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Tribute paid to famous war bear

A FAMOUS soldier bear brought to Scotland in 1946 by Polish troops returning from the Italian campaign has been honoured again on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Wojtek, a 500lb Syrian brown bear, helped carry ammunition with the men at the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy and later became a celebrity in Scotland when he arrived with the thousands of Poles initially based in army camps 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 said on the anniversary yesterday: "My grandfather, who was serving with the King's Own Scottish Borderers in the Middle East, met the men with the bear and spent some time with them."

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

Ms Orr founded the charity the Edinburgh-based Wojtek Memorial Trust. It now has permission to build a statue of Wojtek in Princes Street Gardens to commemorate the story. It is due to be erected next year.

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