Wojtek the Soldier Bear to be honoured

A picture of Wojtek ov Voytek the bear-soldier

Wojtek the Soldier Bear (Image via Wikipedia)

Wojtek the soldier bear has to be one of my favourite stories from the Second World War.

Adopted as a cub by Free Polish soldiers who were serving in Iran, Wojtek the Brown Bear grew to 6 feet tall and 500lbs, and went on to serve with Polish Forces in Italy, helping carry ammunition throughout the mountainous terrain in Italy. After the war, when Poles who had served with the allies were not allowed to return home, Wojtek saw out his days in Edinburgh zoo in Scotland.

It’s such a heartwarming story, in fact I’m surprised that Disney have never made a film about it. When Prince Charles, William and Harry visited a Polish Museum and the curator showing them round started to explain about Wojtek, Prince Charles told the curator that the young princes were familiar with the story.

Now a ¬£200,000 monument is planned to commemorate Wojtek. A maquette of the planned work, by sculptor Alan Herriot has been unveiled, showing Wojtek and his handler, Peter Prendys. Herriot has deliberately chosen to show the interaction between man and animal, rather than the usual image of Wojtek carrying shells. He must have provided a welcome relief from the horrors of war. I hope the project happens, as I’ve always had a soft spot for the Poles during the Second World War.

Animals have always had a poignant role in war – not having much of a choice, but serving loyally none the less. The play War Horse is receiving rave reviews in the west end at the moment, and the animals in war monument in London is incredibly moving. Wojtek has to be one of the most heart-rendering stories of animals serving during war.

Thanks to John Erickson for the tip-off on this story, which came from the Daily Telegraph.

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4 Comments

Filed under News, Uncategorized, World War Two

4 responses to “Wojtek the Soldier Bear to be honoured

  1. A few more sites for additional information. Look up Wojtek on Wiki – on his page, for you re-enactors, is the vehicle badge (painted symbol) for Wojtek’s unit. Slap one on your favourite Land Rover, and see if the Rozzers can figure it out! Also, check this site outhttp://www.voytekbear.com/. It gives some details about his story, and offers a book about the beloved bruin. You can also find Wojtek on Facebook, as you can Mr. Paulin, so be sure to look both of them up and “friend” them. And for information from Wojtek’s adoptive country, you can find more on him at the best source of Polish news I’ve yet found on the Net:
    http://thenews.pl/radio/thekrakowpanoptikon/artykul109685_wojtek-the-soldier-bear-marches-on.html

    Thank you, James, for posting this thread. And if any of you have information on the Belgian use of dogs to tow heavy machine guns during WW1, please pass them on – I’ll take anything you can find. Finally, James, if you want a really emotional discussion, start a thread about war dogs and stand back while I re-tell some of the most heart-breaking man-and-dog soldiers-both stories you will ever hear. (My pet project, all puns intended.)

    • I should’ve mentioned, if you friend either Wojtek or Mr. Paulin, mention that either James Daly or Bud Malone (my online alter ego) sent you. I’ll check in after a week or two and see how well we’ve done for the Soldier Bear.

  2. Never heard of that story before. But is a lovely story :-)

  3. James Daly

    I think it would make a great childrens illustrated story book… theres a project for a budding childrens writer.

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