Leading Aircraftman Brian Edward BALL
454 RAAF Squadron
Service Number: 115448
Date of Birth: 08 Jun 1923
Place of birth: TORRENSVILLE, SA
Date of Enlistment: 12 Aug 1942
Date of Discharge: 04 Mar 1946
Rank: Leading Aircraftman
Date of Death: 12 May 2018
The following Obituary was provided to the Association by Brian Ball's son David.
O B I T U A R Y
LAC BRIAN EDWARD BALL
Brian was born at Torrensville in South Australia on 8 June 1923, the only child of Annie and John (Jack) Ball. He grew up in Torrensville, an inner western suburb of Adelaide, and attended the Thebarton Primary School and Thebarton Boys Technical School where he graduated in 1938.
After leaving school, he had a couple of jobs for brief periods before obtaining employment at Austral Sheet Metal (ASM). His parents were very keen that their son should learn a trade so Brian began going to night school at the School of Mines in Adelaide to become a qualified welder. ASM made mainly stainless steel goods such as kitchenware and medical equipment but during World War II ASM won a war-time contract to make bomb cases. The lifting of production during war-time provided more employment opportunities and more chances to learn skills and get ahead. At night school, Brian learnt oxy welding and arc welding.
Brian’s main interests at this time, outside of work and study, were his Matchless motor cycle and football. He was a lifelong supporter of his local team West Torrens in the SANFL, now known as Woodville-West Torrens Football Club (the Eagles). It was in this period also that Brian met his future wife Betty.
After only a year or so at ASM, Brian was busting to join the war effort. He had to wait until after his 18th birthday. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941 and Darwin in early 1942, Brian decided to join the air force, but he had to ask permission from his supervisor at ASM first, as the ASM factory was doing essential war work. Nevertheless, the supervisor agreed to let Brian and another man go.
Brian enlisted in the RAAF at Adelaide on 12 August 1942 and underwent training to become an aircraft electrician before being posted overseas.
LAC Brian Ball departed Australia by boat from Sydney in December 1943 to join the 454 Squadron RAAF in North Africa where he was posted at Benghazi, Libya working on Baltimore light bombers. When the squadron was relocated to Italy, Brian contracted malaria on the boggy, mosquito-infested fields at Pescara on the Adriatic coast. Next, they were stationed further north at Falconara and then Cesenatico. Brian told us about an incident in Italy when he was nearly hit by an out-of-control aircraft on the runway. He had to run for his life, which was very difficult in the muddy conditions.
Supporting the allied forces, they ended up in Udine in northern Italy, and Brian spent one day over the border in Klagenfurt Austria. He visited Venice before being trucked from northern Italy after VE Day to Naples from where they were evacuated by Lancaster bomber to London.
While other squadron members were being re-formed to go into Germany or to go and fight the Japanese in the Pacific War, Brian took very ill with malaria again and ended up in hospital in London for two weeks. He was shipped back to Australia on the “Athlone Castle”, arriving in Australia in January 1946. He was discharged on 4 March 1946.
Later that year, Brian married local girl Betty Peake on 21st December 1946 in Adelaide. They purchased the home of Brian’s late grandmother in Mile End, not far from his boyhood home in Torrensville.
Brian returned to his pre-wartime position at ASM. After the war, they were making stainless steel kitchenware, large tanks eg milk tanks, urinals, and medical gear. ASM also got a contract with the railways supplying stainless steel bathroom equipment for trains. Brian was a skilled and respected worker. He became a shop steward and chairman of the Metal Workers Union, standing up for the interests of the factory workers. He was the ASM representative at meetings of all the metal trades’ factories.
Betty and Brian had two children: David was born in 1949 and Dianne in 1954.
Around 1960, Brian took on a second job. He started driving a taxi on Sundays and Monday nights and really enjoyed it. After a while he thought he could make a success of taxi driving full-time so in 1962 he resigned from ASM, applied for a set of taxi plates and purchased his first taxi – an EH Holden.
Brian never regretted this move and he did well out of taxis. He bought a number of vehicles over the years until he retired aged in his 70s. He bought a second Holden, and then he switched to Ford vehicles. From about 1965 he was able to employ other drivers to do weekends and night shifts. Much later, he employed a full-time driver. In the 1970s, Brian purchased and ran taxi trucks for Black and White Taxis for a number of years. He ended up with three trucks of varying sizes. Whilst the taxi ended up with Yellow Taxis, the trucks remained with Black & White until Brian eventually sold them.
From the 1970s, Betty and Brian had the opportunity to indulge their love of travel. They undertook several cruises to destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong and the Pacific Islands and made two big trips to the United States, visiting California, Memphis and the Pearl Harbour Memorial site. They made annual trips to Caloundra in Queensland to enjoy the tropical sunshine.
They continued to follow AFL football, especially their teams West Torrens and the Adelaide Crows after the latter’s entry into the national competition.
Brian maintained close friendships with his mates from the 1940s and was a regular at the Anzac Day march in Adelaide.
Brian gave up taxi driving in the 1990s, aged well into his seventies. By then he was taking care of Betty who was confined to a wheelchair from 1997. Betty died in 2004, a few days before her77th birthday. They had been married for over 57 years, and were still living in their original home at Mile End.
In 2007, Brian and his friend Val Willis moved into a new home – a unit at Fulham Gardens in Adelaide’s western suburbs. He maintained great health until about two years ago. In early 2018, he went to live in the Westminster Nursing Home at Grange in SA. He died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital on 12 May this year, aged just one month short of his 95th birthday.
Brian is survived by his friend Val, son David, daughter Dianne, daughter-in-law Lorelie, son-in-law Kym, four grandchildren Stephanie, Katherine and her husband Adam, Kirstie and her husband Alex, Christopher and four great grandchildren Elyssa, Regan, Jayden and Lucas.