In WWII, the Germans had a reputation for their formidable technology. What they did not consider, however, was the formidable Irish reputation for bullishness.
John Reginald Gorman was born on February 1, 1923, in Omagh, Ireland. He joined the Irish Guards in 1942 and became a Lieutenant in the 2nd Armored Battalion of the Guards Armored Division.
In 1944 the Normandy Landings had taken place, the Allies were now in northwestern France, and the Germans were resisting.
June 18 was the start of the Battle of Caen. Caen is one of the biggest cities in Normandy and sits beside the Orne River and the Caen Canal – making it a vital hub. The Allies had to take it.
Caen sits in open country dotted with small towns and villages. The plan, therefore, was to isolate the main German forces within the city, while the Allies took out the smaller pockets of resistance around it.
The Canadians launched Operation Atlantic to capture Caen south of the Orne. The British launched Operation Goodwood. Together, they hoped to obliterate the Germans, at best, or pin them down where they were, at the very least.
Further west, the Allies were stuck. They needed to break out of Normandy, but German resistance was proving to be tougher than they had expected.
Gorman’s men were worried. They had their Sherman tanks, but there were rumors the Germans had something far better – the Tiger II, also known as the King Tiger.
The Germans called it the Königstiger (Royal Tiger). It weighed almost 70 tons because of its thicker armor (about 3.9” to 7.3”) and was armed with an 88 mm 71 caliber gun.
“What if we meet one?” asked Lance-Corporal James Baron of his troop commander.
“Use naval tactics,” was Gorman’s reply. “Our Shermans are faster, so if we meet one, we ram it.”
They were situated to the east of the village of Cagny. Ahead was a slope dipping into a shallow stream then rising toward the tree-filled Bourguébus Ridge. From there came German fire to let the British know they were not welcome.
Gorman’s 2nd Battalion was amassed with others under the command of Lieutenant Anthony Dorman. Dorman gave the order to cross and went first, followed by the others who veered on either side to force the Germans into spreading their line of fire.
Most were making their way up the other side, but not Gorman – his Sherman was stuck in the stream. Two tanks in his battalion stayed to provide covering fire. However, they but could not reach those ahead to let them know – the radio chatter was too intense.
Try as they might, they could not move the tank. Furious, Gorman abandoned his Sherman and jumped into another one named Ballyragget (“Mouth of Ragget’s Ford” – a town in Ireland).
They crossed the stream to the other side, but everyone was gone. Past the tree line, he found Lieutenant Dorman firing at some German positions.