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Remembered Today:

Capt. Albert Ball died of a head wound?


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Cyril Ball, brother of Albert Ball, in Cross & Cockade USA, Vol 2, No 2. 1961:

 

"While my mother was alive the family never mentioned his end, but after the war I visited the spot, and I found a Frenchwoman who had been the first at the crash, before the Germans arrived. She informed me that she had pulled him from the wreckage and that he was still alive, but barely so. She said he had a head wound. She held him in her arms until he died, During his time he did not speak, but he opened his eyes a few moments before he died."

 

The name of the "Frenchwoman" was given by Colin Pengelly (Albert Ball V.C., 2010) as Mademoiselle Cecile Deloffre. Wether Pengelly, nor Alex Revell (High in The Emty Blue, 1995) mentioned the head wound.

Edited by madrid
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alex revell

Neither Ltn. Hailer or the other German officers who arrived later, or the doctor who examined Ball, and who  found that he had a broken back and leg,  mentioned a head wound. It all depends on what is meant by 'wound'. Perhaps Cecile meant a bruise or contusion where Ball had  hit his  head in the crash, or possibly was even romancing a little  to Cyril.  

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There are no medical reports of Albert Ball's injuries. As a bruise, facial injuries can be understood, but Cyril Ball speaks of a head wound.

Unfortunately, the stories of Lieutenant Franz Hailer from 1967 ("although it is now fifty-one years ago") cannot be confirmed. The old man at the end of his life ("and so I am the only witness still alive") probably wanted to go down in history. What he did with his statements. He died shortly afterwards. There is only one source of his stories that all authors use: Cross & Cockade USA, Volume 10, Number 3 / Fall 1969. Strange that he is referred to in the article as a "lieutenant", since he had been a captain since 1916. „Lieutenant" would have deeply hurt his pride.

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alex revell

Madrid, This question  is typical of those that  continually crop up - who was 'Greentail'  what colour was Voss' cowling, who killed von von Richthofen, where is Mannock buried, was Bishop a fraud - the list is endless and usually ends with no positive result after a great many posts involving a inordinate amount of wasted time.  I'm afraid that I have nothing to add to the discussion of Ball's death. 

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Posted (edited)

Alex, I'm not interested in who shot Albert Ball. I am interested in the interpretation of second-class source material and how it suddenly become historical facts. But if you mention the elder Richthofen: he too had only one head wound (07.07.1917), but much more luck than Albert Ball.

Franz Hailer enter WWI as a Leutnant. Promoted Oberleutnant 27.09.1916, Hauptmann 27.09.1916. That C&C, and followers, degraded him to a Leutnant sounds like a bad research.

 

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Alex, two brothers in competition, Leutnant Carl Hailer and Hauptmann Franz Hailer. Who tells the best story. 

Here the story of Leutnant Carl Hailer, as told by Frederick Oughton in THE ACES (1961). 

 

   One explanation, possibly the true one, of Albert Ball's death has come from Herr. D. R. Hailer, at the time holding the rank of Lieutenant as observer with Fl/A292 (A.G.O.2-seaters). He was in charge of a German airfield somewhere in the vicinity of the accident, his job being to superintend flight take-off and landing, report all accidents and examine the official reports of pilots and observers.

   Hailer said that on May 7, in conditions of aerial tumult, when the frequency of dog-fights overhead was greater than usual, he was viewing the sky at about eight p.m. and saw an S.E.5. flying upside down through the cloud bank. He believed that the pilot had the machine under perfect control when German ground artillery suddenly opened fire on it as it passed low over a line of trees and finally crashed. He went on the place to find the broken pieces, still unburnt, and among them noticed the body of a man without any apparent injuries except a few abrasions. The arm was broken, the foot fracture in three place, while the chest and the back were both broken. The face was quite unmarked. Hailer at once searched the body and discovered a wallet and identification disc marked with Ball's name. He also found a prayer book and some photographs.

   During that evening news of Ball's death travelled across the area to all units. Hailer went back to search the fragments of the S.E.5. for signs of bullet or shell fire, but discovered nothing whatsover to show that the plane had been shot down by ground or air forces. He now made a routine report which said that the plane was in pieces and the pilot had been identified as Albert Ball. He added that the examination was still proceeding. That done, he returned to the scene to meet an artilleryman who claimed that he was responsible for shooting down the plane. Ball's body was then removed to a nearby mortuary, Hailer superintending the matter in which he was helped by a Belgian nursing sister. After a doctor examined the corpse it was formerly reported that no sign of gun fire was evident.

   Hailer now went off to see his friend, Lt. D.R. Romberg, and they agreed to arrange things to German advantage. During the night Romberg went to the crashed plane and fired a number of shots into the engine. In the morning Hailer sent off a report which said that machine-gun bullets had now been discovered in the wreckage.

   It was Hailer's brother, Franz - a prewar pioneer of commercial aviation - who sent Ball's prayer book and handkerchief to Sir Albert Ball. Franz Hailer remained in total ignorance of the true story behind the German claim that Ball was actually shot down in battle.

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Alex,

at any time, questions about the sources that book authors use to present historical facts are interesting.

Two sources are known about the Hailer brothers:

 

Frederick Oughton: The Aces (1961). The statements of Leutnant Carl Hailer.

Douglas Whetton: Cross & Cockade (1969). The statements of Hauptmann Franz Hailer.

 

What are your sources?

 

 

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Since Mlle Deloffre's first language was presumably French, she may have said "blessure" which can be translated into English as either "wound" or "injury".  

 

 

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Have there been closer ties between the Deloffre family and the Ball family?

 

„The Deloffre family still maintain Ball’s grave, after honoring him by naming a town school and a street after him.“

Gerry van Tondern: Nottingham’s Military Legacy (2017)

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alex revell

 

Hello Pierssc

 I have a view as to why Cyril spoke of a head wound, but that is only a supposition and I have no intention of throwing it into the mix here. This is addressed to you and not Madrid as I have no intention of entering into any further discussion with him. This is really all I have to say on the subject.

I have checked my old C&C Journals in the loft. Madrid’s quote is correct in that the French woman -  note woman, not girl -  told Cyril Ball  that Ball had a head wound.

What Madrid did not mention was Whetton’s full account of his interview with Franz Hailer. C&C Fall 1969. Giving Whetton the details of what he saw regarding the crash, he said:  ‘my brother Carl and I and two other officers  made our way to the crash. The two officers lost their lives on May 8 1917 and my brother died some years ago.’ Hailer then later went on to say. ‘In 1922 I went to Moscow to arrange the South German Air Service between Berlin and Moscow. I got to know a Russian pilot named Kaminsky who during the war had served with the Royal Flying Corps. I showed him the prayer book and the handkerchief and he suggested that I give them to him because he was returning to England and would hand these items to Sir Albert Ball. Sometime later I received a letter from Captain Ball’s father thanking me so much for returning the items and inviting me to come over and meet him as he wanted to meet the man who had seen his son for the last time before he was buried. In those days it was a long way from Moscow to England and I wrote that perhaps later on I would come over and tell him what happened on that day in 1917. His reply came with a photograph of Captain Ball. At the same time he wrote that there must have been some misunderstanding and he didn’t believe that his son had died in an air battle. He had information from a Belgian nursing sister who worked in the German Field Hospital where Captain Ball’s body had been taken. Her report was that Captain Ball had died of a heart attack. After that I decided it wouldn’t be wise for me to go to see Sir Albert because I believed his father did not wish to hear the whole story.’

After giving some of his speculation regarding the crash, Hailer ended. ‘Although it is now fifty one years ago, I still think of it, and it lays deep in my memory.’

Whetton’s footnotes to this section of the article give:  ‘Captain Victor Kaminsky Attached RFC Air attaché  Berlin 1923.’ On the prayer book  and handkerchief,  W gives: ‘Returned by Sir Albert Ball to Miss Flora Young. She destroyed this item for “purely personal reasons” in 1958. The handkerchief was white cambric. Letter “A” in one corner Now in possession of the author

Whetton goes on to state: ‘The German doctor’s evidence make no mention of bullet wounds and states that the cause of death was a broken back and a broken leg and foot, bruising on the left of the face caused by the face coming into contact with the cockpit. These bruises showing only some hours after death.’

This account by Franz Hailer disproves Madrid’s statement that it was Carl Hailer who reported on the events of 7 May 1917 and that Franz knew nothing about it. Not only bad, but dishonest research. 

To come to the identity of the girl/woman who pulled Ball from the crash.

Chaz Bowyer, in his 1997 biography gives the girl’s name as Madam Lieppe-Coulon. Pengelly in his 2010 biography gives her as Mademoiselle Cecile Deloffre. Please note: I am not quoting either them as a source, merely pointing out the difference in their accounts. In his text Bowyer does not give her age but gives her as being a Madam Lieppe-Coulon. But he captions a photograph of her: ‘Mme Lieppe-Coulon taken in 1911 when she was 16 years old.’  And referring to her as a Mme.  This would make her 22 in 1917. The explanation is obviously that Cecile Deloffre (Pengelly) was the girl’s maiden name.

With all due respect to Chaz, Pengelly is the better, more meticulous  researcher, and in my opinion -  for reasons I won’t go into here -   his biography is far the superior.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

"This account by Franz Hailer disproves Madrid’s statement that it was Carl Hailer who reported on the events of 7 May 1917 and that Franz knew nothing about it. Not only bad, but dishonest research."

 

Alex, why these allegations? Apparently you didn't understand something. The report is from Oughton, not mine. I just point out that two brothers are in competition, Leutnant Carl Hailer and Hauptmann Franz Hailer.

 

In the important book by R.H. Kiernan "Captain Albert Ball" (1933) there is no mention of a Captain Franz Hailer, only "Lieutenant Hailer. Flieger-Abteilung 292 ". And that's the Leutnant Carl Hailer.

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Unfortunately we do not know whether Frederick Oughton (1961) and Douglas Whetton (1969) had personal contact with Carl and Franz Hailer.

 

It is true that Oughton and Whetton describe Leutnant Hailer as the alleged observer of the event. Whetton is wrong to call him Franz Hailer. Carl Hailer was the Leutnant, and Franz Hailer the Hauptmann, who was not mentioned at all by Kiernan (1933). A mix-up that creates a lot of confusion today.

 

For comparison both texts:

 

Frederick Oughton: The Aces (1961)

"One explanation, possibly the true one, of Albert Ball's death has come from Herr. D. R. Hailer, at the time holding the rank of Lieutenant as observer with Fl/A292 (A.G.O.2-seaters). He was in charge of a German airfield somewhere in the vicinity of the accident, his job being to superintend flight take-off and landing, report all accidents and examine the official reports of pilots and observers. Hailer said that on May 7, in conditions of aerial tumult, when the frequency of dog-fights overhead was greater than usual, he was viewing the sky at about eight p.m. and saw an S.E.5. flying upside down through the cloud bank. He believed that the pilot had the machine under perfect control when German ground artillery suddenly opened fire on it as it passed low over a line of trees and finally crashed. He went on the place to find the broken pieces, still unburnt, and among them noticed the body of a man without any apparent injuries except a few abrasions. The arm was broken, the foot fracture in three place, while the chest and the back were both broken. The face was quite unmarked. Hailer at once searched the body and discovered a wallet and identification disc marked with Ball's name. He also found a prayer book and some photographs."

 

Douglass Whetton: Cross & Cockade (1969)

"On the ground, Leutnant Franz Hailer could hear the sound of aircraft engines, but could see nothing owing to the low cloud. In the act of raising his binoculars, he saw an aircraft emerge from the cloud, flying upside down. Had it been in a normal position, Hailer remarked, it would have been in a gliding attitude. He continued watching through his glasses until the aircraft, with its propeller stopped, disappeared behind a line of trees and crashed into the slightly rising ground near Fashoda, a ruined farmhouse a mile and a half from the village of Annouellin. In his account of the fighting that evening, Leutnant Hailer said:” The aircraft was upside down with the wheels 'sticking' up. It was leaving a trail of black smoke and this I considered was caused by oil leaking into the cylinders. My brother Carl and I, and two other officers, made our way to the crash. The two officers lost their lives on May 8th 1917, and my brother died some years ago, and so I am the only witness still alive."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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