Mis valientes Guardias Irlandeses

Crazy Irishman: Rammed a Tiger II with his Sherman….then went off looking for a Firefly to make sure the Tiger wouldnt be going anywhere

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It was as a youthful tank commander with the Irish Guards in Normandy that he distinguished himself. His vehicle encountered a massive German Tiger Royal tank, far superior to his own Sherman in both firepower and armour

Gorman joined the Irish Guards in during the Second World War, becoming a Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion. On 18 July 1944, near Cagny, Lieutenant John Gorman was in his Sherman tank when he was confronted by a far superior German Tiger II or ‘King Tiger’. Gorman’s tank fired one shot at the Tiger II, but the shot bounced off its thick armour.

John Gorman’s book told it this way.

“By now the Squadron was far ahead and fragments of speech on my radio conveyed that the enemy was by no means obliterated. Then we came on the tanks of 11th Armoured Division, dozens of them mostly on fire, with crews tending to their mates who had managed to get out of their burning tanks. A pitiful sight. There was nothing we could do for them and we could see that the tracked ambulances which had seemed so unnecessary in the morning were now saving lives.

Pressing James Baron on to top speed, with Sergeant Harbinson following 200 yards or so behind, and taking the pylons as my guide, I found the Squadron. It was halted to the west of Cagny and Tony Dorman, “Dipper”, was on his feet, evidently wounded, but gesticulating wildly forward. Since the whole strategy of our leftwards attack on Cagny had been to take it by speed and dash which we had learned on Salisbury Plain and the Yorkshire Wolds, I took it that Dipper was urging us on and we charged up a cornfield, towards a hedge at the top of the rise, and turned the corner into a lane which ran along the hedge. To our right was another hedge at right-angles to the first. When we swung round into the lane it was horror personified. There 300 yards ahead was a Tiger Royal; behind it and to my right were three other Tigers in support.

This is the moment to describe why the Tiger Royal was such a dreadful enemy. The Germans had gone for quality, not quantity, in their tank production. They realized that the US output of tanks would numerically swamp them. So they designed a tank with superior armour, with the famous 88mm anti-aircraft gun of 20 foot in length and the result was a tank which was as close to perfection as any produced in the War.

We had been warned of the existence of such a monster. Corporal Baron and I had discussed it. We had rather light-heartedly concluded that, if confronted by a Tiger Royal, there was only one thing to do and that was to use the naval tactic of ramming, which my Portora hero had demonstrated. Baron agreed that it would be right to use the Sherman’s speed to counteract the rather slow traverse of the Tiger Royal’s 88mm gun turret. We concluded that, mad as it seemed, the only hope in a 75mm Sherman was to ram. When the Tiger Royal came into view its turret was at 90o from us, with the gun towards the 2nd Battalion tanks at the bottom of the rise where I had seen Dipper. We had an HE round our gun, as Albert Scholes, my gunner and I had earlier concluded that this would be more useful than the ineffective allegedly armour-piercing round which was the alternative.

This was a lucky decision because, as Corporal Baron was accelerating towards the Tiger Royal, Guardsman Scholes from 50 yards was able to put a high-explosive shell onto the Tiger’s turret. The effect of such an explosion on a crew confined in a small space is quite devastating and as we raced towards it, the Commander’s head emerged from the turret. He mush have been totally bemused by what was happening to his impregnable monster. Here he was, supported by three other Tigers, of almost equal impregnability armour-wise, having used his superb long-range 88mm gun to knock out the tanks in the valley, now dependent on the slow speed of his turret traverse to shoot at an enemy by now only yards from him. The Sherman crashed into the left rear of the Tiger. The German tank crew started to evacuate; the three supporting Tigers were clearly aiming at us. I ordered “Bail Out”.

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