Personal diaries of Nottingham flying ace Albert Ball revealed 100 years after his death

Video: Albert’s great-niece, Vanda Day, and her husband Gordon talk about their experiences reliving the soldier’s life.

The family of a Nottingham First World War fighter pilot awarded the Victoria Cross have revealed his personal diaries for the first time, 100 years after his death.

Albert Ball, nicknamed the ‘wonder boy of the Flying Corps’, joined the Sherwood Foresters after the outbreak of WWI.

He went on to become his country’s lead flying ace, with 44 victories.

He died after his squadron encountered German fighters in France on May 7, 1917, and was later honoured with a memorial statue in the grounds of Nottingham Castle.

“To go to the stone where he crashed, it makes you feel very sad and you imagine what happened and it’s quite emotional,” said great-niece Vanda Day, who had the diaries transcribed with her husband, Gordon, before the two revisited the site where Albert died.

“When you read the diaries and you hold them and you actually know that Albert’s held them, you get drawn into it so much,” she added.

“You feel part of him, and you feel like you’re almost him, you get there and it all comes to life.”

She added in some ways she felt ‘guilty’, and hoped Albert forgave them, for revealing his personal diaries but thought it could help the public learn more about him.

“It helps keep his memory alive,” Vanda said.

Vanda said Albert’s handwriting went from neat and methodical to big and scrawly.

Albert was recognised nationally after his death, which was also covered in Portugal, France and South America.

Gordon said he found it quite difficult to live his life through the diaries and trip to France.

“I think the interesting bits for us weren’t particularly the bits when he was in France fighting because that’s documented by all his reports, he’s been written about in four books and that’s very well known.

“It was actually all the bits of the diaries when he was at home, when he was back in the UK.

“That’s probably the most interesting bit because there’s very little known about it, and we know where he went every day and what hotels he was in.”

Albert was only 20 when he died.

His family noted that interestingly, his handwriting greatly changed between diaries.

Vanda said: “Sometimes it’s quite neat and methodical-looking, sometimes it’s all big and scrawly and huge.”

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