Call for memorial to soldier bear

Barbara, a polar bear at the Royal Navy's zoo at Whale Island, greeting old shipmatesThere are calls for a memorial to Voytek, an Iranian bear that fought for the Polish against the Germans and ended up in a Scottish zoo.  Voytek was adopted by Polish forces after being discovered in Iran in 1943.

He was trained to carry heavy mortar rounds and saw action in Monte Cassino, Italy, before being stationed in Scotland with 3,000 Polish troops.  After the war, Voytek became a popular resident of Edinburgh zoo until his death in 1963.

Read more from BBC News

This photo is actually Barbara, a polar bear at the Royal Navy’s zoo at Whale Island, greeting old shipmates.  Rescued as a cub from drifting ice off Greenland, Barbara was for some time the ship’s mascot during the Second World War, until she became too large for the mess decks of a light cruiser and was moved to a new home on Whale Island.

While there are currently no war memorials to bears (although there are memorials to horses, donkeys, dogs, pigeons, a monkey, a cat, camels and a thrush, among others) there is one memorial that features a life-size sculpture of a polar bear.  This is the 49th Infantry Division memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire.  The Polar Bear became the emblem of the division, chosen when they were stationed in Iceland during the Second World War.

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