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Eccentric collection of British curiosities: Neighbours unhappy about tank in Linz front garden

Eccentric collection of British curiosities : Neighbours unhappy about tank in Linz front garden

Gary Blackburn collects British curiosities at his property in Kretzhaus near Linz, including life size statues of the Queen and Mr Bean’s mini. His latest acquisition is a tank, and not all the neighbours are happy.

The British are known for their black humour and their love of curiosities. Gary Blackburn also loves to collect things. However, his latest acquisition, a British Centurion tank, which he has displayed at his company’s premises at Forsthaus Reifstein in Linz-Kretzhaus, has caused a commotion all the way to the Mainz state parliament.

Ellen Demuth, the member for the Neuwied district, who was born in Linz, has submitted a question to the parliament after being made aware of the tank by a resident. “Tanks are used in so many wars, this makes a mockery of all victims,” said Demuth. The state interior ministry responded: “The tank is on private property and is neither capable of being driven or used.” The law governing the control of military weapons was therefore not applicable. Demuth was not happy with the answer, believing it to be tasteless to display military weapons on private land. She hopes all parties will reconsider.

However, with Gary Blackburn, she is hoping in vain. “I have neither seen nor heard anything from Mrs Demuth,” said the tank’s owner. He has been following the recent media reports from his holiday in Nottingham. His son, Kevin, had to accompany a television crew round the property. Germany’s largest tabloid newspaper also reported the story.

Blackburn founded the Siebengebirge tree service at the start of the eighties. The Englishman learnt how to fell trees in the legendary Sherwood Forest, where Robin Hood once lived.

Bit by bit, he created a “Little Britain” in the Siebengebirge: a telephone box from Trafalgar Square, a post box from his homeland in the classic red, life size statues of the Queen and her corgis, Mr Bean’s mini and Robin Hood’s hut.

Blackburn is especially proud of the tank. “My father gave me a model Centurion tank when I was three years old. I couldn’t resist,” he says. The real tank cost 30,000 Euro and was built in 1953. “It’s not been part of any war,” says Blackburn. “It is a monument to peace and freedom.”

To underline his peaceful intentions, Blackburn has placed wreaths of poppies and doves of peace on the tank. However, he admits: “I’m English. We’re allowed to be a bit eccentric.”

Blackburn has not only fulfilled a childhood dream with “Little Britain” but is convinced he is doing something for tourism. “I love tourism and when people walk past my property,” he says. He has put out a guestbook. “People only write nice things in it, like ‘God save the Queen’ for example.”

One neighbour is not at all happy with what Gary Blackburn is doing on his private property. The spiritual counsellor, Andrea, and her husband, systemic counsellor Matthias Oppermann, who offer seminars at the Forsthaus premises, think the display is simply tasteless and they are not alone in their views. “Several residents have complained,” says Andrea Oppermann, but the municipality just looks on. “Mr Blackburn can do what he likes here.”

She does not believe it was coincidence that on arrival, the tank’s gun was pointed directly at the forester’s house where she and her husband live. The tank is now aimed in a different direction. (Orig. text: Hansjürgen Melzer)