Long ago and far away, when Hitler wasn’t a punchline to a joke on 4chan, there was a bear advancing the cause against fascism.
Traded for a tin of corned beef, a motherless cub became fast friends with the Polish infantrymen of the 22nd Company during World War II. Wojtek1 was beloved for drinking booze, smoking cigarettes, and playfully wrestling with his human comrades before becoming a war hero.
For some time, he was considered a mere mascot, only being drafted when his company sailed from Egypt to join the battle at the Italian front alongside the English. The stuffy British high command didn’t allow any animals or pets at their encampment, so Wojtek was drafted and earning the rank of private, a serial number, and all the trimmings of being a proper soldier.
During the Battle of Monte Cassino, the bear proved to be unflappable in battle. He tirelessly carried artillery shells, never dropping one, nor flinching or showing signs of fatigue during the fray. In honor of his service, Wojtek’s heroism is immortalized in the insigna for the 22nd Transport Company of the Polish army as a bear carrying a howitzer shell.
Now the Scottish government has seen fit to donate funds to build a memorial to this astounding ursine in West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. Right now, the Wojtek Memorial Trust2 has raised 2/3rds of their £300,000 goal. If you have a spare couple of quid, consider helping the memory of a bear who gave so much for some vodka and smokes.3