Grin And Bear It

British and American readers may remember a TV show called Gentle Ben, in which an excruciatingly annoying boy is repeatedly saved from disaster by a kind-hearted bear.

Gentle Ben was a fictional creation, but in the last few weeks, a real life hero bear has hit the headlines, and his tale is much more far-fetched - and outrageous - than the CBS star.

Voytek was a beer-drinking, cigarette-puffing bear who helped Allied troops defeat the Nazis at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Bought as a cub by Polish troops stationed in Persia, Voytek (Polish: Wojtek) soon came to see himself as another soldier in the corps.

He liked to play-fight with his Polish cohorts, and he was fond of the occasional beer and smoke. Yet the bear's greatest moment came at Monte Cassino, the so-called 'Battle For Rome'.

During the heat of the battle, Voytek stood up on his hind-legs, marched over to a supply point and began carrying ammunition shells to his comrades-in-arms. He did not drop a single crate.

Voytek became the official mascot of the 22nd Artillery Company, and his likeness was emblazoned on all company regalia.

After the war, the troops of the Polish II Corps faced a terrible dilemma. The majority had been imprisoned by the Soviets in 1939, and they had only escaped by a fluke of history. In 1945, knowing that the Red Army had swept into Poland once more, the vast majority decided to stay in Great Britain. When the troops were demobbed, Voytek - like his cohorts - was left without a home. He ended up in Edinburgh zoo, where he died in 1963 aged 22.

Voytek was largely a forgotten figure for many years, but he has come back into the limelight after a Scottish MP, Aileen Orr, began campaigning for a statue in his honour. Mrs Orr says that Hollywood producers have already contacted her about a motion picture.


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Richard Lucas

Great story. I'm trying to get a statue of him built here in Krakow Drop me a line if you can help Richard

Reply Jan 7th, 2009
United States

no news so here is a view - bears are cute! rock on.

Reply Feb 12th, 2008