In my last Sunday Rumble I made a passing reference to the difficulty - no, let's be honest, the virtual impossibility - of dealing with the German armoured behemoth of WWII - the King Tiger tank. Without boring you all to death with the techie details, suffice to say that it had virtually impervious armour and was armed with an 88mm AA gun which was deadly against all known opposition at the time up to huge ranges. I am obliged to 'SoD' for providing a link which describes one solution which was breathtaking in its simplicity and in the courage needed to carry it out. I thought it was worth sharing with you all:
James Baron, who has died aged 87, was awarded an immediate Military Medal for charging and ramming a German King Tiger tank in Normandy in 1944 while serving with Armoured Irish Guards.
On July 18 the 2nd Armoured Battalion of the Irish Guards was taking part in a powerful armoured thrust near Cagny in Operation Goodwood, which aimed to isolate Caen from the east and free the Allied forces to the west for the forthcoming breakout of Normandy.
The Irish Guards were equipped with Sherman tanks, which had proved to be a reliable fighting vehicle, but were outclassed by the German Tiger and Panther tanks. On the Western Front, the Allies had no answer to Hitler's latest weapon, the King Tiger, armed with an 88 mm gun, originally designed as an anti-aircraft gun. Intelligence reports that it was about to make its appearance in Normandy were received with considerable apprehension.
"What do we do if we meet a King Tiger?" Lance-Corporal Baron had asked his troop commander, Lieutenant John Gorman, at a briefing a few days earlier. "The only thing we can do," Gorman told his driver, "is to use naval tactics. If the 88 mm gun is pointing away from us, we shall have to use the speed of the Sherman and ram it."
On the afternoon of July 18, as Gorman came round the corner of a hedge in his Sherman, he saw four German tanks 300 yards away in the middle of a field. There was an old-fashioned Tiger, a Panther, an old Mark IV and a King Tiger - the first seen in battle on the Western Front.
The King Tiger's devastating 88 mm gun was pointing at one of Gorman's troop on the rise behind him. The Sherman's 75 mm gun was little more use than a pea-shooter against the King Tiger's armour - armour piercing shells would bounce off it. "Driver, ram!" shouted Gorman.
The Sherman crashed through a thin hedge and careered down the slope at 40 mph towards the King Tiger. With 75 yards to go before impact, the Sherman's gunner, Guardsman Scholes, fired a high-explosive shell at the King Tiger. Although it did not penetrate the armour, he felt that it would give the Germans something to worry about.
The British tank slid down beside the long barrel and struck the King Tiger hard at the rear of its right track. With the Sherman's turret only a few inches from the 88 mm weapon, Gorman's crew were like birds sitting on a sportsman's gun. On impact, both crews baled out and went in opposite directions - except one man, Guardsman Agnew, the front gunner, who, finding his exit blocked and having to scramble back to the turret, was the last out of the tank.
As Agnew dropped to the ground, he saw four men running for a ditch and promptly joined them. They were the German crew. After an exchange of cold stares, being a punctilious sort of man, he saluted smartly and disappeared into a cornfield to rejoin his comrades.
Gorman ordered Baron and the others to stay where they were; he set off on a zig-zag run through the orchards, where he found a Firefly tank. Gorman returned with the Firefly and completed the destruction of the King Tiger and the Sherman with the 17-pounder gun.
Meanwhile, the crew had been caught in an artillery barrage. When two guardsmen were wounded, Baron made a rough bed for them and stayed with his friends until they were picked up by a passing tank.
For their parts in this action, Corporal Baron received the MM and Lt Gorman the MC.
James Baron was born at Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire, on April 15 1915 and educated at the local school. His family moved to Great Harwood when he was a boy, and at the age of 14 he was working in the textile industry.
Baron enlisted in the Coldstream Guards in 1936 and trained at the Guards Depot, Caterham, before joining the 2nd Battalion at Windsor. He purchased his discharge the following year to join the Lancashire Constabulary, but was called up in 1940 and re-enlisted in the Irish Guards.
In 1941 Baron was selected for armoured training and qualified as a tank driver on the Crusader Mark I. He joined the 2nd Armoured Battalion Irish Guards in 1942 and was promoted to lance-corporal in May. After landing with the battalion on the Arromanches beaches on July 1 1944, he fought with his unit in the drive for the Seine and across north-west Germany, ending the war near Bremen.
Having left the Army in 1946 in the rank of sergeant, Baron returned to the textile industry as a technician at the Palatine Mill, Great Harwood; he retired in 1981. He entered the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, as an In-Pensioner in 1991 but left the following year and moved to Blackburn.