My grandfather - in REME uniform - riding a big cat statue

Discussion in 'REME/RAOC' started by RichardHorrocks, Mar 26, 2017.

  1. My grandfather, John Brian Horrocks, joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers towards the end of WW2. He recently passed away, and it was left to me to sort through his belongings, including photos.

    I'm aware he was stationed in Hamburg, and also possibly Wolfsburg. (I have some Volkswagon-related memorabilia that he brought home, though this could have been swapped with someone else I suppose... )

    I'm sure many questions will arise as I continue to sort through his things, but for now there's one specific thing I'm trying to discover: where was the below photo - which shows my grandfather in uniform riding a large cat statue - taken? (He's the guy sitting at the front of the two.)


    My thoughts so far:
    * MoD Lyneham, where the REME were based; or...
    * ...Somewhere in Hamburg.

    Google searches along the lines of "panther/cat statue in Hamburg" have so far come up empty.

    Any ideas or suggestions would be much appreciated.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2017
  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I've also had a search and come up with nothing, I'm afraid, but I thought I'd just take the opportunity to ask: your grandfather wasn't a relation of Lieutenant-General Sir Brian Horrocks, was he?
  3. Good question :)

    Sir Brian Horrocks's grandfather was William Holden Horrocks, who was from Bolton in Lancashire/Greater Manchester. For the past 100 years or so, my part of the Horrocks family have lived in Leicester, but were previously also from Bolton.

    Having previously tried and failed to connect my part of the family tree with other seemingly exciting parts - for example, there was also a Horrocks in the "Dambuster" 617 Squadron, who was shot down - I've been somewhat discouraged to spend too much time on Sir Brian. I think I remember my grandfather talking about him once when he was alive, though in a very "we're-definitely-not-related" way.

    Having said that, if you keep going back, the Horrocks name derives from the settlements of Great and Little Horrocks in Lancashire. So the real answer to your question... yes, almost certainly, but... not with any real level of closeness.
  4. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Thanks for the interesting answer. I thought it worth asking as we had one of (Maj-Gen) Chink Dorman-Smith's relatives posting on here last year.

    Will keep my eyes peeled for panther statues. Of course, if it were a Nazi sculpture, it may not have lasted long after the war.
  5. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    I think that it almost certainly was Nazi as it looks as if a lower embellishment had already been removed from the plinth leaving just a sütterlin inscription that I can't decipher. It wouldn't surprise me if there had been a swastika in a laurel wreath or something there.

    Absolutely identikit German barracks which don't help much but maybe someone ex-BAOR will recognise them.
  6. Ghent'45

    Ghent'45 Junior Member

    'der Schwarze Panther' from Landsberg am Lech(Inselbad).
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  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    Heidleberg was never in the British zone though.

    I'd ask these people :- Home
  9. Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

    "Der Schwarze Panther" certainly looks interesting, though it would imply that the photo I posted is the mirror image of the real picture. (The cat has different feet forwards in my image and the images of the statue in its modern-day location.) I was trying to work out if the remnants of the writing on the plinth were backwards or not, but I can't tell.

    I think I may have gone about this the wrong way. I don't actually have my grandfather's service records, so can't actually confirm where he was, when, and which unit he was in. What I'll do is:
    • Try to get my hands on his service records
    • Follow up with
    • Read a bit more about the panther sculptor (Fritz Behn)
    • Dig out the original photo again and see if I can scan it at a higher resolution (I'm thinking probably not)
  10. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member


    An interesting challenge.

    I am also an active contributor to the BAOR Locations site.

    The barrack building in the background is undoutedly a typical Hitler era build to be found all over Germany

    I and the BAOR Locations team have brief details of some 27 locations used by the British Army in Hamburg in the immediate post war period. REME units were based in two, the former Blohm and Voss seaplane factory on the banks of the Elbe (which I think we can eliminate) and Arborfield Barracks, the former Hanseaten Kaserne in Fuhlsbuttel (sometimes refered to as Alsterdorf), but I have recorded no reference to a Black Cat memorial. However though it is a decade since I was searching the Kew archives on the subject I have vague memories of a reference to such a memorial to commemorate the German Colonial Troops who served in Africa in the first part of the 20th Century in one of the Hamburg barracks. One caveat, there were two Hanseaten Kaserne in Hamburg, the second in the Bundeswehr era was in Rahlsedt in the northwest of the city.

    Your grandfather's service record hopefully may provide better evidence of where the photo might have been taken.
  11. That's fantastic - thanks for the details.

    I've asked my dad to have a root around to see if we have a paper copy of my grandfather's records, but I don't think we have. I'll look into making an application for them. (I'm not entirely sure how to do it, but I think I've found the relevant government website.)

    I've spent some further time looking through boxes of negatives to see if there were any further photos from the same set. The cat photo I posted was the only developed picture I had. But... I managed to find the corresponding set of negatives. Most of them aren't particularly good - *the* cat photo being the best of the lot. I'll get them developed at some point, but in the meantime I've tried to scan and invert them at as high a resolution as I could, with limited success.

    Below is the best I could do of the only other photo to show the buildings. I'll keep playing around with the exposure levels on the others.

  12. In my previous post, I notice that the building has some writing on it, just to the left of the white flagpole. I'll see if I can get this any clearer later on.

    In the meantime, just playing around with Google maps, the following shows one of the Hanseaten Kaserne locations in Hamburg which could match the photo. (Looking out of the gate onto Stoltenstraße.) Building height and window patterns seem to match exactly. (e.g. Two roof windows bisected by a drainpipe set 3 main windows in.)!8m2!3d53.56196!4d10.09948

    Again, this is all conjecture, but it's good fun :)
  13. Okay. Ignore the previous post. The picture is the wrong way around...

    Here's a closeup of the writing on the wall of the building. The second word is definitely "Barracks", and the first word almost certainly ends in "..ield". Which makes me think this is... Arborfield Barracks, Rahlsedt, Hamburg.


    From the link:

    "There were 235 REME soldiers based here with 1600 civilians being fed here daily. The Barracks is presumed to be the former Panzer Division Depot in the Rahlstedt suburb of Hamburg. Its name was later changed to Adams Barracks after the REME had departed and was eventually returned to German hands where it was renamed Graf-Goltz-Kaserne whilst used as a military establishment between 1955 - 1961."
  14. Next bit of evidence.

    One of the other photos in the set that I've scanned shows some stripped down Jeeps. Notice the garage doors.


    Here, potentially, are those doors today, at Graf-Goltz-Kaserne (i.e. Arborfield Barracks): Graf-Goltz-Kaserne – Wikipedia
  15. And here he is, in the snow, looking worse for wear: "The Panther from the Graf-Goltz barracks"


    He was a memorial to the Panzerjägerabteilung 20 (20th Panzer Division). (From this page.)

    Time for a trip to Hamburg...
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  16. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    I'm glad that you've found the answer. Where is the statue now ? Still in the barracks but minus plinth ?
  17. It looks like it was first moved from its main, big plinth to the entrance of the site:

    Panther und Fahnen im Eingang-me.jpg

    The photo with the flags was labelled as "Panther... im Eingang." (Where eingang = entrance.)

    Reading up a bit more, the barracks, in German hands, was closed in 1992. Several of the large barrack buildings were removed, and private housing built. Of the buildings that are left, they appear to be student accomodation. The service yard and garages are still there, but again appear to be private. I'm assuming for now that the panther has been moved elsewhere.

    I've contacted the website where I found the recent picture asking if they can share the location. I'll update further when they get back to me :)
  18. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member


    Apologies for disagreeing with the current conclusions but I am convinced that Arborfield Barracks (Hanseaten Kaserne) was in Fuhlsbuttel.(This a classic case of contradictory internet information).

    My reasons are as follows. My primary source, sent to me by my good friend, Historic Steve, also a regular contributor to this site, is an extract from the Barrack Survey carried out in Spring 1947 to be found in the HQ Hamburg District Quarterly Historical Returns held in Kew (WO 267/273). This states, inter alia, that Arborfield Barracks, former Hanseaten Kaserne, was in Good Condition with Garages and capable of accommodating 1000 personnel.

    Its location is given as Grid Reference S509605. Using the echodelta translation system (usual caveat) this shows up as Rothenburchenhaim on Google Earth. If you magnify the area you can spot of what looks like a pair of Wehrmacht Hitler era accommodation blocks on the corner of Suhrenkamp and Sengelmannstrasse. This I believe could be a remnant of the Barracks which closed when the British Army left Hamburg in the mid/late 50s.(the whole area has been massively redeveloped not least in connection with the nearby Hamburg City Airpor)t.

    My secondary source is the private correspondence I had some five years plus ago.
    Firstly with the son of a German, a Panzer Officer, who had been stationed in the barracks for a time but was later killed on the Eastern Front. He and his mother lived opposite "Hanseaten Kaserne Fuhlsbuttel" for a number of years.
    Secondly with the son of a REME tradesman who, although working elsewhere in Hamburg, lived in Arborfield Barracks Fuhlsbuttel.

    Looking at your most recent photographs I agree with you that the name on the Barrack wall must be Arborfield, according to my records there was no other Barrack name ending in "field" in the Hamburg area. Secondly the presence of the partially disassembled jeeps in front of the garages is explained by the fact that one of the occupants of Arborfield Barracks was 9 Light Workshop REME who were responsible for the repairs to light administrative vehicles (jeeps, fifteen hundred weight/one ton trucks) of units based in the Hamburg area

    Finally my apologies if you were misled by the information published on the BAOR Locations site. Following the sudden and unexpected departure of the then Administrator the original site was locked and despite the best efforts of the current very small management team all attemps to amend or add to the original data have failed. The Forum is therefore the only live section at present.

    ps I leave it to others to explore the link between Graf Goltz Kaserne and thewartime 20 Panzer Division.
    Historic Steve likes this.
  19. I see. The plot thickens :) I'm happy to be completely wrong on anything I've posted... it just seemed to all fit together quite nicely!

    I agree: the buildings on the corner of Suhrenkamp and Sengelmannstrasse look identical to the one in the picture I posted.

    It appears the (German) Wikipedia page for Graf-Goltz-Kaserne refers to it previously having been Arborfield, but the source for that assertion is actually the (English) BAOR Locations site, which we're now saying is incorrect. I can't immediately find anything else that claims they're the same place.

    But then we still have the panther statue to explain. The same collection of negatives, seemingly cut from the same negative roll, and in the same packet, include the picture of the panther, and the picture of the building with the "Arborfield Barracks" lettering. I suppose it's possible they were taken at different sites, with one taken at Arborfield (Fuhlsbuttel) and the other at Graf-Goltz-Kaserne (i.e. with the panther). I suppose it's also possible that if the 20th Panzer Division had a panther memorial, then every other Panzer division might want one too... Meaning Hamburg was littered with cat statues. (Pun wasn't intended, but let's pretend it was.)

    In other news, I've heard back from the folks who knew the last whereabouts of the (or "a") panther. (The photo taken in 2011.) It is/was in the grounds of Helmut Schmidt (military) University, still in Hamburg. For now I'll assume this panther *did* come from Graf-Goltz-Kaserne, though I won't continue to assume this was the same place as Arborfield.
  20. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member


    This infomation adds to the mystery.

    The Helmut Schmidt University campus is on the former Douamont Kaserne site (Grid Reference S575555) renamed Cromarty Barracks by 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders during their brief time in Hamburg in Summer 1946.
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