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Albert Ball

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Albert Ball

by Henry Poole
bronze statuette, 1920s
23 5/8 in. x 10 in. (600 mm x 255 mm) overall
Given by the sitter's father, Sir Albert Ball, 1929
Primary Collection
NPG 2277

Sitterback to top

  • Albert Ball (1896-1917), Fighter pilot; recipient of the Victoria Cross. Sitter in 2 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Henry Poole (1873-1928), Sculptor. Artist of 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Albert Ball was killed in action over enemy territory on 7 May 1917 'fighting gloriously' as the inscription proclaims on the public monument in Nottingham for which this is the model. Explore this portrait from all angles.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 31
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 199 Read entry

    Albert Ball was born in Nottingham and was working as a trainee engineer when war was declared in 1914. He joined the Royal Flying Corps and in 1916 was posted to France, where he first distinguished himself as a fighter pilot in a single-seat biplane, the Nieuport 16. At his base at Savy Aubigny, Ball built a small wooden shed close to the hangar where he slept, so as to attend more easily to his aircraft and be ready for take-off. As Flight Commander in an SE5 120mph biplane, he flew bareheaded and without goggles, and often attacked multiple enemy formations single-handed. During his three years in the military, Ball shot down forty-three enemy planes and a Zeppelin. His bravery, no doubt foolhardy on occasion, was rewarded with successive promotions and, after he was killed in action over enemy territory on 7 May 1917, the Victoria Cross and the Légion d’honneur. Despite this, he was a reluctant hero during his lifetime and eschewed publicity.

    Ball is commemorated by a public monument in Nottingham, for which this bronze by the Royal Academician Henry Poole (1873– 1928) is the model. It was given to the Gallery by his father – Sir Albert Ball – in 1929.

Events of 1920back to top

Current affairs

The Government of Ireland Act (Fourth Home Rule Bill) partitions Ireland into the Irish Free State with a devolved parliament in Dublin and Northern Ireland with a devolved parliament in Belfast.
The Communist Party of Great Britain is founded in London, uniting a number of independent socialist and Marxist parties into a single, united party.

Art and science

Queen Alexandra unveils a monument to Edith Cavell in St Martin's Place opposite the National Portrait Gallery. The English nurse was executed in Germany for helping hundreds of allied soldiers to cross the border from occupied Belgium to the neutral Netherlands.
George V officially opens the Imperial War Museum at the Crystal Palace.


The Kapp Putsch threatens the newly formed Weimar Republic. In defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, the leaders of the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt refused to disband and marched on Berlin, occupying it on the 13th March. With the general army refusing to defend the city, the government fled to Stuttgart. The rebellion, however, failed after the workers joined a general strike, disabling their plans.

Tell us more back to top

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