Overlord'S Blog: Real life Reaper Medal
Michael Wittman, now there's a name to conjure with. I'm sure you're all familiar with his exploits. Wittman has risen to fame, much like Von Richthofen from the First World War. Just like Von Richthofen he has utterly eclipsed the stories of others who had adventures just as startling or heroic. For example how many of you, without googling, can tell me the name of the second highest scoring ace in World War One, or how many victories he had?
Suddenly Von Richthofen’s achievements (impressive though they are) look different. Wittman is the same, he eclipse’s all other tank stories. So to redress the balance, here's the story of 4th troop, "A" squadron, 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards Vs the Panzer Lehr.
The day after Wittman made his charge at Villers-Bocage the Durham Light infantry (DLI) and the 4th/7th Dragoons captured the village of Lingerves. One troop of three tanks from the Dragoons was in the village helping the infantry. The Firefly of that troop was still operational. Its commander was Sergeant Harris, with his gunner Trooper Mackillop. Off in the distance Sgt Harris spotted a Panther tank, and Tpr Mackillop quickly destroyed it.
The DLI had lost their 6 Pounder guns in action earlier, and so Sgt Harris moved up to cover them, and now was pointing down the main road. Suddenly a tank was seen charging down the road towards them. Luckily Sgt Harris identified it as a Sherman before shooting. As it passed the infantry, it turned off to the side. Behind it, chasing the Sherman was another Panther! The Firefly snapped off a shot that disabled the Panther by knocking the track off. This caused the Panther to swerve off into a bush, and out of sight. The DLI's commander, Major Mogg grabbed a PIAT and went after it,. quickly finishing it off (Yes, the Major was armed with a PIAT).
Elsewhere in the village, upon hearing tanks a Sherman, commanded by Corporal Johnson, from B troop went to investigate. Only to be knocked out by shells and several of the crew wounded or killed. The radio operator, Lance Corporal Draper, after bailing out and getting to cover, realized that the driver was still trapped inside by the turret position. Draper raced back across the open ground and rotated the turret and hauled out the wounded driver. He did all this while in full view of the enemy who had knocked out his Sherman.
Corporal Johnson's tank:
The fighting lasted all day, and the two remaining tanks of the troop began to run low on ammunition. So Sgt Harris left the battlefield to resupply. When he returned he faced the Germans final attack. Parked next to the Church, Sgt Harris looked down the main road to see 4 Panthers approaching! One was destroyed by a shot to its flank from the Squadron's 2IC, immediately the remaining Panthers gunned their engines and charged. Sgt Harris knocked out the first with a well-placed shot, the second and third Panthers swerved round their destroyed colleague. The Second Firefly shot knocked out the second panther.
Panthers Three and Four.
The Third panther raced into the village. Now Sgt Harris had to stalk the Panther through the streets of the village. He eventually managed to get behind it as it entered the main Square of Lingeveres. The tank was destroyed just in front of the villages war memorial, which still stands to this day pitted with bullet holes and shrapnel from this battle.
The Final Panther.
(The war memorial's railings can be seen in the lower left of this picture)
In one day the Germans had lost 5 Panthers, 4 of which to the sharp shooting of one firefly gunner. Sgt Harris was awarded a DCM and MacKillop got a mention in Despatches for destroying 4 Panthers with as many shots. At this time, I haven't been able to find out what (if any) awards L/Cpl Draper received.