Whenever we talk about the tank gunners of World War II, it’s quite impossible not to mention Joe Ekins’ name, as he was one of the most well-known British tank gunners, and for good reasons. One was because he took down three German Tiger Tanks with five shots(And lived to tell the tale). Even though he described volunteering for the army as “the biggest mistake of my life,” that did not stop him from standing out on the battlefield.

Operation Totalize

During the later stages of Operation Overlord, the Allied forces launched an offensive in the First Canadian Army known as Operation Totalize from August 8 to 9, 1944. Their goal was to break through the defenses of the German forces in the south of Caen on the eastern flank of where the Allied forces were positioned. They wanted to capture the high ground on the north of Falaise. Operation Totalize was the first operation of the First Canadian Army after being activated on July 23.

Joe Ekins. (The Tank Museum via blog.tiger-tank.com)

The 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry and some of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division reached St. Aignan de Cramesnil, a French village, in the early morning of August 8. Meanwhile, the B Squadron stayed in the village while A and C traveled south into Delle de la Roque wood.

Ekins was with A Squadron, and they took the post in the southern portion where they could watch as the German tanks moved toward Route Nationale 158. And so, their troop commander ordered them to hold their fire until the German tanks were within the firing range.