Humain’s Panther – then and now

While doing some research for another article that might (or might not) be published in the near future I wound up writing something that was slightly too long for the original article so I’ll be putting it up here as a separate article here instead 😉

It all began with this photo of a Panther Ausf. G knocked out in December 1944 during the Ardennes Offensive in the town of Humain, Belgium.

The authors of Panther | External appearance & design changes provide a colour profile for this vehicle and mention that it was photographed multiple times after its capture. The camouflage patterns show a typical late war scheme as applied by the M.N.H. assembly firm, that is: alternating vertical bands of red and green with dark yellow sprayed loosely over these bands. I recognized the pattern from a different photo as published in Duel in the Mist (appendix 4).

Both photographs were said to have been taken in Humain, Belgium. For some reason, a bell was mounted to its gun to ostensibly serve as a makeshift church bell. Even though it seemed highly unlikely, all information pointed to both photos showing the same Panther. I’m not quickly convinced and so I decided to take a closer look at this Panther.

 

A first indication of these Panthers being the same is that they both have suffered some damage to their hull machine gun. This is a starting point, but it’s not conclusive. An additional identification mark presents itself in the form of the tactical number ’80’ painted in the corner of the turret, next to the interlock with the trunnion armour. Both vehicles have the same number, but the number doesn’t seem to be present on the port side of the turret (any more) in the photo below.

Side view of this tank. The number 80 seems to be missing here

While numbers regularly don’t just vanish, it’s entirely possible that the – thin – layer of paint has worn off. Duel in the Mist mentions the Panther was knocked out near the school and later moved 50 meters down the road. A quick peek at the map of present day Humain shows only a couple of possible T-sections where the initial photo could have been taken. Apparently, it was taken along the Rue d’Aye. Even today it looks like a school is settled in the building. Note that the foremost building visible in 1944 has since been demolished.

A lot more vegetation is present hiding a large part of the building in the background, but essentially it’s all still there. Except the Panther that is. In the meantime I dug up some more period photographs showing the Panther from slightly difference angles. The head-on shot seemingly shows the Panther against the building also visible in the initial photo. The other one shows a building with a quite recognizable shape. Looking around using Google Street View shows the exact building just down the road at the right.

 

 

 

Putting all pieces together it looks like these photos are indeed showing the exact same vehicle. The Panther was parked against the tree in front of the house at the intersection. The photos being taken only some 50 meters apart confirms the story that the Panther was moved down the road. To close off, here’s a little side-by-side now and then: