My starting point for this picture was No. 17 Squadron’s Operations Record Book for Sunday, 25 August 1940: “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. 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.
When it was all over, the RAF had lost 16 aircraft and the Luftwaffe 20.
I wrote <a href="http://www.garyeason.co.uk/2013/01/focus-on-spe...">a blog entry about the making of this image</a>.