Albert Ball VC...

 

...Fighter Pilot Hero of WW1, from Pen and Sword

 

Title: Albert Ball VC, Fighter Pilot Hero of WW1

Author: Colin Pengelly

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47389-355-9

First published in 2010 this is a new paperback edition for 2017.  In it we discover the detailed story of one of Britain's most famous pilots of WW1, the VC winner Albert Ball.  Born into a wealthy family in Nottingham he took part in the OTC at school and finally left Trent College in 1913 with an intention of going into engineering.  Then in 1914 he immediately volunteered to join up and enlisted in the 2/7th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. 

The book details his story, from his upbringing and his wartime career.  Almost immediately hew was given the rank of Sergeant thanks to his time with the OTC and soon after that a Second Lieutenant.  In a desire to get to France and play an active part in the war he got a transfer to a motorcycle unit, a sign of his interest in speed and things mechanical.  Still in the UK, he took private flying lessons at a Hendon flying school, where he got his Aeroclub licence.  That in turn enabled him to get a transfer to the RFC and there he found his niche and a natural ability to fly in combat.  In just 15 months achieved 44 victories before he was killed when his SE5a crashed on 7 May 1917, while serving with No 56 Squadron.  He was still under 21 years of age at the time.  He was posthumously awarded the VC.

The author has done a fine job of gathering the available information, as we are now at a point where no actual witnesses or colleagues remain alive.  Fortunately a number of letters he wrote home were kept by those who received them though the letters sent to him he did not keep during the war.  Apparently he did keep a daily diary which was sent home in his effects following his death, but it went missing many years ago so this valuable record lost to us all.  Although he did serve in two seater machines such as the BE2C but he excelled in single seat fighters, something of a loner.

There are still questions which the book examines about how he died that day in 1917, as well as his complete wartime service.  It is an interesting read and provides the personal insight into a real individual behind the legend that he became.  There is also a section with some archive photos along with 4 Appendices that includes a list of his victories.

Robin