Honour sought for 'Soldier Bear'

A campaign has been launched to build a permanent memorial to a bear which spent much of its life in Scotland – after fighting in World War II.
The bear – named Voytek – was adopted in the Middle East by Polish troops in 1943, becoming much more than a mascot.
The large animal even helped their armed forces to carry ammunition at the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Voytek – known as the Soldier Bear – later lived near Hutton in the Borders and ended his days at Edinburgh Zoo.
He was found wandering in the hills of Iran by Polish soldiers in 1943.
They adopted him and as he grew he was trained to carry heavy mortar rounds.
When Polish forces were deployed to Europe the only way to take the bear with them was to “enlist” him.
So he was given a name, rank and number and took part in the Italian campaign.
He saw action at Monte Cassino before being billeted – along with about 3,000 other Polish troops – at the army camp in the Scottish Borders.
The soldiers who were stationed with him say that he was easy to get along with.
“He was just like a dog – nobody was scared of him,” said Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski, who still lives near the site of the camp.
“He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer – he drank a bottle of beer like any man.”
When the troops were demobilised, Voytek spent his last days at Edinburgh Zoo.
Mr Karolewski went back to see him on a couple of occasions and found he still responded to the Polish language.
“I went to Edinburgh Zoo once or twice when Voytek was there,” he said.
“And as soon as I mentioned his name he would sit on his backside and shake his head wanting a cigarette.
“It wasn’t easy to throw a cigarette to him – all the attempts I made until he eventually got one.”

BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | South of Scotland | Honour sought for ‘Soldier Bear’