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However, the 3ft 7in (1.09m) long piece of propeller blade sold at Mellors & Kirk (20% buyer’s premium) in Nottingham on March 20 reflects a more ignominious incident in November 1916, when he crashed a Bristol Scout biplane at Wollaton Park, Nottingham during a ‘jaunt’ while on leave.

Nine-year-old Bill Ash and his father, an estate worker, was first on the scene and recognised Ball as he scrambled out of the wreckage – more irritated than dazed at his misfortune. He retorted to Ash’s request for a relic: “You can have the whole b… lot.”

The blade, of laminated and polished mahogany, retaining part of the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company green and gold garter logo, was consigned by a descendant of Ash. Estimated at £1000-1500, it took £3200.

Marie Stainton from Mellors & Kirk said: “Rather wonderfully it was bought by Ball’s great-niece from Lincolnshire. Her grandfather Cyril was Albert’s brother.”

Ball portraits

By coincidence, another Albert Ball relic was on offer at Leicestershire firm Sutton Hill Farm Country Auctions (17.5% buyer’s premium) on March 29: two portrait miniatures on ivory by artist Robert E Groves (d.1944), housed together in a period frame.

Estimated at £200-400, they sold for £900.