Wojtek, the Soldier Bear, circa 1942.
Wojtek was a Syrian bear found in Iran in 1942. He was sold to Polish soldiers and became their unofficial mascot. The men gave him cigarettes which he liked to smoke and beer to drink. “He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer – he drank a bottle of beer like any man.” He travelled with them throughout the Middle East. When his unit, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company in the Polish II Corp moved from Egypt to the Italian front, Wojtek was enlisted as a private. He lived with the men of the company and even served in battle. At the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped move ammunition. For this reason, a bear carrying ammunition is the symbol of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company.
After World War II, Wojtek moved to Great Britain and was given to the Edinburgh Zoo in 1947. He died in 1963.