Photo: Wojtek Memorial Trust/Facebook
Wojtek the Soldier Bear ended his days at Edinburgh Zoo in 1963 after Polish troops fighting as part of the British 8th Army were demobbed in 1947.
The Wojtek Memorial Trust, which includes both British and Polish nationals, is inching closer to reaching its 300,000 pounds target for the monument, with the Scottish Government also approving a donation this autumn.
Edinburgh's municipal bus company, Lothian Buses, unveiled the Wojtek bus on Sunday, with Lord Provost Donald Wilson, (Edinburgh's chief civic dignitary), taking part in the ceremony.
Photo: Lothian Buses/Facebook
Polish artist Mateusz Jarza delivered the graphic design, which shows the bear carrying a missile, while the slogan 'Wojtek Returns' beams out in tartan, together with listings for the Wojtek Memorial Trust's web site and Facebook page.
Legend has it that during the 1944 Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped pass ammunition to his fellow troops. The bitterly fought battle against Nazi Germany was a key victory that opened the road to Rome.
Wojtek had been adopted in Iran by the Polish Second Corps, a formation chiefly made up of men released from Soviet labour camps after Stalin was compelled to sign an amnesty in 1941.
After the war, most Poles who had fought in the British 8th Army did not return to their homeland, after it became clear that a Moscow-backed Soviet regime was being installed in Poland.
Many Polish soldiers remained in the UK, as did Wojtek, who was given a home a Edinburgh Zoo.
It is hoped that the Wojtek monument will be unveiled West Princes Street Gardens next year, marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.
So far the trust has raised over two thirds of the funds needed to complete the project. (nh)
Source: The Scotsman