SERGEANT PHILIP JAMES BALL MM
28TH MARCH 1918 AGE 21
BURIED: VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MILITARY CEMETERY, FRANCE
Is there doubt in this question or is it more of a prompt? Is Clara Ball, Sergeant Ball's sister, doubting that the Great War was the war to end all wars or is she reminding people of what it was meant to be and that they need to make sure it comes about?
It's not possible to tell but as it seems that Ball's permanent headstone was in place by 1920 it's more likely to be a prompt. Doubt about the war didn't creep in until later in the decade.
How could people see it as the war to end all wars? It was simple, German/Prussian militarism needed to be crushed for all time and then world peace would be possible. In the fifty years prior to 1914 Prussia had fought its neighbours - Denmark, Austria-Hungary, France - and in more recent years it had had the temerity to challenge the British Empire and the Royal Navy. Would defeat and the 1919 Treaty of Versailles bring an end to German threats, and would the people of the world put their backs into being worthy of the dead and into supporting initiatives like the League of Nations.
Philip James Ball was born in Birmingham to Henry George and Emily Ball. His two eldest siblings were born in England but the next three were born in Australia where Henry George had gone to try his hand at farming. However, by the time of Philip's birth in 1897 the family had returned to Britain. Nevertheless, in 1914, at the age of 17, Philip went to Australia where he worked in the dairy industry. He enlisted in the Australian Infantry on 24 January 1916 and embarked for Europe on 6 June 1916.
Ball served with the 44th Battalion Australian Infantry and went missing on 28 March 1918. Enquiries to the Red Cross elicited the following response:
"Bell came from West Australia; was medium build, fair & had the MM ... About March 28th we were at Sailly le Sec. About 11.30 pm we went to try & locate the Germans & had advanced about 1000 yards beyond our first line when we came on a nest of M.G. We retired about 100 yards & dug in behind the crest of a small hill. I saw both men when we started on our attack but neither returned. We searched the ground the same night and got in all our wounded but could get no news of the men named. If the bodies had been there I think they would have been found. So I think they must have got & wandered into the German lines."
In September 1918, Ball's body was discovered buried in a shell hole. After the war it was exhumed and reburied at Villers-Bretoneaux.