In 1917 the German Army Air Service created the Jagdgeschwader fighter group. The group was nicknamed the Flying Circus because of the pilots decision to paint their aircraft bright colours. Placed under the command of Manfred von Richthofen, the Flying Circus was made up of four elite fighter squadrons (12 aircraft per squadron).
German Army Air Service created a system where it was possible to quickly send its top fighter pilots to any part of the Western Front. Richthofen and his Flying Circus achieved immediate success during the air war over Ypres during August and September of 1917. The use of massed fighter pilot units contributed to the rise in large-scale dogfights in the later stages of the war.
From 26 April to 6 May 1917 flying over France, Captain Ball took part in 26 combats in the course of which he destroyed 11 hostile aircraft, brought down two out of control and forced several others to land. Flying alone, on one occasion he fought six hostile machines, twice he fought five and once four. When leading two other British planes he attacked an enemy formation of eight - on each of these occasions he brought down at least one enemy plane, and several times his plane was badly damaged. On returning with a damaged plane he had always to be restrained from immediately going out in another.