Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Killa Sherman

Once again I should caution you about taking everything here at face value. This article has been compiled from multiple sources, many of them contradictory about which types of tanks were knocked out. So just be aware of this, and that a lot of accounts seem to have used a drop of poetic licence, even reputable sources seem to have some of the facts wrong.

George Dring was born on 28th of May, 1917, to a blacksmith in the village of Fulbeck. As a blacksmith's son George had a lot of time with horses and became an accomplished horsemen. Because of his love of horse riding it's no surprise that in 1935 when he joined the army he joined a cavalry unit, namely the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry. His first role was that of farrier.
Sgt George Dring
The Yeomanry mustered in 1939 and was deployed to Palestine. In between 1939 and the outbreak of the North African War the Sherwood Rangers were converted to tanks. As is often the case looking into British units they pick up local words and turns of phrases that make it into the regimental speak. One word, still used in slang English today is "shufti". It comes from the Arab word "Shuf-tee" or "to have a quick look". Sgt Dring used to use the word to describe his habit of dismounting from his tank and reconnoitring ahead on foot before exposing his tank. Sgt Dring fought through all of North Africa, winning a military medal in 1943 when his actions made it possible to keep an advance going after flanking a German position that was holding up the squadron on his flank, despite being the focal point for the enemy's return fire. After North Africa the Sherwood Yeomanry was returned to the UK for the Invasion of Europe.

After landing on D-Day the Rangers took part in Operation Epsom. And here’s where a few sources start to get mixed up. Some say Sgt Dring was in command of a Firefly. His tank originally was called "Achilles", however by now Sgt Dring had the nickname "killer" as soon his tank was renamed "Akilla". Pictures of Sgt Dring and his tank clearly show it to be a 75mm armed Sherman.
Akilla and crew, Sgt Dring is on the left.
During Operation Epsom Sgt Dring was advancing with the rest of his squadron, when he saw a glint in the tree line ahead. It was light reflecting off the tracks of a Panzer IV. Sgt Dring's first round went through the driver’s vision port causing the tank to catch fire as the crew bailed out.
The advance continued, then suddenly Sgt Dring spotted the boxy shape of a Tiger at about 1000 yards. He began to traverse his turret when the Tiger fired, the round went whistling past his tank, and Akilla was able to return fire. The Sherman’s 75mm fired five rounds in rapid succession, the fifth round hit the driver’s periscope, which caused the crew to bail out in panic.

As Sgt Dring approached a crossroads his habit of getting out for a shufti payed off. He sneaked through a cornfield and saw five tanks in a copse of trees below him, suddenly one started moving out. This is where some confusion comes in. By Sgt Drings words it appears he thought it might be a new tank that had recently been reported by intelligence, a Jagdtiger. However with hindsight we know it can't have been. Sgt Dring does say it was a very large tank, which he'd ever seen before. However a later intelligence report simply calls it a "Panther", but Sgt Dring was familiar with Panthers. So your guess is as good as mine as to what it could have been, a King Tiger? A Jagdpanther? Or a normal Panther? Either way it was bad news for a 75mm armed Sherman! Sgt Dring reversed his Sherman a little way up a side road and waited, the enemy tank moved out in front of him, and his first shot hit it in the drive sprocket shredding the track and immobilising the tank. The crew promptly bailed out.

Next on his tally during this long day's fight is a Tiger at 1400 yards. Sgt Dring was engaging it, when his troop commander remarked that he was hitting a wall behind the tank. Sgt Dring fired again and replied:
"You don't see a brick wall spark like that!"
Of the six rounds fired at the tank four hit and the tank brewed up. Finally Sgt Dring spotted a Panzer IV, and fired two HE rounds at it to get the range of 1200 yards, and then a round of armour piercing that went through the tracks and destroyed the tank.
The shot up Tiger.

Sgt Dring had several other battles, however he was finally wounded near Germany when out for a shufti, he spotted a Panther which he thought had been killed. The Panther fired its main gun, and Sgt Dring lost three fingers on one of his hands.

Afterwards he worked with POW's, learning German. This set him up to for his work with the British Immigration Service in later life. Its sorry to say that George Dring suffered from post traumatic stress disorder for several years afterwards.
Shortly before his death on 12 January 2003 Mr Dring attended a renaming ceremony at the Imperial War Museum Duxford. The owner of the Duxford Sherman had links to the Sherwood Rangers, and so renamed the tank to Akilla. Mr Dring attended the ceremony, and deftly climbed into his tank again after many years.

Right tanks knocked out, and an explanation of the disclaimer. Which I want to talk you through to give you some idea of why I made the call I did within the narrative. We actually have several tanks that could be getting mixed up.
First you have a source saying:
"Then a Panther tank burst across the front from the right flank at full speed. Just about every tank in A Squadron fired at the new arrival." (Call this Right Tank)

Next you have the mystery tank from the story which I used in the article. Finally you have these outtakes from an intelligence report (which I must stress I've not seen myself, but I trust the guy who posted them).

"Next he came on a Panther at the crossroads, This he got with one shot with APC in front of sprocket and the crew baled out. Hit at normal and at about 500yds range. It brewed up"
"Next he took on a Tiger at 1400 yds just outside Rauray.
This tank has been seen and is much shot up. It now has one scoop in front
vertical plate, five penetrations in rear, four strikes with no penetrations in rear,
plus a scoop and one plate of engine hatch smashed."

So due to the similarity of the hit to the drive sprocket I lumped the mystery tank and the "Panther" together. I'm also wondering if the "Right Tank" was actually the Tiger, as it shows considerable damage like the entire squadron took a pop at it. Hope you understand why it's tricky sometimes to be certain, and why I sometimes include these disclaimers.

I should also point you towards one of my very earliest articles of another British tank Ace.

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