England.
To Be Continued……………….
(C) Damian Grange 2019