Friday, January 15, 2021

Fullbore Friday

It is 1944 near Cagny in northern France. You are leading a section of two 33-ton M4 Sherman tanks when, all of a sudden, you find yourself facing a Panther, a Tiger I, an old Mark IV — and one70-ton King Tiger.

What does an army lieutenant do? Become a naval officer. From the excellent War History Online;

Gorman found himself at the top of a ridge, looking down at a field in which the German tanks were gathered. Only 900 feet (274 meters) of open ground stood between him and the feared Königstiger. He knew that if he didn’t act immediately, his two Sherman tanks would likely be taken out. This was when he decided to put a naval tactic to good use.

By then, the Germans had spotted the Shermans. The huge gun of the closest tank – the Königstiger – was swinging around to take them out. Gorman yelled out what must have sounded like an almost suicidal order: “Ram it!”

The Sherman (named “Ballyragget”) roared at full speed down the slope, propelled so fast by gravity and its own motor that it almost skidded out of control. But the maneuver worked. Before the Königstiger could take a shot at Ballyragget, the Sherman smashed into its rear at speed.

The collision incapacitated both tanks. The Germans, shocked by what had just happened, scrambled out of their tank with their hands up.

Although the Königstiger was knocked out of the fight, the three other German tanks were, unfortunately, still perfectly operational. They turned their guns on the other Sherman, commanded by Sergeant Harbinson.

Out in the open, without the element of surprise Gorman’s tank had exploited, the three German tanks pounded it with their main guns, killing three crew members and putting the Sherman out of action.

Gorman and his crew took the opportunity provided by this distraction to escape from their own disabled Sherman. They fled the field before they, too, could be shot.

However, Gorman was determined to destroy the remaining three German tanks. The wounded crew members of Harbinson’s tank had taken refuge in a nearby cornfield. After assuring them that he would return, Gorman struck out on his own.

At this point, the remaining German tanks fought back. Outnumbered, Gorman had no choice but to order a retreat.

He picked up Harbinson’s crew and returned to safety. Gorman was awarded the Military Cross for his action in taking out the tanks. Indeed, the Königstiger he incapacitated was still there a year later.

Sir John Reginald Gorman CVO, CBE, MC, DL, Captain, British Army (Ret.)


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