In WW2 Wojtek was a full Corporal in the Polish 2nd Corp and played a major role in the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Two Polish soldiers, Iran 1942.
In 1942 Wojtek, a Syrian Brown Bear was found and adopted by soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps.
As a cub he had difficulty swallowing so was fed tinned milk from an old vodka bottle, but he grew quickly and was soon adopted as the unofficial mascot of the Polish units.
Wojtek with artillery shell – emblem of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company.
When Polish troops embarked on the transport ship for Egypt only enlisted personnel could go, so Wojtek was enlisted as a private.
As an enlisted soldier he had his own paybook, rank, and serial number and lived in the same quarters as the other men.
During the Battle of Monte Cassino, a bloody 4 month battle in 1944, Wojtek carried ammunition boxes, often under heavy fire, and always completed his duty. He was promoted to Corporal for his gallantry in the face of the enemy for his actions.
Monument to Wojtek in Park Jordana, Krakow.
At the end of the war he went to Scotland with the remainder of 22nd Company and in 1947 moved to Edinburgh zoo, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was often visited by his old comrades, and was a regular on TV programs such as Blue Peter.
At the time of his death Wojtek weighed 1,100 pounds and stood 6 feet tall, an imposing and handsome figure.
Statue of Wojtek in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh.
Recently two statues of Wojtek have been unveiled, one in Krakow, Poland, and the other in Edinburgh, Scotland.
And he is also the subject of his own film Wojtek – The Bear That Went to War, narrated by Brian Blessed.
It is touching to know that all his old friends and comrades never forgot Wojtek and that he finally got the recognition he deserved.
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