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Letters of Albert Ball, pilot of World War I, and associated items


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Reference DD/682
Covering dates 1913-1917
Held by Nottinghamshire Archives
Extent 29 Items
Conditions of access Records are open for consultation, unless otherwise stated
Source of acquisition Items relating to Captain Albert Ball, M.C., D.S.O., V.C. (1896-1917), deposited in the Nottinghamshire Record Office by Mrs Suella Postles, Keeper of Social History, Brewhouse Yard Museum, Castle Boulevard, Nottingham
22 April 1977. Acc 1715
Copies information There are xerox copies of these items which should be used in preference to the originals
Creators Ball, Albert, 1896-1917, of Nottingham

Administrative history:
Albert Ball was the third child and elder son of Albert Ball and his wife Harriet Mary, née Page. He was born on 14 Aug. 1896 at the family home at 301 Lenton Boulevard (now Castle Boulevard), Nottingham. A few years after this the family moved to Sedgley House, 43 Lenton Avenue, The Park, Nottingham. Albert Ball Senior, originally a plumbing engineer, became an estate agent and property speculator and was Mayor of Nottingham in 1909, 1910, 1920 and 1935
Albert Ball joined the army in 1914, was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, and largely contributed to the ascendancy of the British over the German air service established at the battle of the Somme in July 1916. He destroyed in all forty-three aeroplanes and one balloon and was one of the foremost pilots produced by the First World War. The circumstances of his death have not yet been fully explained. He crashed in an SE5 aircraft on 7 May 1917 near a ruined farmhouse called Fashoda, just over a mile from the village of Annoeullin, near Lens, France. The German pilot Lothar von Richthofen (younger brother of Manfred, the German flying ace) claimed responsibility for his death but the evidence now indicates that this claim was not genuine. He was buried by the Germans in a wooden coffin with full military honours in the cemetery at Annoeullin
See his latest biography by Chaz Bowyer (published in 1977) and 'Aces High, The War in the Air over the Western Front 1914-18' by Alan Clark (first published in 1973)
Items deposited in Brewhouse Yard Museum, Nottingham, by Captain J.P.L. Thornhill (son of Mrs. Flora Thornhill, née Young) of Clacton, Essex 17 March 1976
Albert Ball met Miss Flora Young (later Mrs. Thornhill) on 24 March 1917 at Shenley airfield, Herts. She was then eighteen years old, living in St. Albans, and engaged in agricultural war work. Ball was living with 56 Squadron at London Colney airfield, near St. Albans, Herts. According to the biography of Albert Ball by Chaz Bowyer (who met Mrs. Thornhill), a friend of the Young family, Mr. Piper, with whom Ball had once been billetted, heard that he was in the area and asked Flora to drive him to Shenley airfield to meet him
Ball took Flora for a ride in an aeroplane and immediately fell in love with her. He nick-named her Bob's (with or without the apostrophe), apparently referring to her habit of putting up her long hair in plaits to frame her face. On 6 April he more or less told her that they were to be married on his return from France. They never met again. He left with his squadron for France the following day. According to Chaz Bowyer, General Hugh Trenchard (the Commander of the R.F.C.) wished to spare Ball from over-stretching himself and imposed on him a verbal undertaking that he would stay in France only for the first month of 56 Squadron's operations. Ball died on 7 May 1917, the day after the completion of this month
Certain passages (mostly accounts of combats) have been marked by an unknown person in purple pencil. Similarly some envelopes have been marked in purple with a cross to indicate that the letter inside contains an account of a combat and others have been marked 'No fight'. The dates of the letters have been written on most of the envelopes in ordinary pencil. The postmarks reveal that a few letters have been placed in the wrong envelopes and that consequently the pencilled dates are incorrect. The letters have been restored to their original envelopes
Passages from many of the letters are printed in Chaz Bowyer's biography of Albert Ball. He includes an extract from Ball's last letter to Flora, that of 5 May 1917, which has not been deposited



Letter and envelope (stamp missing) from Albert Ball  DD/682/1A-B  1917

Contents:
[London Colney airfield, Herts.] to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
His first letter to her in which he addresses her as 'Miss Young'. 'Just cannot sleep without first sending you a line, to thank you for the topping day I have had with you. I am simply full of joy to have met you.' Asks her to remember the photograph [of herself] which she promised him.
12.30 a.m. 25 March [1917]

Letter and envelope (stamp missing) from Albert Ball  DD/682/2A-B  1917

Contents:
[London Colney airfield, Herts.], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
Addresses her as 'Bob's'. 'Must call you "Bobs" for I don't like calling you "Miss Young" You don't mind, do you?' Arrived back safely [after meeting her earlier that day] 'but I am afraid they all guessed. They always do.' Delighted with her photograph and will send his when it arrives. Will be at home in Nottingham [he apparently cancelled this visit in order to be with Flora as often as possible] from Wednesday [28 March] to Saturday morning [31 March]. Hopes she agree to his collecting her in his car at 11 a.m. on Saturday and taking her to London. Will write to her mother for permission
'... one of our best pilots was killed today in SE5' [a new aeroplane developed by the R.F.C. which Ball initially disliked]. Is going to Farnborough, [Hants.], the following day to collect a new SE5.
9 p.m. 26 March [1917]

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/3A-B  27 March [1917]

Contents:
[London Colney airfield, Herts.], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]. Thanks her for her letter which arrived just after he returned from Farnborough. with the SE5. 'Oh! yes! it did buck me up'. Sorry to hear she could not sleep on Sunday night. 'I could, for I was so very pleased with life, and more than pleased at meeting you.' Should he also write to her father for permission to take her out on Saturday?

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/4A-B  1917

Contents:
[London Colney airfield, Herts.], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]. Is grateful to her parents for bringing him back by car that evening [apparently after he has visited her]. 'They are topping sports.' Happy that they assent to their outing on Saturday and that Flora has promised to write to him in France. 'I don't know if it will supprise [sic] you to hear it, but I do so much want your letters, for they will help me so very much in my work. Am more than pleased to have met you, for I had waited so long, and have has so many disappointments [sic]. However all that is over now, and you will bring me good luck during my next run in France'. Signed (for the first time) 'Love Albert.' 28 March [1917]

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/5A-B  29 March [1917]

Contents:
[London Colney airfield, Herts.], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]. Has just finished packing [in preparation for his squadron's mobilization to France]. Has seen her that evening. 'I should think your Mother thinks I call a bit too often. Well I hope they don't mind, for I simply cannot keep away'. Pleased her parents have asked him to stay Saturday night as 'I send my bed away tommorow [sic], and have got to go into a billet'

Telegram and envelope from Albert Ball, [France]  DD/682/6A-B  9 April 1917

Contents:
To Flora Young, St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
Reads 'Arrived safely'. Message received in London 5.08 p.m. 8 April and in St. Albans 10.41 a.m. 9 April

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/7A-B  10 April [1917]

Two sheets

Contents:
56 Squadron, R.F.C., B.E.F., [Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens], France, to Flora Young, St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]. Apologises for delay in writing. 'We have not started work yet, and I don't think we shall do so for at least another week. All our kit is still in England, and will not be sent untill [sic] about the 16th, so you can gues things are not very "Cheer Oh!"
... All I want now is to start real work, then all will be O.K.' Postscript reads: 'Please give my best Cheer Oh! to your dear people'

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/8A-B  1917

Contents:
56 Squadron, R.F.C., B.E.F., [Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens], France, to Flora Young, St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]. 'You were a dear to give me such a good time during my stay at St. Albans... When this beastly war is over Bobs, all will be so O.K. Won't it? I read your little prayer and letter, every night... When we start work this, and the thought of you, will give me so much help'. Is about to go with [later Wing Commander G.C.] Maxwell to build a hut in which to sleep.
3 p.m. 10 April [1917]

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/9A-B  1917

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
Mentions death of 'Robinson' and reluctance of [Capt. Ernest Leslie] Foot to join them. Has started building canvas hut. Has not received a letter from her. Looks forward to seeing her on 'the B.S.A.' [motorcycle]

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/10A-B  13 April [1917]

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
Very brief letter. 'Have just been to see the G - 1 [ie. General, not 'C-in-C' as printed in Chaz Bowyer's biography] and he has given me a Nieuport, also my S.E. so all is O.K. Shall start work on the first fine day'. [The Nieuport was a type of aeroplane which Ball much preferred to the SE5. His SE5 had a number of modifications made to it between 9 and 13 April]

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/11A-B  1917

Two sheets

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
'Oh! what a topping day it has been. First of all I had my first two fights this morning. In the first one the Hun ran off, but in the second, I managed to get in a few rounds, and made him run'. Delighted to receive four letters from her. 'The Major kept asking me questions, but I could not pay any attention, untill [sic] I had finished [reading them]. He got very cross'. 11 p.m. 14 April [1917]

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/12A-B  11.30 p.m. 15 April [1917]

Three sheets

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
Is feeling 'poo-poo' because 'five of my best pals were done in yesterday'. 'Oh! I do hope we shall let them [the Germans] have it'. His Commanding Officer will not let him go on another combat fight until all the aeroplanes are ready, which should be in about two days. Pleased to hear that Bill [her brother] is jealous of him: 'he has every cause to be'

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/13A-B  1917

Two folded sheets

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]. 'Am feeling so very happy and O.K. Today I have finished all my machines, moved all my flight into one big hut, also, have got my own hut O.K. But above all Bobs, I have your love ...' His 'first real letter', with many expressions of affection. 'You say I am engaged in serious, and awful things. Oh! no not awful. Serious if you like, but what a pleasure to fight for my Bobs and my people. Why it is real life, and all I ask is, to come back in time to enjoy [a] good, and useful life, with you dear'. Likes the prayer book she gave him. 'Not only the bar in my machine, but my God, and you, also my dear people [i.e. family] give me all the security I shall ever need.' Is taking his officers on a test flight at 7 a.m. the following day. 11 p.m. 18 April [1917]"

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/14A-B  23 April [1917]

Two sheets, one folded

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France] to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
'Cheer Oh! Have got my first two Huns down today'. Commenced at 5 a.m. in his Nieuport and brought down one, which crashed in a road. His aeroplane had fifteen shots through the spars [of the wings] and so forced to change to his SE5. This was also damaged, by five Albatross Scouts, one of which he set on fire at 14,000 feet. 'Poor old chap in side. Congratulated by the General and his C.O. Her letters 'help me so much in fact they got me my Huns today'

Letter and enveleope from Albert Ball  DD/682/15A-B  24 April [1917]

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
'Have just come in from a patrol. I had one fight with an Albatross, but the dear old thing ran away... The Squadron has now got five Huns': one by Lieut. [Leonard M.] Barlow of B Flight and four by A Flight (one by Lieut. [Gerald C.] Maxwell, one by Lieut. [K.J.] 'Naggs' [ie. Knaggs] and two by himself). 'I am so pleased my Flight is top'. Asks if he has cause to be jealous of Captain Johnson whom she mentions in her letters. Hopes it will rain the following day so that [flying will be suspended and] he can write a 'real good letter'

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/16A-B  1917

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]. 'It has been a dud day today' [ie. no flying because of bad weather] and they have got all their aeroplanes in order. 'This is very nice for we were sadly in need of a days rest'. Is on patrol the following day at 5 a.m. with his flight. 'Oh! I do hope we have a few good scraps'. Is trying to grow some plants. Pleased to hear from his father's letter that he will call on her the following week. Asks for a copy of her song 'Thank God for a garden', which he will play on his violin at night.
11.30 p.m. 25 April [1917]

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/17A-B  1917

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
Visited a small town a few days previously and bought a blouse each for her, his mother and sister. Has just come off patrol but 'no Huns are about'. Dreamt the previous night that the war was over and she met him at the station. 'Well it is fine to know that the dream will come true one day ...' Dreams of her often.
2.30 p.m 26 April [1917]

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/18A-B  1917

Two folded sheets

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]. Delighted with her latest letter and the enclosed photographs of herself and Bill [her brother]. 'Well dear, I have now got another two Huns, making four this time, and my total is 34. Only three more to get, before I am top of England and France again. In order to wack the German man have got about ten more to get'. 'I was attacked by twenty, last night, and had to fire all my ammunition, getting two of them... I had to stay on their side untill [sic] it was dark... My right plane was hit a few times and I had to have a new one'. 'Well dear so much for shop. It is all very fine in its own way, but what I am longing for, is, "the end of it all". Then I can have Bobs, all for myself'. Explains that he leads his flight on one or two 'jobs' [ie. patrols] each day and goes up on his own in his Nieuport during the rest of the day. His hut is finished and has a greenhouse and garden. 'I don't get much time to look after them, but my servant works hard ...'. All her letters make him happy 'and everyone knows it, in the mess. They cannot help it, for I go mad for a short time, when the post arrives'. Pleased that she has been to church, which he likes to attend, and that Captain Johnson has been told he (Ball) loves her. 2 p.m. 27 April [1917]

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/19A-B  1917

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts]. 'Only a line tonight, for I am not exactly O.K. I have now made my total 35'. On patrol the previous night one of his men crashed [this apparently refers to Gerald C. Maxwell, who in fact survived without injury] and 'I had my controls shot away'. General Trenchard congratulated him today [on his safe return] and asked if he would like two in spending two days with the French R.F.C. until his new aeroplane is ready
[According to Bowyer this visit does not seem to have taken place]. 29 April [1917]

Letter end envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/20A-B  3 [May 1917]

Six sheets

Contents:
[Candas repair depot, France], to Flora Young, 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans [Herts.]
Apologizes for delay in writing 'but I have been having such a poo-poo time'. Refers again to his S E 5's controls being shot away [on 28 April] and adds 'I got the Hun that sent me down' [which according to Chaz Bowyer's biography does not appear to be correct]
The guns on his new S E 5 have been going wrong. The previous night got two German aircraft and attended a squadron concert
Everyone there very pleased with him as his total of thirty-eight is 'one in front of the French man'. At 10 p.m. the fire-bell sounded: his hut, greenhouse and bathroom set alight by a candle left by Lieut. Knaggs in his (Knagg's) room. 'I have to laugh, although I am really very cross'. At present is having his aeroplane repaired. When his total is around forty, he will come home. 'The G.[enera] 1. is giving me two S.E.5's so I shall then be O.K
Now dear I think my machine is about ready, so I will go up, and have another try'
Note: Ball has mistakenly dated the letter 'March'; another hand has corrected this

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/21A-B  1917

Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Mrs. B. Young [Flora's mother], 4 St. Peter's St., St. Albans, [Herts.]
Thanks her for her letter. Has asked his father to visit them. 'Got two more Huns tonight. My total is now 42. Four in front of the French man. Well now I simply must close, for it is 12 a.m. and I must be up at 4'
Half of the last page (including signature) has been torn off). The envelope - although written by Ball - is from a different letter, being postmarked 27 March 1917
Letter 5 May [1917]
Envelope 27 March 1917 (postmark)

Letter and envelope from Albert Ball  DD/682/22A-B  1917

Source of acquisition: Items given to the Castle Museum, Nottingham, by Mr. S.M. Smith in 1936


Contents:
[Vert Galand airfield, near Amiens, France], to Lieut. S. Smith, 3rd Loyal North Lancashire [Regiment]. Felixstowe. [Suffolk]

Telegram  DD/682/23  1 Sept. 1916

Source of acquisition: Item given to the Castle Museum, Nottingham, by members of the Ball family in 1966


Contents:
From 13th Wing Headquarters, Royal Flying Corps, to Commanding Officer, 60 Squadron informing him that Lieut
Albert Ball has been awarded the D.S.O
[Distinguished Service Order]

Telegram  DD/682/24  [11?] [Sept]. [1916]

Source of acquisition: Item given to the Castle Museum, Nottingham, by members of the Ball family in 1966


Contents:
From 13th Wing Headquarters, Royal Flying Corps to Commanding Officer, 60 Squadron informing him that Lieut
Albert Ball has been awarded a Bar to his D.S.O
Note: The telegram is undated apart from '11' written under the heading 'Day of Month'. Chaz Bowyer in his biography of Albert Ball dates it as 13 Sept. 1916
However it would appear to be 11 Sept

Xerox copy of scroll issued by the King, commemmorating late Captain Albert Ball, V.C., D.S.O., M.C  DD/682/25  [1917]

Source of acquisition: Item given to the Castle Museum, Nottingham, by members of the Ball family in 1966


Copies information: Original in Brewhouse Yard Museum


Xerox copy of letter (set form) signed by King George V  DD/682/26  1917

Source of acquisition: Item given to the Castle Museum, Nottingham, by members of the Ball family in 1966


Copies information: Original in Brewhouse Yard Museum


Contents:
Accompanying DD/683/25

Miscellaneous sketch by Lt. Roderick Hill  DD/682/27  1916

Copies information: Xerox copy of item given to the Castle Museum, Nottingham, by Lady Hill (widow of Sir Roderick M. Hill) of London in 1958. Original in Brewhouse Yard Museum (NCM' 58-40)


Sketch of Albert Ball's Nieuport aeroplane  DD/682/27/1  [1916]

Contents:
Made at le Hameau aerodrome, France, by Lieut. [afterwards Air Chief Marshall Sir] Roderick M. Hill

Reverse side of DD/683/27/1  DD/682/27/2  22 July 1916

Contents:
Card summarizing flying capabilities of Second Lieut. R.M. Hill

Photograph  DD/682/28  1917

Contents:
Xerox copy of photograph in Brewhouse Yard Museum. Source unknown
Message from German Air Force to Royal Flying Corps announcing the death of Albert Ball on 7 May 1917 and his burial at Annoeullin. Placed in a canister and dropped by parachute over the British lines. [End of May 1917]

Picture postcard (Bruges, Belgium)  DD/682/29  1913

Source of acquisition: Item donated to Castle Museum by Mr. P.D.W. Notley of Nottingham, 7 March 1969, and transferred to the Nottinghamshire Record Office. Oct. 1980


Contents:
'Cyril' to Mrs. Albert Ball at Sedgley House, The Park, Nottingham re. crossing of channel, and sightseeing in Belgium. postmark: 1913

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