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This Week at St Mary’s

Our Continuing Gratitude

 Two significant Nottingham occasions are marked at this time. The first remembers Captain Albert Ball VC, the WW1 fighter pilot. The second will be the ‘Battle of the Flames’ experienced by our city during WW2. 

On 7th May 1917, 11 Royal Flying Corps aircraft took off as part of a hunting patrol in France whose task was to hunt down the enemy and destroy them. Albert Ball was one of them. In these very early days of air combat, he came to be known as a ‘lone wolf’ and accounted for 44 enemy aircraft. His feats brought him honour from King, his home city and also from Imperial Russia. He was the first British ace to become a household name, and his celebrity was such that he could not walk down the streets of Nottingham without being stopped and congratulated. 

 The mission on the 7th May proved his last. It is not clear what happened but his plane crashed behind enemy lines, killing him instantly. He was buried by the Germans. He was just 20. A memorial service was held for him on 7th June at St Mary’s. 

2021 is the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Nottingham on the night of 8/9th May. Over 150 people died, with several hundred more left injured and many homeless. There were 97 fires, 12 of which were serious. In Battle of the Flames, David Needham records how Bishop Talbot, the Vicar of St Mary’s pleaded with two firemen, ‘Will someone help me save my church?’ Heroic efforts by the churchwarden and others had tried to put out the flames, but it looked as though there was to be a repeat of what happened to Coventry Cathedral. Unsuccessful efforts were made from a ladder outside the church, but working from inside, they were able to put the fire out. We are deeply indebted. 

Tom Gillum

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