From Medal Recommendation, M.C.:

225172 Lieutenant John Reginald GORMAN, 2nd Armoured Bn, IRISH GUARDS

On 18 Jul 44 near CAGNY in NORMANDY, Lieutenant J.R. GORMAN, whilst on the flank of his Squadron, which was attacking South-East from that village, encountered 3 concealed PANTHERS at a range of 100 yards. Lieutenant GORMAN fired 3 75mm rounds at the leading PANTHER. Seeing that these had no apparent effect and despite the fact that the PANTHER was covered by the other two tanks, he charged the leading tank with such force that it was unable to fire and its crew baled out.

Lieutenant GORMAN and his driver then ran back to where they had seen a ditched SHERMAN 17-pr. He found the commander dead and having removed him with help of his driver and having told the gunner to get into the tank again, Lieutenant GORMAN returned to stalk the 3 PANTHERS in the 17-pr SHERMAN. He scored several hits and the rammed PANTHER was found the next day burnt out beside his own tank. Lieutenant GORMAN then dealt with the wounded and returned to his Squadron.

Throughout this whole action Lieutenant GORMAN showed exceptional initiative and determination with a complete disregard for his own safety.

N.B. The account in the citation is incorrect in that it is generally accepted that the German tank which was rammed was a King Tiger and not a Panther. [VP]

From IG WW2 History, Pages 378-383:

“Cagny itself is a long, straggling village with the houses, as in an Irish village, scattered along the side of the main road from Caen to Vimont. East of Cagny the ground rises gently up to the low ridge which runs from Emieville southwards, dominating the left flank and hiding Vimont. Between Cagny and the top of the ridge the ground was open. The top, however, was festooned with thick hedges which merge into a strip of wood just where the road from Cagny passes by the village of Frenouville, a mile farther south-east. The German tanks and tractor-drawn 88-mm. guns were established along tihis ridge; it was from here that they had been shooting the Grenadiers in the flank as the advanced due south towards Cagny. Infantry and more guns were concentrated at the southern end of Frenouville and the strip of wood; and it was they who had halted the Coldstreamers.

The squadrons formed up in a line ahead - No. 2, No. 1, Battalion H.Q., and No. 3 Squadron. In every tank the words were repeated again and again - “Follow the pylons.” Lieutenant Anthony Dorman’s troop led the Battalion down the slope, passing some Grenadier tanks, to a ford across a small stream. Crossing the stream, No. 2 Squadron raced off to climb the ridge north of the road. Major Nial O’Neill led his squadron (No. 1) farther south and crossed the road in Cagny before he swung left and headed for Frenouville. Half-way up the slope the leading troop of No. 2 Squadron came under fire from the bulge in the ridge around Emieville. Lieutenant Anthony Dorman drove hastily into a little hollow, traversing his gun to the left to cover flank. The squadron veered off the right, while he unhooked his binoculars and prepared for one of the long-range gun duels he had heard so much about on training. Beginning his formal “anticipatory fire order,” “Seventy-five, traverse left, fire when …” he ended “straight ahead, let him have it!” A German 88-mm. gun tractor was backing noisily out of the hedge just forward of the crest 300 yards away. With one shot the gunner destroyed it, and Lieutenant Dorman started his formal order once again. When No. 2 Squadron reached this hedge farther to the right, they halted to let No. 1 Squadron in the orchards south-east of Cagny come up level with them. Then, together, they plunged forward to fight their way into Frenouville. Major John Madden, No. 2 Squadron commander, only now noticed that his second troop was missing. “What happened to John Gorman?”

Lieutenant John Gorman had bogged his tank while crossing the stream and his troop had stayed with him. It was firmly stuck, and there was nothing to do but leave it there and transfer himself into “Ballyragget,” one of his two other 75-mm. tanks. By the time he had cautiously negotiated the stream there was no sign of the rest of the squadron. He could get no reply to his wireless appeals - “the air was bedlam” - so, being a simple, straightforward young man, he put his head down and charged straight ahead. As he came up the hill he saw Lieutenant Dorman busily engaging the gun tractor and anther gun. “Where are they?” shouted Gorman. Dorman, interested only in Germans, waved towards the hill. Happy again, Gorman continued up the hill - if he did not find the squadron there at least he would be able to look around for them. Dorman watched him go, wondering what “Blockhead” Gorman was up to, but he soon thought of something else when he was wounded in the foot by a mortar bomb.

Lieutenant John Gorman, earnestly following the pylons, struck the lane from Cagny to Emieville and swung cheerfully up it with his second tank just behind him. As he came over the brow he gave a wild cry “Gunner!” Two hundred yards away were four German tanks - a Royal Tiger, an old-fashioned Tiger, a Panther and an old Mark IV - “having a conference they were, sitting in the middle of the field.” The Germans were equally surprised and were all facing the wrong direction. “Gun’s jammed, sir.” Guardsman Schole’s voice was despairing. “Oh, Christmas, why?” The nearest German tank was slowly traversing its massive gun. It was a Royal Tiger, the first seen on the Western Front. “Driver, ram!” shouted Gorman, and Lance-Corporal Baron saw what he must do. “Ballyragget” crashed through the thin hedge and careered down the slope towards the Tiger. It slid down beside the long barrel of the 88mm. and struck the Tiger at the rear of its right track. The muzzle of the 88 projected two feet beyond the Sherman, so Gorman and crew were like birds sitting on a sportsman’s gun. The Tiger’s crew jumped out with their hands up; but the other Germans turned their attention to the second Sherman. Sergeant Harbinson, its commander, hadn’t a chance. Three shots struck it as it came over the crest and it burst into flames. The driver, Lance-Corporal Watson, and operator, Guardsman Davis, were killed instantly, and the three others wounded and burnt. Guardsmen Melville and Walsh were able to climb out, but only Walsh had the strength to go back again into the blazing hill and extricate the dying Sergeant Harbinson.

This distraction gave Lieutenant Gorman and his crew a moment to get away from the tanks and run to a cornfield on the other side of the lane. “Corporal Baron.” “Sir.” “Melville.” “Sir.” “Scholes.” “Sir.” “Agnew” - there was no reply. The voices of the driver, co-driver and gunner all answered from the depths of the corn, but there was no sign of the operator. In a minute he came crashing through the corn to join them. Guardsman Agnew was the last man out of the tank. As he dropped to the ground he saw four men rushing for a ditch and promptly joined them. They were the German crew; after an exchange of cold stares, Agnew moved out to join his own side.

When Lieutenant John Gorman got an idea into his head he clung to it stubbornly. His present idea was to destroy those German tanks. “You stay here while I get a Firefly,” and he slid away leaving Lance-Corporal Baron and the Guardsmen lying in the cornfield. They lay there in the corn for some time and then began to crawl. They must have crawled in the wrong direction - which is easy enough to do when all you can see is a jungle of stalks - for they got caught in an artillery barrage. They continued to crawl till Melville and Scholes were both wounded by shell splinters. Corporal Baron beat down the bloodstained, shell-torn corn to make a rough bed and stayed to guard and tend his wounded friends until they were picked up by a passing tank. Lieutenant Gorman walked back alone to the orchards round Cagny. There he found what he wanted, his own 17-pdr. gun, which alone would penetrate the heavy armour of a Tiger or Panther. It looked undamaged, but there was no sign of life in or around it. He hammered on the hull. “Sergeant! Sergeant Workmann!” A face popped out of the turret. “He‘s inside, sir. He is dead, sir.” The solid shot that killed the Troop Sergeant had thrown his body back on top of the crew, but had left them and the tank undamaged. They lifted the poor body and Lieutenant Gorman clambered in through the turret. It was no use trying to report to Squadron H.Q. - the air was full of voices all reporting “hornets” - so he returned on his “remount” to the battle.

Lieutenant Anthony Dorman had by now moved up to the ridge and was sitting there nursing his foot and directing the fire of his tank. In Wiltshire he had spent most of his time on training studying dippers and writing long letters to The Field describing the peculiar habits of these birds. But now, in Normandy, “Dipper” Dorman was busy watching “hornets” - the trade name for enemy tanks - and had little time for nature study. Gorman knew exactly where the “hornets” were. Covered by Dorman he moved cautiously forward, avoiding the lane this time and following the line of a thick hedge. The hedge reached up above the level of the turret, so he nosed the Firefly gently forward through it till he could just see the Germans. “Gunner.” Five shots went high and wide, rocketing up into the sky. The gunner’s hand was shaking and the sights were smeared with blood, but five misses in succession was too much. “Take it easy, boy, and have a go at the old Tiger.” The gunner was years older than he, but Lieutenant John Gorman had the paternal manner of a policeman, for he had been reared in, and was going back to, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The gunner took a deep breath and tried again. “Well done! Two hits on the turret; now put one into the new Tiger.” Three seconds later both the disabled Tiger and the Sherman were burning brightly. The following day, and the following year, they were still there, to be seen by the curious. Lieutenant Gorman, like every other tank officer, had often been told that naval tactics applied to armour, but he was the only one who practised this theory literally. It was a remarkable sight - the Sherman jammed into the side of the Tiger, its turret only a few inches from the barrel of the 88-mm. gun. The German gunner had a power traverse to swing his heavy gun and given another second he could have blown the Sherman to pieces, but he saw it just too late. In size there is not really much to choose between a Tiger and a Sherman, but at close quarters the Tiger completely overshadows the Sherman. It is indeed a few inches taller, but it is the length of the 88-mm. gun and the general impression of the massive power that seem to crush the Sherman.

As too many Germans were now firing at him from all directions, Lieutenant Gorman reversed out of the hedge and turned back to look for Sergeant Harbinson and his crew. He found them by their burnt-out tank and carried them back to the Regimental Aid Post. In his search for the Regimental Aid Post, he found the tanks of Brigade H.Q. lined up in a wood in Cagny. “This made me feel I was very far back,” he said. “It was a most confusing day.” “

From John Gorman's book;

"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”. The Germans and ourselves were trapped in the little space between the two tanks. At this moment Sergeant Harbinson emerged from the hedge corner and with incredible bravery took on the three supporting Tigers. “Run, sir, run,” cried Corporal Baron, so I led my crew along the hedge, turned the corner into the tall cornfield and we made a sort of nest there. Passing Sergeant Harbinson’s tank, we saw it had been hit at close range by the Tigers and we concluded that all five crew must be dead. While we were discussing this, a figure suddenly jumped into the “nest”. It was Guardsman Agnew, our front gunner, who had been trapped by the German gun above his escape hatch. When I ordered “Bail out” he found himself having to crawl along the belly of the Sherman in an lengthy escape procedure. When he got out of the turret he glimpsed a number of men running to his right along the hedge, so he followed and jumped into a ditch where they were sheltering. They were the Tiger Royal’s crew; he gave them a hasty salute and ran the other way, by luck finding us.

My feelings at this our first action were certainly not of triumph that we had at least decommissioned the only Tiger Royal seen on the Western Front. They were more that it was a job only half-done, and, having ordered Corporal Baron and the three Guardsmen to stay where they were, I ran through the cornfield towards some woods at the bottom of the rise, about 400 yards away. As I got closer I found there was a Firefly on its own, with apparently no one in it. I climbed on the turret and looked in. There was the body of Sergeant Workman. … The crew helped me to get the body out … There was no hesitation when I ordered the driver to advance over the cornfield to the tall hedge which had been on our right when we turned into the lane and saw the Tiger Royal reversing into the lane, its turret at right-angles to us fortunately.

By easing the Firefly gently into the tall hedge we were able to see the three ordinary Tigers, still in the same position, and the Tiger Royal and Ballyragget locked together. Our first shot was at the Tiger Royal, but it was high; the gunner was shaking. His next one hit the Tiger Royal and we got another shot into Ballyragget, so that it could not be towed, or driven away, by the enemy. The guns of the three Tigers were now pointing towards us, so we went 100 feet further along the hedge and pushed into it again until we could see the enemy. By now they were pointing to their front and we were able to get away four rounds, two of which were hits. Once again at least one of the Tigers was traversing towards us, so we withdrew towards the lane, intending to try the same tactic again. By now we were close to the blazing Sherman and to my joy, three scarecrows … emerged from the ditch. It was Sergeant Harbinson, with his two turret-crew members. W got them onto the flat deck of the Sherman and at full speed headed across the cornfield again, through the wood, and found the Regimental Aid post and our Doctor Ripman, with his team. They dealt with the three casualties, and got Pat Harbinson away that night to the famous burns hospital at Lingfield where Mr McIndoe, the plastic surgeon, operated. Harbinson lived for nearly two weeks, was able to talk to his mother and sister, but as more than 50% of his body was deeply burned he died, as did so many others who experienced the Sherman’s flammability."

From JOE. Vandeleur's book:

"In the afternoon prior to our advance John Gorman of the 2nd Battalion had an extraordinary experience. He ran straight into a German Tiger tank, saw its enormous gun traversing to bear upon him, ordered his driver to ram. Both the German crew and his baled out together. He then ran across to a Firefly (Sherman mounting a 17-pounder) and knocked out another Tiger at point-blank range."

From CWGC records, those men who were killed in action that day or who subsequently died of wounds:

**Lance Corporal HORACE JOHN WATSON 2721048, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 28 on 18 July 1944

Son of George Herbert and Agnes Bertha Watson, of Harlow, Essex.

Remembered with honour BAYEUX MEMORIAL

Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 12, Column 2.

**Guardsman WILLIAM THOMAS DAVIES Mentioned in Despatches 2719685, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 26 on 18 July 1944

Son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Davies; husband of Kathleen Mary Davies, of Kettering, Northamptonshire.

Remembered with honour BAYEUX MEMORIAL

Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 12, Column 2.

**Lance Serjeant HUGH PATRICK HARBINSON 2719491, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 38 on 28 July 1944

Son of James W. Harbinson and Emily Harbinson, of Newry.


**Lance Serjeant GEOFFREY GEORGE WORKMAN 2719982, 2nd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 26 on 18 July 1944

Son of George and Ruby Gladys Workman, of Kilpuk, Madras, India.

Remembered with honour


From Belfast Newsletter, 10 November 2003 by Ian Starrett

Age Shall Not Wither Them . . .

SECOND World War tank commander Sir John Gorman comes from a fighting family. Both he and his father won the Military Cross, one of his sons won the George Cross and his grandson, James, saw action in Iraq - all of them with the Irish Guards. Here, the 80-year-old talks about what Remembrance Day means to him.

Us old soldiers and sailors and airmen have all got memories of gallantry, hardship, fear and pride at this time.

Jeremy Clarkson's VC programme this week showed the extraordinary story of Major Kane of the South Staffordshire Regiment at Arnhem in 1944 who, at times single-handed, took on a German tank division which was threatening to destroy Colonel Frost's capture of the ''bridge too far''.

He used a little anti-tank weapon, the PIAT, an almost pathetic mortar-type tube against modern armour, was wounded several times, his uniform in rags, without food or sleep for five days, and resulted in saving many hundreds of British airborne soldiers by getting them away over the Rhine to fight again.

One remembers such men at this time. Their selflessness and devotion to their regiment, in my own case the Irish Guards, who had succeeded in getting to the Rhine having captured the four bridges south of Arnhem with many casualties.

It was ''the Micks'', as we were called, who had captured the first bridge over the Escaut, a feat which led to the Arnhem thrust of over 50 miles by three Allied airborne divisions dropping on the bridges.

One recalls, so vividly, those men who died and the many who were grievously wounded then and earlier in Normandy.

*Sergeant James Baron MM, my tank driver, who died two years ago, *Guardsman Charlton VC, **Sergeant Harbinson of Kilrea, Guardsman Cuthbertson, the great footballer who lost his legs, *Captain Hugh Dormer DSO, Captain Tony Dorman, aka the Dipper, Tinker Taylor, whom we buried this year, hundreds of them - good friends and trained soldiers, able to cope with triumph and disaster and treating ''those imposters just the same''.

We who are left grow old and we scan the paper every day to see the obituaries. Even after 60 years, the memories are as fresh as ever and the ''craic'' at our old comrades' events is full of laughter as well as sadness.

How lucky we are to have had the experience of serving in the British forces which, for much of the war, fought alone against the Nazi dictatorship.

We remember them.”

A book of his life was also published: The Times of My Life by Sir John Gorman, publisher Leo Cooper

From Tank battle memorial:











[To the memory of the Fallen of the Guards Division who fell here on 18th July 1944 during Operation Goodwood.   In this region one of the largest tank battles of Normandy took place. At this spot the destruction of the first Tiger tank in Europe was executed by Lieutenant John Gorman of No. 2 Squadron, Irish Guards ]

*See also under Gallantry for JAMES BARON, M.M., EDWARD CHARLTON, V.C., & HUGH DORMER, D.S.O.

**See Roll of Honour for: -

Guardsman WILLIAM THOMAS DAVIES Mentioned in Despatches,

Lance-Sergeant HUGH PATRICK HARBINSON [Died of wounds],

Lance Corporal HORACE JOHN WATSON, and


Quis Separabit

Sources: TNA; The Armoured Micks; The History of the Irish Guards during WW2 by D. FitzGerald; The Times of My Life by Sir John Gorman; A Soldier’s story by JOE Vandeleur; CWGC; Belfast Newsletter



GORMAN, JOHN reginald, M.C., 2ARMD