Tag Archives: The Park

Albert Ball, the naughty hero

Today marks the 100th anniversary of that enigmatic character, Albert Ball. Nowadays, perhaps, Albert Ball is pretty much a forgotten name. He was, however, one of the greatest air aces of the Great War:

Ball photo

Albert was a natural fighter pilot, and initially, he always flew French Nieuport fighters (with a top speed of 110 m.p.h.):

This is a painting  of Albert’s very own Nieuport:

nieuport_ball cccccc

As well as the French fighter though, the English S.E.5 with its top speed of 138 m.p.h. was to hold a huge place in Albert’s affections in the latter period of his career:

Unlike many of his colleagues in the Royal Flying Corps, Albert gained widespread public fame for his achievements. In general, unlike the French or the Germans, the British did not use their aces for propaganda purposes, but Albert was the first brilliant exception. Almost like a medieval knight of the air, Albert shot down 44 enemy aircraft. In today’s world he would have been, quite simply, a superstar.

Albert was genuinely fearless, and the war weary English public of 1917 loved the way he flew alone, like a Knight of the Round Table, and always attacked the enemy aircraft, irrespective of the odds against him.  His favourite prey was the German Roland C.II, the so-called “Walfisch”:

Most of Albert’s victories came by attacking enemy aircraft from below, with his Lewis machine gun tilted upwards. It was very dangerous but, like the Schräge Musik cannons of a later conflict, was remarkably successful.

Flying without any other aircraft to support him, Albert was always going to be vulnerable, and he was finally killed out on patrol on May 7th 1917, shortly before his twenty-first birthday. For this last combat, Albert was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, to add to his Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Distinguished Flying Cross, Légion d’Honneur, Croix de Chevalier, Russian Order of St George and the American Medal.

medals 2

These medals can still be seen inside Nottingham Castle. Outside, in the gardens, is his statue:

statue xxxxx

His battered uniform has been carefully preserved:

coatcccc

And so has his shattered windscreen:

windscreenxxxxxxxx

On a more scurrilous note, Albert was always one for the ladies and every photograph of the dashing hero seems to have him with a different young lady in tow. In some of his biographies he is credited with having left an unknown, but relatively sizeable, number of the young ladies of Nottingham in, shall we say, a very interesting state.  Indeed, it would be interesting to know if anybody nowadays claims kinship with this dashing young man.

Albert was born on August 14th 1896 at the family home at 301, Lenton Boulevard (now 245 Castle Boulevard), Nottingham. He was the third child, and elder son, of Albert Ball and his wife, née Harriet Mary Page. A few years afterwards the family moved to Sedgley House, 43 Lenton Avenue, The Park, Nottingham, where they lived in a moderately wealthy fashion:

sedgly avenue xxxxxxx

Albert had a brother Cyril and a sister Lois. Their parents were always “loving and indulgent”. Albert Ball Senior had originally been a plumber, but he was an ambitious man and became an estate agent, and then a property speculator, as his fortunes improved. He was to be elected Mayor of Nottingham in 1909, 1910, 1920 and 1935.
As a boy, Albert was interested in engines and electrics. He had experience with firearms and enjoyed target practice in the garden. Thanks to his wonderful eyesight, he was soon a crack shot. On his sixteenth birthday, Albert spent a lovely day as a steeplejack, as he accompanied workmen to the top of a tall factory chimney. He was completely unafraid and strolled around, not bothered in the slightest by the height:

steeplejack1

Albert’s education began at the Lenton Church School. He then moved, along with his younger brother Cyril, to Grantham Grammar School, which had a military tradition that stretched way back into the Napoleonic times of the early 19th century, well before the establishment of other schools’ Officer Training Corps, or Combined Cadet Forces.

Albert moved to Nottingham High School on Thursday, September 19th 1907 at the age of eleven, as boy number 2651. According to the school register, he was born on August 17th 1896, although on his birth certificate, the date is certainly given as August 14th. Later in life, Albert was to countersign a certificate from the Royal Aero Club on which his date of birth was written as August 21st. His father is listed in the High School register as Albert Ball, a land agent of 43, Lenton Road, Nottingham.

Albert did not last a particularly long time at his new school, as he was to be expelled for bad behaviour in 1910. Contemporary sources reveal that Ball particularly enjoyed misbehaving in music lessons:

“The Third Form music master was a Mr Dunhill, who had one eye which was straight, but the other looked outwards at an angle, rather like half past ten on a clock. Boys always used to make fun of him. Whenever he shouted “Stand up you ! ! ! ” and looked at a certain naughty boy, four others would get up elsewhere in the room. “NO !  NO !  NOT YOU !! …YOU ! ! ” The original four would then sit down, and another four completely unrelated boys would stand up elsewhere in the room.
Albert Ball specialised in misbehaviour during these singing classes. He and his brother would invariably “kick up a terrible row”, and were then sent out of the room.”

at trent college

According to one Old Boy from just a few years later, however, Albert’s actual expulsion came from:

“an incident which took place at morning prayers. Ball took in with him a huge bag full of boiled sweets. At one point it was allowed to burst, and hundreds and hundreds of sweets were all dropped onto the floor. The whole school assembly then became one seething mass of boys, all scrabbling about on the floor, “heads down and bottoms up, completely out of control ”, trying to pick up as many sweets as they possibly could.”

That did not necessarily mean, however, that Albert misbehaved with every single teacher. The Chief History master, C.Lloyd Morgan, was to recollect in later years:

“I think I taught Albert Ball but can’t recollect him.”

Albert moved next to Trent College, where he was a boarder. He was only an average student, but he possessed great curiosity for everything mechanical. His favourite lessons were therefore carpentry, model making, playing the violin and photography. He was also a member of the Officer Training Corps:

armoury door trent college

Albert eventually left Trent College at Midsummer 1913. His stay there seems to have been for the most part relatively happy, although it was not always a totally enjoyable experience, by any means. On at least one occasion, for example, the unhappy young Albert is supposed to have run away to sea, and he was only apprehended at the very last moment:

“covered in coal dust, in the engine room of an outgoing steamer”.

Whatever Naughty Albert’s long forgotten negatives, though, there is something genuinely cool about being featured on your very own stamp. As far as I know, Albert is the only Old Boy of the High School to have achieved this:

Albert_Ball_stamp zzzz

During his career, Albert secured 44 victories over enemy aircraft with a further 2 unconfirmed.  Nobody can fight alone for ever, though. After just 13 or 14 months of combat flying, Albert was killed.

The end came 100 years ago to this very day. I have tried to schedule the appearance of this post so that it is published to celebrate this anniversary.  There is no clear indication of what happened in his last combat although four German officers on the ground all saw his SE5 emerge from low cloud, upside down, and trailing a thin plume of oily smoke. Its engine was stopped and the plane crashed close to a farm called Fashoda near the village of Annoeullin. Albert was still alive and he was removed from the wreckage by Mademoiselle Cécile Deloffre. As she cradled him in her arms Albert opened his eyes once and then died. His death was later found to be due to his injuries in the crash. He had not been wounded.  The chivalrous Germans gave Albert a funeral with full military honours on May 9th. The original white cross with which they marked his grave, No.999, is still kept in the chapel at Trent College.

Albert’s father, Sir Albert Ball, was eventually to become Lord Mayor of Nottingham. After his son’s death, he bought the land where the crash had occurred. When he died in 1946 he bequeathed it to the inhabitants of the village to farm and to keep the memorial in good condition:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

35 Comments

Filed under Aviation, History, Nottingham, The High School

Young men behaving badly and a Touch of Class (2)

Last time I mentioned that there had been a quarrel which set Roy Henderson and his friend Arthur Barton, both from the richest areas of the city, against Harold Connop, the poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Two fairly clever kids against one who was blindingly clever, despite his impoverished background. The disagreement took place when Connop was in his second term as Captain of the School, in the Summer Term of 1917.  Roy Henderson was never selected to be Captain of the School and Arthur Barton only did the job very briefly at the end of an extremely short Easter Term, when Francis Bird was called up in March 1918.

bulletin_24_1403256831_2052%20Nottingham%20017

As I said in Part 1, I do not know why Harold Connop was so unpopular although at least three, possibly four, reasons spring easily to mind.

Anyway, here is the tale of the quarrel:

“Arthur Barton and Roy Henderson had given lines to one of Mr Strangeways’ favourites, whom they had found misbehaving. The two prefects were then told off for daring to punish this favoured boy. In revenge, however, fellow prefect Towle climbed through a trapdoor in the ceiling of the 5B room, into the loft above Mr Strangeways’ room, and disrupted his lesson by making a tremendous row on the ventilators.

This is Mr Strangeways:

wmp__1282738059_Headmaster_-_Strangeways0001

Both Barton and Henderson knew that Towle was going to do this, but they did nothing to stop him. Later, they argued that it was not for the Prefects to “attempt in any way to prevent such misbehaviour during School hours: that was the duty of the Masters.”

The other Prefects urged them to “help preserve a proper standard of behaviour”, and there was an enormous row about this outrage, as the perpetrator, Towle, could not be found. Harold Connop tried to remedy the situation at a meeting of the prefects and asked Barton and Henderson directly “Who did it?”.

Barton and Henderson again said that they knew the event was going to happen, but hadn’t tried to stop it.  Connop tried very hard to get them to name names, but they totally refused.

Connop then went straight to the Headmaster. His judgment was that anybody involved should be stripped of their prefectship:

“Such Prefects ought immediately to resign and I should be very pleased if they would do so. Please tell them so.”

Barton and Henderson resigned, and for four days, they were not included on the list of prefects. The Headmaster, however, had not seen either Barton and Henderson personally, or heard their version of the story. Henderson’s father, the clergyman, wrote a letter to Dr.Turpin, and told him that he ought to hear a full explanation.

In this picture of the 400th anniversary celebrations, Dr Turpin is behind Mrs Gow and the lady in white:

400 mth heads

Barton and Henderson  duly went to see Dr.Turpin, and told him only they knew who the guilty party was, but were unwilling to furnish a name. They were told to apologise to Mr Strangeways, and were then reinstated as Prefects. They agreed “to do their best to stop such incidents in the future”.

And this was the somewhat surprising, even unsatisfactory, end of the matter. Nothing works like a letter from Daddy!

Shortly afterwards, Connop was caught smoking. He had recently given lines to a boy who had been giving a younger boy a ride on his handlebars as he cycled down Waverley Street. Waverley Street is very steep and this was a very dangerous thing to have done. The boy produced his lines, but also made a statement that he had seen Connop smoking in King Street in the middle of town.

Henderson called a meeting of the prefects about this serious misdemeanour, and Francis Bird accused Connop of breaking his previous promise not to smoke until he left the school, and of undermining the position of the Prefects.

Connop explained that he was not in King Street, but in a street more than a mile from the middle of the town, which was not usually frequented by the boys. They were told that he had just received the news that he had been accepted for the Royal Naval Air Service, and he expected to leave very soon:

aircraft

Connop had bought some cigarettes for a wounded soldier on leave from the Front, and it was only after “being repeatedly pressed” that he had been prevailed upon to smoke. He argued that as School Captain he had been “freer from censure than the majority of his predecessors.” At least one of his accusers had been seen committing a far worse offence than his, and had escaped punishment completely.

Connop admitted his guilt, however, but claimed “extenuating circumstances”. He signed a declaration that he would not repeat the offence.

The entire body of the Prefects, including Henderson and Barton, then considered that the matter had been brought to a final conclusion.

Two months later, the Prefects organised another meeting, and declared that the punishment which they had all previously agreed upon, was now thought to be by no means severe enough.

A meeting of the entire Sixth Form was then called, and the whole affair was presented to them. They then voted as to whether Connop should continue as School Captain for the remainder of the term.

The vote was almost entirely unanimous, and Harold Connop was told to carry on.”

When he left the High School, Henderson joined “B” Battalion of the Artists’ Rifles, before moving to the Regimental Concert Party, based at Lichfield in Staffordshire. It is very difficult to imagine that he saw much combat at all. He later pursued a career in music as a baritone singer, becoming one of the foremost artists in the country.

Decca_1929_Sea_Drift

He died at the advanced age of just over a hundred.
Arthur Barton left the High School in 1918, and joined the Royal Engineers Signal Service. He was demobilised in December 1918. Given the timing of these events, and the time needed for training, it is difficult to imagine that he saw much combat, any more than Roy Henderson did.

After Cambridge, Barton initially worked at Repton School as Head of Physics and gained a degree of Doctor of Philosophy of London University. He became Headmaster of King Edward VII School, Sheffield, and then Headmaster of the City of London School. In addition, he became a top class football referee who was in charge of an Amateur Cup Final, a large number of international matches in Europe and two games at the Berlin Olympics including the semi-final. Here is Adolf Hitler and two of his friends actually watching the match which saw Germany lose 0-2 to tiny Norway:

hitler-takes-in-the-actio-006

Arthur Barton died at the age of seventy-six.

I cannot trace what happened to young Mr Towle, the ventilator vandal, but we know that on November 16th 1918 at the School Debating Society, he proposed that a letter of congratulation should be sent to Marshall “Fotch” for winning the war for us.

Such crass insensitivity came after his school had lost well over two hundred Old Boys in the carnage of the Great War and, according to another reminiscence, the school flag had been more or less permanently at half-mast for a number of years.

Harold Connop, of course, was one of that list of two hundred war casualties. He had joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1917 and was posted to the airbase at Dunkerque on March 14th 1918 as a Temporary Flight Sub Lieutenant.

rnas cap

Within a very short time he was seriously wounded in aerial combat. He died from his injuries on March 31st 1918. Here is the RNAS casualty list for this period:

connop

Harold wasn’t a hundred or even seventy-six. He was just eighteen years of age:

grave

17 Comments

Filed under Criminology, History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

Young Men behaving Badly and a Touch of Class (1)

In the recent past, I published four articles which were, I hope, bite sized sections of a much larger whole. They were all about the High School before the Great War, and then during the first few years of the conflict. All of the material came from the reminiscences of Roy Henderson, an Old Boy  from this time. None of these articles would have been possible without the original research by my friend and colleague, Simon Williams, who interviewed Roy Henderson at length. Simon, of course, has done some incredibly detailed research about the school’s casualties in the Great War. This can be found in the Nottingham High School Archive. Take a look, for example at the material he has found on Harold Ballamy, perhaps, the High School’s saddest and most pointless loss of the entire conflict. Poor Harold is also remembered by Nottinghamshire County Council, who incorporate much of what Simon Williams has produced.

When I composed the four articles, I deliberately chose not to include anything negative from what Mr Henderson said. I cannot, however, fail to include this almost surreal tale. Hopefully, you will find it interesting to read it and then try for yourself to work out what is really going on, what the real motivations are behind people’s behaviour, and what is happening behind the scenes.

Firstly, a little background information.

Roy Henderson’s father was a minister of the church. The family lived at No 3, Lenton Road in The Park Estate in Nottingham. This part of Nottingham is about as rich as it gets in the city. One website says that “If Nottingham were Los Angeles, this would be its Beverly Hills”.

Recent house prices there reached £535,000 (No2), £820,000 (No9) and £840,000 (No11). Another house in the road is currently for sale for £1,150,000. One website currently values No 3, Lenton Road at £816,382:

the park

Arthur Willoughby Barton was the son of Professor Edwin H.Barton, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a Professor of Experimental Physics. He lived in Private Road, Sherwood, where very large Victorian houses change hands nowadays for around £500,000:

private

After the High School, Arthur went to Trinity College, Cambridge and gained First Class Honours in Physics. He was then a research student at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he helped Lord Rutherford to split the atom.

Harold Connop was the son of an Elementary School teacher, Mr Arno B Connop, and Mrs Ada Connop. There seems to be some confusion about the address. Some sources give it as 33,Westwood Road, a street in Sneinton, one of Nottingham’s working class areas. It is the first house on the left with a white door:

westwood lane

In 2001, this terraced house, with, perhaps just four or maybe five rooms, sold for £25,000. It is now worth around £57,000. Another address listed for Harold is 20, Stewart Place, a location which has now been demolished, probably in the slum clearance under the Socialist government immediately after the Second World War. Ironically, these houses were originally built by a local philanthropist, as “good houses for poor people”. This kind gentleman was the Reverend Robert Gregory, who was eventually to become Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Harold’s education at the High School was financed solely by scholarships, awarded on the basis of intellectual ability. He entered the school as a Sir Thomas White scholar, and then became a Foundation Scholar. Two years later, in 1913, the Sir Thomas White Scholarship was renewed and then subsequently extended for a fourth year.

Harold won prizes for six different subjects and the Form Prize for the Fifth Form in 1913, and the Sixth Form in 1915, 1916 and 1917. Here is the school in 1915:

1915

In his public examinations in 1913, he gained First Class in six subjects, and subsequently five distinctions at Higher Level. He became a Prefect in 1915, and Captain of the School in 1917. In the words of Roy Henderson, he was:

“a first class scholar and very good rugby player. He was a fine three quarter in rugby, and a very fast runner.”

Harold won a scholarship to Corpus Christi College at Oxford University, and was also awarded an exhibition, worth £65 annually for four years. At Oxford he was regarded as “the first Scholar of Corpus Christi College”, in other words, the cleverest and best one there:

Corpus-Christi_College_Oxford_Coat_Of_Arms_svgCompared to both Barton and Connop, Roy Henderson was, quite simply, not in their league. He enjoyed school, but himself admitted that he was never very good academically and was totally hopeless at exams. The high point of his career came in the Sixth Form, when he finally won a prize for an English essay on “Militarism”. Henderson only won because the rest of the Sixth Form boycotted the competition, saying “It’s the only thing Henderson can do…let him have it.”

Around this time, Roy Henderson, along with William Donald Willatt, founded a new school magazine called “The Highvite”.  As editor of the original school magazine, Connop was apparently furious at this new rival.  Henderson didn’t get on very well at all with Connop, for a reason which Henderson was not willing to divulge, even after the best part of seventy years. Henderson added that Connop was not very well liked in the school as a whole and he was never a particularly popular figure.

William Donald Willatt was one of six brothers at the High School, the sons of John Willatt, who  lived at 4, Pelham Road, Sherwood Rise. John Willatt was a wine merchant, whose business was presumably prosperous enough to pay the school fees of his six sons.

I do not know why Harold Connop was so unpopular although at least three, possibly four, reasons spring easily to mind. I will tell you about the quarrel next time.

 

 

 

16 Comments

Filed under History, Nottingham, Politics, The High School