Teenager based at HMS Sultan in Gosport follows great-great-grandfather’s footsteps as he takes to the air

AET James Wilde with a picture of his great-great grandfather, Albert Ball. Picture: Nigel Morris
AET James Wilde with a picture of his great-great grandfather, Albert Ball. Picture: Nigel Morris

A DESCENDANT of one of Britain’s most decorated flying aces has taken his first steps to following his great-great-grandfather into the skies.

Now, 17-year-old Air Engineering Technician James Wilde is learning his craft at HMS Sultan in Gosport, where he is being taught the basic principles of flight, flight safety and aircraft maintenance ahead of passing out of Phase 2a training and on to further specialist aviation training at RNAS Culdrose.

AET James Wilde. Picture: Nigel Morris

AET James Wilde. Picture: Nigel Morris

James is the descendant of Captain Albert Ball, VC, DSO and Two Bars, MC – who was once described by the Red Baron himself as ‘by far the best English flying man’ – tallying up 44 confirmed victories over hostile aircraft before his death in May 1917.

A recipient of the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Two Bars and the Military Cross, Ball had been a member of RFC Squadrons 13 and 56 – both of which were formed in Gosport.

More than a century later, James is out to follow his great-great grandfather into the skies.

He said: ‘My family have always talked proudly about my great-great-grandad’s achievement and have maintained strong links with serving within the military.

‘After leaving school Albert Ball began his working life as an engineer and just like him I’m following that route now.’

‘Now qualified out of HMS Sultan, I will go on to train on a different route to my great-great-grandfather.

‘He went on to become a fighter pilot and I will be learning to work on Merlin MK2 at RNAS Culdrose.’

During his studies, James has come face-to-face with his ancestral past – especially while taking time out to look around HMS Sultan’s Air Museum.

He said: ‘Visiting the Air Museum at Sultan has taught me and my family a lot more about my ancestor and the thought of being in the same place and walking some of his footsteps is amazing.’