Calls for bear war hero to get a statue

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CALLS have been made for a permanent memorial to a Polish soldier bear who took part in the Second World War and ended his days at Edinburgh Zoo.

Adopted by the Polish army in 1943, Voytek the European brown bear "fought" in the battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, carrying ammunition to the frontline.

The animal was brought to Scotland after the war and stationed near the Berwickshire village of Hutton, before dying of old age in Edinburgh Zoo in 1963.

Now campaigners want a statue of Voytek erected at Holyrood.

Found wandering the hills of Iran, the bear was adopted by the Polish forces and trained to carry heavy mortar rounds.

The animal, who stood at 6ft on his hind legs and weighed 35 stone, was also partial to sharing a cigarette and a bottle of beer.

When the troops stationed in Berwickshire demobilised, Voytek went to live at Edinburgh Zoo and became a star attraction. Statues have been built in his honour in London and in Ottawa, Canada, but there are none in Scotland.

A book, Voytek The Soldier Bear, will be out next month.