7 May 1917 -Albert Ball is dead

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Albert Ball

The RFC High Command are so concerned about the success o Jasta 11 that they have now instituted morning and evening patrols to combat them. This evening around 1850 eleven 56 Squadron RFC SE5s, four 1 Naval Squadron and seven 19 Squadron RFC SPADs were sent over.

Early on, Lieutenant Gerald John Constable Maxwell and Lieutenant William Beresford Melville from 56 Squadron both dropped out with engine trouble. 2nd Lieutenant Roger Michael Chaworth-Musters from 56 disappeared into a cloud and was never seen again. Later Werner Voss from Jasta 2 claimed to have shot him down.

The rest encountered aircraft from Jasta 11 and Jasta 2.  Lieutenants Reginald Theodore Carlos Hoidge, Cecil Arthur Lewis and Captain Henry Menitjes from 56 Squadron  sent a ‘white’ German Nieuport type crashed down out of control. Mientjes, and John Owen Leach were both wounded.

Albert Ball then got onto the tail of Lothar Von Richthofen and shot up his engine and forced him to land. Ball then also disappeared into a cloud and wwas not seen again.

At the time, the Germans attempted, for propaganda purposes, to claim that Lothar had shot down Ball. This seems unlikely. What exactly happened to Ball remains a mystery.  It’s possible he became disoriented after flying into a cloud. Eyewitnesses Franz and Carl Hailer reported

“It was leaving a cloud of black smoke… caused by oil leaking into the cylinders.”

Franz Hailer and his three companions hurried to the crash site. Ball was already dead when they arrived. The four German airmen nowed that the crashed craft had suffered no battle damage and no bullet wounds were found on Ball’s body, even though Hailer went through Ball’s clothing to find identification. Hailer also took Ball to a field hospital.[2][80] A German doctor subsequently described a broken back and a crushed chest, along with fractured limbs, as the cause of death.

 

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