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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Captain Ball's Last Flight


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I saw a copy of a painting which depicts the last combat of Captain Albert Ball VC. In the painting, Captain Ball is seen engaging an Albatros flown by Lothar von Richthofen who later claimed to have shot down the British ace. I believe that there is also evidence that a German officer witnessed Ball's SE5a diving out of control into the ground. It has been suggested that Ball became disoriented in cloud and his aircrafe became inverted and he went down without being hit by enemy fire. What is the consensus of opinion as to how Captain Ball died?



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Lothar von Richthofens claim is rather suspect especially as he claimed that Ball was in a Triplane! Aircraft recogniton is one thing, counting the wings wrong is another! But of course he may have been pressured into this claim by his superiors.

AFAIK, the account of the German officers on the ground is the most reliable and makes most sense. Apparently Ball's aircraft exited the cloud inverted and with a small trail of smoke - the fact that it was a small trail suggests not fire but an engine stalling due to fuel starvation while inverted. Entering cloud was lethal in those days, with no blind-flying instruction and no artificial horizon or turn and bank indicator, just a couple of spirit levels for attitude. Once he exited the cloud he probably only had seconds to reorientate himself.

Apparently there were no bullet wounds on Ball's body and no obvious battle damage to the aircraft, only the injuries and damage caused by the crash, so it does seem as though his death was not due directly to enemy action.

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