Most of us have been in the situation where we are firing off our airsoft guns mid-skirmish and have run out of ammo, or our weapon has become jammed. What do we do next? Reach for our sidearm of course!
But what happens where this situation occurs, and there isn’t a sidearm to rely on? You use your initiative, as Sir John Gorman did in July 1944, with an insane plan which actually worked out rather well!
As a Catholic Ulsterman, Sir John Gorman joined the Irish Guards in 1942 and worked his way up to the rank of Captain by the time he returned to civilian life in 1946, mainly thanks to his actions during Operation Goodwood as the Allies battled their way through northern France.
On July 18th, 1944, Gorman and a group of men under his control were driving a group of M4 Sherman tanks when they spotted four German tanks through a hedge around 300 yards in front of them of the elite 503rd Heavy Tank Battalion, Pz Iv, Tiger 1, Panther, and one of which was a King Tiger tank #112, which British tanks knew about all too well.
Lance-Corporal Baron had previously asked his Lieutenant what they would do if they ran into a King Tiger (known to have thick armour and a cannon which was originally designed to be an anti-aircraft gun), to which Gorman told his men: “The only thing we can do is to use naval tactics — if the 88mm gun is pointing away from us, we shall have to use the speed of the Sherman and ram it.”
Upon encountering a King Tiger, luck was on their side. The tanks he was commanding were often considered as being noisy, but the German tanks seemed to be oblivious to their presence.
When he later recalled the story, Gorman said: “Having a conference, they were. Sitting in the middle of the field.”
After damaging the other vehicles, Gorman called for his driver to hit the accelerator and ram the King Tiger. Crashing through the hedge and hurtling down a hill at a speed of 40 mph, the Sherman was heading straight for the German tank. Around 75 yards before impact, the Sherman’s gunner fired a high-explosive shell which never had a chance of damaging the King Tiger, but would certainly give the Germans something to worry about!
Upon impact, both tank crews bailed out of their respective vehicles and scrambled in different directions; except one man. Gorman’s front gunner, Guardsman Agnew found his exit blocked so scrambled out the rear of the tank. Upon dropping to the ground, he saw four men running for a ditch and joined them… but he soon realised they were not his comrades, but German soldiers!
After receiving some rather stunned and icy stares from his enemies, Agnew smartly saluted the men before exiting the ditch and disappearing into a cornfield to find his allies!
Once the crew of the Sherman were reunited, Gorman told his men to stay where they were before setting off on a mazy run through the orchards to find reinforcements. He soon stumbled upon a Firefly tank, where he completed the destruction of the King Tiger thanks to the 17-pounder gun.
But in his absence, his crew had been caught in an artillery barrage, with two of his men sustaining injuries. Baron made a rough bed for his friends and stayed with them until they were picked up by a passing tank.
For their parts in this crazy event, Baron received the Military Medal, with Gorman being awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre. He and his unit also went on to help liberate Brussels, as well as helping themselves to a truck-load of Piper Heidsieck champagne. In fact, his unit had a little too much of the bubbles, and soon took to saying: “Give me a cuppa instead of that old fizzy stuff."
Crazy Irishman: Rammed a Tiger II with his Sherman….then went off looking for a Firefly to make sure the Tiger wouldn't be going anywhere
Further on, Gorman and another tank found the road that stretched from Cagny to Emieville. They had just crested the ridge when he saw them – four German tanks in the clearing beneath them, a mere 900 feet away.
There was an old Mark IV, a Panther, an earlier version of the Tiger, and the rumored Tiger II, itself! The first one ever to be seen on the Western Front. The Irishmen groaned.
“Having a conference, they were,” Gorman later said in disbelief. “Sitting in the middle of the field.”
Shermans are noisy machines, but he swore the Germans looked surprised to see them. The Tiger II began swiveling its gun straight at them.
“Fire!” Gorman ordered. Nothing happened. The gun had jammed. They would have to ram it.
To their surprise, the slope felt steeper than it looked. The 66,800-pound Ballyragget skidded as much as it rolled, gaining speed as it reached the clearing below.
The blast surprised everyone. Gunner Schole had scored a direct hit on the King Tiger! It did no good, though.
The Königstiger’s gunner was also having problems. His tank was facing away from the marauding Irish, so he was having a hard time positioning his gun. He was still trying when Ballyragget slid parallel to the Tiger II’s cannon and whacked hard against the German tank’s rear right track.
Now the Königstiger’s gun muzzle jutted out some two feet over the top of the Sherman. The other German tanks fired at the second Sherman, killing three, and wounding three others.
Gorman and his men jumped out and ran into a wheat field. Apart from Guardsman Hugh Andrew Agnew. Disorientated, he saw four men run into a ditch, so he ran after them and jumped in.
It was the crew of the Tiger II #112. Agnew gave them a polite salute (complete with a cheeky grin), jumped back out, and ran.
Gorman needed a weapon and found a Sherman Firefly back at Cagny. It had been under Sergeant Workmann, but, unfortunately, he was dead. The gunner and driver were alive, but they were in serious shock.
Gorman commandeered the Firefly back up the ridge. To his surprise, the enemy were still there. The tank took out the Tiger II first – also hitting their old Sherman as it was still stuck to the former. The Germans fired back, so Gorman gathered his surviving crew and retreated.
He received the Military Cross. He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre, but that is another story.
As for Operations Goodwood and Atlantic, they were a disaster – about 5,500 men were lost. That, too, is another story.
On 18 July 1944, while taking part in Operation Goodwood, he was commanding a group of M4 Sherman tanks east of Cagny that suddenly encountered a mixed group of four German tanks at a range of only 300 yards (270 m). The group included one of the formidable Tiger II heavy tanks. As he knew his Sherman's gun would have little effect on the Tiger's thick armour, Gorman ordered his driver to ram the German tank. Gorman's gunner had time to fire one round before impact, but the shell was an explosive one, not armour piercing, and had little effect.
Both tanks were disabled by the collision and both crews immediately abandoned their vehicles. The last to leave the Sherman was the assistant driver, whose exit was slowed by his hatch being blocked. Once clear of the tank, he followed a group of men who were running for a nearby ditch, only to discover after joining them that they were the German tank crew. They glared at him, so he simply saluted and ran off to join his own crew.
While his crew took shelter, Gorman ran to fetch a Sherman Firefly, a Sherman fitted with the powerful, British 17-pounder anti-tank gun. One of the Firefly's four crew had been decapitated and two others were in shock, but Gorman was able to remove the body and take command of the tank. With the Firefly, he was able to complete the destruction of both the Tiger II and his disabled Sherman. He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions, while his driver, Lance-Corporal James Baron, was awarded the Military Medal. Gorman was promoted to the rank of captain. However, this account is contested by the German tank's gunner, Gefreiter Thaysen, who said that his commander ordered to back up, hitting the Sherman with its rear. Thaysen's testimony also contradicts Gorman finishing off the Tiger II with a Sherman Firefly and capturing the German crew.
|Title:||Naval Tactics in Normandy|
Operation Goodwood, Ballyragget's attack
|Timeline:||Started on April 25, 2019|
Scratchbuilt No kits or aftermaket sets are attached.