Wojtek The Soldier Bear

Edinburgh, Scotland

Wojtek The Soldier Bear is a Memorial in Edinburgh dedicated to a fluffy WWII hero.

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- Mike McBey

Honouring Wojtek The Soldier Bear

"It's fantastic to have a piece of magic that's real."

Mr Harvey, of Illuminated Films, speaking to The Times.

Throughout wartime history, there are stories that transcend the boundaries of ordinary heroism. One such tale is that of Wojtek the Soldier Bear—a remarkable creature whose courage and companionship left a lasting impression on the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps during World War II.

Today, Wojtek’s memory lives on in the form of a bronze statue located in Princes Street Gardens, near Edinburgh Castle. The statue is accompanied by a plaque wall that depicts Wojtek in different scenes from his incredible story.

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The Origin Story of Wojtek the Soldier Bear

In the Alborz Mountains of northern Iran in 1942, amidst the chaos of World War II, an extraordinary tale unfolded, when a group of Polish soldiers from the 22nd Artillery Supply Company crossed paths with a bear cub. Initially rescued and adopted by a young boy, the Syrian brown bear cub’s life took a dramatic turn when the soldiers made a trade with the boy. Their essential supplies for the boy's bear cub.

As the Polish soldiers traversed war-torn landscapes, Wojtek—an unconventional recruit—quickly became a beloved mascot and a source of morale for the troops. His integration into military life was seamless, thanks to the devoted care of soldier Peter Prendys, who taught him to salute, wave, and march alongside his human companions. Wojtek's playful antics, including wrestling matches and chasing oranges during grenade practice, brought light hearted moments and camaraderie in the midst of conflict.

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Wojtek The Soldier Bear in Battle

When the time came for the 22nd Corps to transfer to the Italian war zone, bringing Wojtek into active combat posed a challenge due to military regulations. To circumvent this, Wojtek was officially enlisted into the 22nd Artillery Transport Company, complete with a rank of corporal and the name "Wojtek," meaning "joyful warrior" in Polish.

This arrangement allowed Wojtek to continue accompanying his comrades into battle, which he did during the Battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944. During the battle Wojtek demonstrated his strength and loyalty as he assisted in moving crates of ammunition. His contribution to the capture of Monte Cassino was commemorated with a special badge depicting a bear carrying an artillery shell.

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After World War Two: Wojtek The Soldier Bear in Scotland

"The story of Edinburgh's adopted bear is a cherished one and has become a firm family favourite."

Lord Provost Donald Wilson.

After the war, Wojtek and his comrades were relocated to a camp in Scotland, where he continued to bring joy to all who crossed his path. Concerns about his future arose as the troops demobilised, but his former companions refused to part with him, fearing he wouldn't survive in the wild or be exploited for propaganda in post-war Poland. Luckily, in 1947, Wojtek found a new home at the Edinburgh Zoo, where he remained a beloved attraction until his passing in 1963. Visitors, including his former comrades, delighted in sharing beer, candy, and cigarettes with Wojtek, reminiscing about their wartime adventures.

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Revealing the Wojtek The Soldier Bear Memorial

"Being in the heart of the city...is exactly the sort of prime location this memorial deserves."

Lord Provost Wilson.

On November 7, 2015, a bronze statue commemorating Wojtek's remarkable story was unveiled in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens. Commissioned by the Wojtek Memorial Trust, the statue depicts Wojtek and a Polish Army Soldier "walking in peace and unity”. As such the memorial only honours the soldier bear but also the Polish soldiers who shared in his journey and later found peace in Scotland.

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- Kirk K

Wojtek The Soldier Bear, in Tartan

In a further tribute to Wojtek, a special tartan was officially created. Commissioned by the Wojtek No Boundaries School, which provides education and support to Polish youngsters in Scotland, the tartan commemorates 100 years of Poland's national independence and honours Wojtek's remarkable legacy.

Admitted to the official Scottish Register of Tartan, the design features colours symbolic of Wojtek's journey: red and white for Poland, green for the soldiers' uniform, blue and white for Scotland, and brown in homage to the bear himself.

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What you need to know

Wojtek The Soldier Bear
4 Princes St, S Charlotte St, Edinburgh EH2 2HG
55.950783, -3.202160
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