Soldier-bear during World War II
Scottish campaigners are calling for a memorial to a soldier-bear which joined Polish troops on the front line during World War II and died in Edinburgh, media reported Saturday. Voytek, a 113-kilogram, 1.8-metre (249-pound, nearly six feet) brown bear, was adopted by the Poles after they found it in Iran in 1943.
They gave the animal beer and cigarettes, trained it to carry mortar shells and even enlisted it as a soldier so that it could keep travelling with them.
At the end of the war, the troops were billeted to southern Scotland and Voytek went along too, before being sent to Edinburgh Zoo when they were demobilised.
The animal remained at the zoo until its death in 1963.
Now a teacher from southern Scotland, Garry Paulin, is writing a book about the bear and a campaign has started to have Voytek's life commemorated in a statue.
Campaigner Aileen Orr said she first heard about the bear as a child from her grandfather, a Scottish soldier.
"The story is totally amazing and it would be good if we could have some memorial in Scotland, to celebrate the bear's life," she told the Scotsman newspaper.
Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski, who still lives in Scotland, added: "He was like a big dog -- no-one was scared of him.
"He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer -- he drank a bottle of beer like any man."