Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Captain Albert Ball V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.C., the Royal Flying Corps, was killed in action over Annoeullin in France.
The son of the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, who was later knighted, he attended The King's School, Grantham, and Trent College, showing an aptitude for all things mechanical. He joined the Officers' Training Corps and became a crack shot. An engineering student at the outbreak of the Great War, he joined the Sherwood Foresters, then transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1915.
His preferred position was a few yards directly beneath his opponent who he would shoot by tilting up his single wing-mounted Lewis gun. This was dangerous but remarkably successful, and gave Captain Ball a dashing reputation. He was considered a natural fighter pilot, and was known to constantly "tweak" his planes for improved maneuverability. Flying a Nieuport 17, he supported the offensive at the Somme. Appointed Flight Commander in No. 56 Squadron, he began flying the recently developed S.E.5. Captain Ball preferred to fly alone, and was credited with 44 victories, being awarded the Croix de Guerre, Military Cross. Distinguished Service Order and Bar, and posthumously the Victoria Cross.
His last fight was with a German single-seater, both of them crashing in deep cloud. The famous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, remarked upon hearing of Ball's death that he was "by far the best English flying man." In fact it was not known at first that he had died, but was considered missing; at the end of that month the Germans dropped messages behind Allied lines announcing that Captain Ball was dead and had been buried in Annoeullin with full military honours two days after he crashed. Over the grave of the man they dubbed "the English Richthofen", the Germans erected a cross bearing the inscription "Fallen in air combat for his fatherland English pilot Captain Albert Ball."
Albert, from Nottingham, was 20 years old.