Ball was the first British ace idolized by the public. An engineering student when the war began, he joined the Sherwood Foresters before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1915. Described as an "introspective little chap," Ball was a loner with strong religious convictions who soon established a reputation as a fearless pilot and excellent marksman.
On August 22, 1916, he scored his 11th victory when he shot down Wilhelm Cymera's two-seater. In just three months over the Somme, he scored his first 30 victories. With the introduction of the S.E.5, he reluctantly gave up his Nieuport 17. Flying the new scout, Ball's flight encountered Jasta 11 on the evening of May 7, 1917 and Ball was last seen by Cyril Crowe entering an extremely dark thundercloud. In the confusion that followed, Ball and Lothar von Richthofen both crashed. Ball was killed but the German ace survived. Officially listed as missing in action, it was several years before the details of Albert Ball's death were known. Although Germany officially credited Lothar von Richthofen with downing Britain's leading ace, there was little or no evidence to substantiate the claim. Moments before he crashed, Leutnant Hailer, a German officer on the ground, witnessed Ball's undamaged aircraft emerge alone from the clouds, 200 feet above the ground in an inverted position with a dead prop.
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
"For conspicuous gallantry and skill. Observing seven enemy machines in formation, he immediately attacked one of them and shot it down at fifteen yards range. The remaining machines retired. Immediately afterwards, seeing five more machines, he attacked one at about ten yards range, and shot it down, flames coming out of the fuselage. He then attacked another of the machines which had been firing at him and shot it down into a village, where it landed on top a house. He then went to the nearest aerodrome for more ammunition, and returning, attacked three more machines, causing them to dive and get out of control. Being then short of petrol, he came home. His own machine was badly shot about in these fights." DSO citation, London Gazette, September 22, 1916
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Bar
"…When on escort duty in a bombing raid, he saw four enemy machines in formation; he dived on to them and broke up their formation, and then shot down the nearest one, which fell on its nose. He came down to 500 feet to make certain it was wrecked. On another occasion, observing twelve enemy machines in formation, he dived in among them and fired a drum into the nearest machine, which went down out of control. Several more hostile machines then approached, and he fired three more drums at them, driving down another out of control. He then returned, crossing the lines at a low altitude, with his machine very much damaged." DSO First Bar citation, London Gazette, September 22, 1916.
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) Bar
"…He attacked three hostile machines and brought one down, displaying great courage. He brought down eight hostile machines in a short period and forced many others to land." DSO Second Bar citation, London Gazette, November25, 1916.
Victoria Cross (VC)
"For most conspicuous and consistent bravery, from 25 April to 6 May 1917, during which period Captain Ball took part in twenty-six combats in the air and destroyed eleven hostile aeroplanes, drove down two out of control and forced several others to land. Flying alone, on one occasion he fought six hostile machines, twice he fought five and once four. When leading two other British planes, he attacked an enemy formation of eight. On each of these occasions he brought down at least one enemy plane and several times his plane was badly damaged. On returning with a damaged plane, he had always to be restrained from immediately going out in another." VC citation, London Gazette, June 3, 1917