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Ball, George (1892–1916)

by William Jamieson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

George Ball (1892-1916), soldier, was born in 1892 at St Petersburg, Russia; he was a natural-born British subject. Nothing is known of his early life. In August 1911 he migrated alone to Australia, arriving in Melbourne on the German ship Seydlitz, and from 1912 until the outbreak of World War I worked as a vigneron's clerk at Rutherglen, Victoria.

One of the district's first volunteers, he enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 August 1914 and was posted to the 7th Battalion. His unit embarked at Melbourne in mid-October and on arriving in Egypt went into training at Mena. Ball first saw action on 25 April 1915 at Gaba Tepe where he was wounded during the landing; he rejoined his battalion on 26 May and in its next major engagement, the battle for Lone Pine, won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for 'conspicuous gallantry'. On 6 August, after all the officers and non-commissioned officers in his party had been killed or wounded, he 'took command … in an isolated post, and held the enemy in check until reorganization had been effected'. Six days later he was promoted temporary corporal and, apart from a rest period spent with his battalion at Mudros, remained at Gallipoli until the evacuation on 20 December 1915. Ball was confirmed as corporal on 4 December and was mentioned in a dispatch by General Sir Ian Hamilton.

Following a period of outpost duty in the Canal Zone the 7th Battalion sailed for France on 26 March 1916. On 3 May they went into a relatively quiet sector of the line near Fleurbaix and then moved to Ploegsteert. In July and August the battalion took part in the battles for Pozières, suffering heavy casualties. The Ypres sector, their next post, was calm by comparison, and on the night of 30 September they raided enemy trenches near Hollebeke. Ball, a temporary sergeant since February, led one section of the raiding party along the German defences, 'himself killing five or six of the enemy and displaying great courage and initiative'. For his role in this and similar encounters he was awarded a Bar to his D.C.M. Five weeks later, on 5 November, he was killed by a shell near Gueudecourt on the Somme battlefield.

A tall man, 'all muscle and bone', Ball was described by the 7th Battalion historian as one of the unit's 'most fearless and resolute' soldiers. Always called 'the Russian', in spite of his excellent command of English, he was as formidable an adversary in the boxing stadium at Mena Camp as in the trenches. Away from the battlefield he took great delight in entertaining with his mandolin, which was frequently raffled to pay his debts from crown and anchor and later bought back when winnings permitted. Ball has no known grave but his name is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vols 1, 2 (Syd, 1921, 1924), and The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916 (Syd, 1929)
  • A. Dean and E. W. Gutteridge, The Seventh Battalion, A.I.F. (Melb, 1933)
  • Norddeutscher Lloyds Shipping Lists, 21 Aug 1911
  • London Gazette, 11, 28 Jan, 14 Nov 1916
  • Rutherglen Sun, 21 Aug 1914
  • Seventh Battalion War Diary (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

William Jamieson, 'Ball, George (1892–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ball-george-5115/text8547, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1892
St Petersburg, Russia

Death

5 November 1916
Gueudecourt, France

Cultural Heritage
Occupation