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

This record is held by Nottinghamshire Archives

Details of DD/682
Reference: DD/682
Title: Letters of Albert Ball, pilot of World War I, and associated items
Date: 1913-1917
Held by: Nottinghamshire Archives, not available at The National Archives
Copies held at:

There are xerox copies of these items which should be used in preference to the originals

Language: English

Ball, Albert, 1896-1917, of Nottingham

Physical description: 29 Items
Access conditions:

Records are open for consultation, unless otherwise stated

Immediate 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

  • First World War, 1914-1918
Administrative / biographical background:

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

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