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Deadline is set for bear memorial

A SPRING target has been set for the unveiling of a £300,000 monument to a famous soldier bear brought to Scotland in 1946 by Polish troops.

Wojtek, an adopted brown bear that helped carry ammunition with the men at the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, is to be honoured in Edinburgh with a statue in West Princes Street Gardens next year, when the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War is marked.

Wojtek later became a celebrity in Scotland when he arrived with the thousands of Poles initially based in army camps in the Borders.

The Wojtek Memorial Trust has been raising money for the permanent tribute to the bear who was found as an orphan in Persia in 1942

The campaign was launched in 2013 and £165,000 has been raised but £135,000 is still needed.

While in the Borders, the men and the bear became part of the community and attended concerts, dances and even children's parties.

Wojtek walked about free and his story was contained in a book, Wojtek The Bear Polish Hero, written by Aileen Orr. Ms Orr also founded the trust.

After the camps were closed in 1947 the bear was homed temporarily in Edinburgh Zoo. However, he never left and died, aged 21, in the zoo in 1963.

The trust said the figures of man and bear are standing, "waiting to engage with the passers by" in the memorial. Wide stone steps will provide a seating point to allow visitors to view the gardens.

"Additional planting behind the memorial will soften and enhance this site further: beech and hawthorn will reflect the flora of the country lanes in Berwickshire, where Wojtek lived," the trust added.

The monument, which shows Wojtek with a Polish soldier, was created by Alan Beattie-Herriot.

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