In August 1940 a flaming crest in the Battle of Britain, the RAF's 644 fighters were pitted against 2,600 Luftwaffe planes. The pilots 'The Few' were a gung-ho band of brave young men, eagerly awaiting the Tannoy call: Scramble. Bandits! Running across the grass towards their Spitfires and Hurricanes to speed off the runways, none could ever be sure they would survive to enjoy that night's singsong and pint at the bar. Outnumbered but supreme in spirit, these men were Britain's sole defence against Hitler's 'knock-out blow', the first step for the invasion of Britain. Among those pilots was Flight Lieutenant Eric I Nicolson, 23 (below), 249 Squadron, from Hampstead, London. On 16 August, the day the Luftwaffe flew over 1,700 sorties, Nicolson, flying a Hurricane, was hit. Wounded in the eye and foot and his plane ablaze, Nicolson was on the verge of baling out when he spotted a Messerschmitt in his gun-sight. Lunging back into his seat, he pressed the blistering gun button. Screaming, 'I'll teach you some manners, you Hun,' he pursued the zigzagging enemy at 400 m.p.h. into the sea. As the dashboard melted, Nicolson lurched out of the cockpit, somersaulted in the air and pulled the ripcord, parachuting to safety. 'All I'm anxious about now is to get back flying and have another crack at the Germans,' he told the Daily Telegraph, nursing an extra shot wound from a Home Guard sergeant who mistook him for a German pilot. Nicolson won the only Victoria Cross of the Battle, but it was shared by all, blessed by Churchill's famous words of gratitude: 'ever in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.'