My starting point for this picture was No. 17 Squadron’s Operations Record Book for Sunday, 25 August 1940: “Squadron went into attack, and S/Ldr. Williams was seen to go down after his port mainplane had been shot away by a cannon shell. The Me.[sic]110 he had attacked head-on also went down after further attack by P/O. Pittman. F/O. Count Czernin attacked a bunch of Me.110s head-on and destroyed three of them.”
Or as Hough and Richards put it in their history, The Battle of Britain: “One of 17’s most determined and successful pilots, Flying Officer Count Manfred Beckett Czernin, had a field day with the Me. 110s of I/ZG2, being credited with destroying three within less than a minute by a neat combination of head-on and rear attacks.”
It was a quiet day in the Battle of Britain – until about 5pm. Then more than 100 German aircraft were detected crossing the English Channel from Cherbourg with at least as many more from the Channel Islands. RAF Fighter Command scrambled a number of Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons including Czernin’s No. 17 Squadron from Debden.
Meeting near Weymouth they found that as usual they were heavily outnumbered by twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110s from 1./ZG 2 and ZG 76, and Bf 109 single-engine fighters from Jagdgeschwader 2, 26, 53 and 54. These were escorting Junkers Ju 88 bombers from II./KG 51 and II./KG 54 which managed to hit Warmwell airfield and other locations in South West England and South West Wales.
The picture shows No 17 Squadron’s head-on attack. In the centre Count Czernin, in Hurricane V7408 / YB-F. Lower right, Squadron Leader Cedric Williams falls in his aircraft, R4199. He will be avenged by P/O. Pittman in P3701. Upper left, Gefr. Josef “Jupp” Broeker flying Bf 109 E-1 White 15 of 1./JG 53 has been hit by P/O. W Beaumont in his 152 Squadron Spitfire. He will also be attacked by two Hurricanes before making a forced landing and being captured, wounded. Another 109 from 5./JG 53 is seen going down centre right. The pilot, Oberfw. Baun, will be retrieved from the Channel by the Seenotdienst air-sea rescue service.
When it was all over, the RAF had lost 16 aircraft and the Luftwaffe 20.