Statue of Albert Ball, by Edwin Alfred Rickards and Henry Poole ARA, unveiled in 1921 by Sir Hugh Trenchard.
Reasons for Designation
The statue of Captain Albert Ball, by Edwin Alfred Rickards and Henry Poole ARA, unveiled 1921, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: as an exceptionally rare form of public memorial from the First World War;
* Historic interest: as a commemoration to, and in honour of, Albert Ball, an outstanding fighter pilot and highly decorated individual of the war; representing a father’s and a city’s tribute to the first of Britain’s most famous First World War fighter pilots;
* Sculptural quality: for the exceptionally detailed depiction of the pilot and his flying apparel in bronze, contrasting sharply with matter-of-fact carved depictions of aerial combat;
* Symbolism: for the unusual allegorical form of the statue, derived from the Christian tradition of apotheosis, representing the heavenward passage of saints;
* Sculptor: as an exceptional example of the work of Henry Poole, an eminent and widely celebrated British sculptor;
* Group value: as one element of a powerful and highly graded group of buildings and monuments set within Nottingham Castle.
Albert Ball was one of Britain’s most famous First World War fighter pilots, who was described by Manfred von Richthofen, The Red Baron, as ‘by far the best English Flying man’. He was the first man in the war to be awarded three Distinguished Service Orders (DSOs) and within just one year, had amassed 44 confirmed ‘kills’ with another 25 unconfirmed. At the time of his death, aged 20, Albert Ball was Britain's leading fighter pilot. A posthumous Victoria Cross (VC) followed within a month of him being killed. Whilst serving, Albert Ball wrote copious letters to his parents providing a detailed account of his achievements but also his personal emotions and concerns relating to the conflict.
Despite his repeated and outstanding bravery, Ball is reported not to have had a hint of malice, feeling sympathy for the German pilots he shot down. In Albert Ball’s biography ‘Britain's Forgotten Fighter Ace: Captain Albert Ball VC,’ ( W A Briscoe and H Russell Stannar, republished 2014) David Lloyd George wrote a tribute to him:
“This war has revealed many stirring examples of heroic simplicity, but seldom have I come across so fine a spirit of devotion to freedom, home and country as is reflected in Captain Ball’s letters to his family. In all his fighting record there is no trace of resentment, revenge or cruelty…What he says in one of his letters, 'I hate this game, but it is the only thing one must do just now’, represents, I believe, the conviction of those vast armies who, realising what is at stake, have risked all and endured all that liberty may be saved. I am sure nobody can read these letters without feeling that it is men like Captain Ball who are the true soldiers of British democracy. It is their spirit of fearless activity for the right, in their daily work, which will lead us through victory into a new world in which tyranny and oppression will have no part.”
Albert Ball was born on 14 August 1896 in Lenton Boulevard, Nottingham. One of three children, he was the son of Alderman (later Sir) Albert Ball, a justice of the peace and the Mayor (later Lord Mayor) of Nottingham. After being educated in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, Ball, aged just 17, helped by his father, set up his own electrical engineering firm. In September 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, Ball enlisted in the Nottinghamshire and Derby Regiment (the Sherwood Foresters) and was soon commissioned as a lieutenant, but following private flying lessons, gained his pilot’s wings in January 1916.
Ball’s first victory came in May of the same year when his victim was a German reconnaissance aircraft, and soon he was claiming up to three kills a day. He marked his 20th birthday in August 1916 with promotion to acting captain and, in the same month, transferred to No 60 Squadron. By the end of the month, he had 17 strikes and was the first pilot to become a household name, being mobbed on the streets of Nottingham when he returned home on leave.
After his final victory on 6 May 1917 he wrote, in his last letter to his father: “I do get tired of always living to kill, and am really beginning to feel like a murderer. Shall be so pleased when I have finished.” On the evening of the next day, 7 May, Ball was involved in a dogfight in poor weather near Douai, France, including Lothar von Richthofen, the brother of the Red Baron. The result was that his plane crashed into the ground and Ball was killed (although for some time, with no proof of his death, he was listed as missing).
Ball’s parents received his decoration from King George V in an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 21 July 21 1917. Later, his father bought the field in France where his son had died so that he could always visit it. A memorial headstone was erected in the field in his honour, although his actual grave is at Annoeullin Communal Cemetery, France. He was also awarded the Légion d’Honneur by France and Order of St George (4th Class) by Russia. As recently as 2006, he was one of six recipients of the Victoria Cross to be featured in a special commemorative issue of Royal Mail stamps marking the 150th anniversary of the award. Ball was given the honor of Freeman of the City of Nottingham and he received a rose bowl from the people of Lenton in recognition of his services. A number of Ball's possessions are on display close to the statue in Nottingham Castle.
The organised public commemoration of war dead did not develop to any great extent until towards the end of the C19. Prior to then memorials were rare and were mainly dedicated to individual officers, or sometimes regiments. The first large scale erection of war memorials dedicated to the ordinary soldier followed the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, which was the first major war following reforms to the British Army which led to regiments being recruited from local communities and with volunteer soldiers. However, it was the aftermath of the First World War that was the great age of memorial building, both as a result of the huge impact the loss of three quarters of a million British lives had on communities and the official policy of not repatriating the dead, which meant that the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at this great loss.
The Albert Ball Memorial in Nottingham Castle Gardens, produced by E A Rickards and Henry Poole ARA, was unveiled on 8 September 1921, with Sir Hugh Trenchard in attendance. Rickards was responsible for the plinth and Poole for sculpting the bronze statue.
Henry Poole (1873-1928) was a British architectural sculptor, who became a full member of the Royal Academy (RA) in 1927, shortly before his death. He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1894 -1928 and was Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy Schools 1921-1927. Poole regularly worked with Rickards on several other projects such as Westminster Central Hall; it was an exceptionally close professional relationship between architect and sculptor, showing the importance of the fusion of these arts in the Edwardian period. Examples of Poole's most celebrated works include the bronze lions commissioned to guard The Bund entrance of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation’s 1923 Shanghai office (now in the Shanghai History Museum). The carved angels in the external spandrels at Westminster Central Hall (listed Grade II* NHLE 1264457), and interior decoration at the Black Friar Public House, Queen Victoria Street, London (listed Grade II* NHLE 1285723) are prime examples of his carved stone work. The artistic quality of Poole’s work is recognised by the fact that more than 15 of his works are listed on the National Heritage List for England, more than half of which are listed at a high grade. Poole's bronze cast of the model for the Albert Ball statue was presented to the National Portrait Gallery by Ball's parents in 1929.
After studying at the Royal Academy Schools Edwin Alfred Rickards (1872-1920) worked for a number of architects including Leonard Stokes, George Sherrin, and William Flockhart for whom he designed the lantern in the dome at Brompton Oratory, London in 1894. In partnership with H V Lanchester and James Stewart, he won the competition for Cardiff City Hall and law courts (1899-1903), one of several of the firm’s Neo-Baroque buildings which incorporated sculpture by Henry Poole and Paul Montford, including Deptford Town Hall (Listed at Grade II, NHLE 1193691). He also collaborated with Poole again on a public fountain in Bristol, (1907, NHLE 1218308) and a statue of King Edward VII (1913, NHLE 1292038) both of which are listed at Grade II*. The design for the Albert Ball statue was among his very last works and is illustrated in "The Art of E A Rickards" (1920). Some sources give Brewill and Baily as the architects but it is possible they were the project architects, following Rickard's untimely death in 1920.
War memorial dedicated to Albert Ball, by Edwin Alfred Rickards and Henry Poole ARA, unveiled in 1921 by Sir Hugh Trenchard.
Materials: a bronze statue on a Portland stone pedestal, standing on a polished grey granite base.
Plan: circular in plan.
The elegant and powerful memorial stands in a prominent location in the grounds of Nottingham Castle, on one of the highest points within the city. It comprises a finely modelled and cast bronze statue of Captain Albert Ball gazing upwards with his hands on his belt. Standing behind him is an allegorical figure of a loosely draped female standing on clouds, representing Air, with one hand pointing skywards and the other resting on Ball’s shoulder. The whole stands on a moulded stone plinth with inscriptions on two of the four sides, both within auricular cartouches. On the other two sides are reliefs of a SE5a bi-plane, that to the north flying over front-line trenches, and to the south flying above clouds. The plinth surmounts a wider, tiered base, the whole standing on three lobed steps with smaller interlocking circles at each lobe indent, evoking the petals of a flower. Beneath the plinth, and integral to the base, the bronze ornamentation includes eternal flames, a feather, laurel wreath, scrolls draped in foliage, and scrolled and fanned bronze feet appearing to support the base.
The dedicatory inscription to the front reads: CAPT. ALBERT BALL V.C./ 7TH ROBIN HOOD BATTALION SHERWOOD FORESTERS/ ATTACHED ROYAL FLYING CORPS, DSO (2 BARS) MC/ CROIX DE CHEVALIER, LEGION D'HONNEUR,/ ORDER OF ST GEORGE (RUSSIAN)/ HON. FREEMAN OF THE CITY OF NOTTINGHAM/ PER ARDUA AD ASTRA. To the back of the plinth the inscription reads: IN THE AIR/ HE GAVE MOST CONSPICUOUS/ AND GALLANT SERVICE TO/ HIS COUNTRY AND WAS KILLED/ IN ACTION FIGHTING GLORIOUSLY/ MAY 7TH 1917 AGED 20 YEARS/ PER ARDUA AD ASTRA.
The memorial stands on the scheduled site of Nottingham Castle (NHLE 1006382) and in very close proximity to numerous listed structures, including the Castle gatehouse (NHLE 1247094), Castle Museum and Art Gallery (NHLE 1271188), and the Castle outer bailey, wall and towers (NHLE 1246765) all of which are listed at Grade I. A war memorial sundial (NHLE 1246763) and a war memorial obelisk (NHLE 1271191) both listed at Grade II, stand within 80m of the Albert Ball memorial, forming an important group.
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 16 June 2017.