23 April 1917 – Contrasts

Albert Ball has been away from the front Since October 1916. Since then both the quality and quantity of enemy aircraft has increased considerably, as have the tactics, with formation flying now the norm.

Ball is now with 56 Squadron who flew their first offensive patrols yesterday. Today, they were finally allowed over the lines. Ball has continued where he left off, primarily carrying out lone wolf patrols. He retains his personal Nieuport 17 (B1522) but also has an SE5 (A4850).


Ball in A4850

In his first combat this morning he took off early in his Nieuport and using his preferred belly shot, sent an Albatros into a spin, following it down and continuing to fire at it until it struck the ground. This was 56 Squadron’s first victory.

He then climbed back to 5,000 feet and tried to dive underneath an Albatros two-seater and pop up under its belly as before, but he overshot, and the German rear gunner put a burst of 15 bullets through the Nieuport’s wings and spars. Ball coaxed the Nieuport home for repairs.

He then set off again in his SE5. In his third combat of the day, he fired five rounds before his machine gun jammed. He had to land to clear the gun, He took off once more, surprising five Albatros fighters and sending one down in flames Around 1145. He then attacked a fifth enemy plane, which he forced down killing its observer.

in contrast to Ball’s solo efforts there was a mass dogfight between 3 Naval Squdron who were escorting six 18 Squadron FE’s and were attacked by various enemy aircraft from Jastas 12 and 33. Aircraft from 1 Naval, 48, 60 and 66 Squadrons also joined in. In the fighting the Germans lost two pilots killed but the British only suffered a couple of crew wounded.

Elsewhere the British were not so lucky losing 8 crew including. Lieutenant Eric Arthur Barltrop and 2nd Lieutenant Fergus O’Sullivan from 22 Squadron in FE2b 6929 who collided with 2nd Lieutenant Melville Arthur White from 24 Squadron in DH2 7909. Both aircraft broke into pieces and crashed.

However a total of 15 enemy aircraft were claimed shot down and a further forced down. For a full account of the days fighting go to the Aerodrome,




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