In 1942, a local boy found a bear cub near Hamadan, Iran. He sold it to the soldiers of the Polish Army stationed nearby for a couple of canned meat tins.
As the bear was less than a year old, he initially had problems swallowing and was fed with condensed milk from an emptied vodka bottle. The bear was fed with fruits, marmalade, honey and syrup, and was often rewarded with beer, which became his favourite drink.
He also enjoyed smoking and eating cigarettes. He enjoyed wrestling and was taught to salute when greeted.
During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped move ammunition.
But, how do you convince an army quartermaster to let you take a bear with you to war? Why, simple: you draft him.
To convince the British to allow him onto a British transport ship when the unit sailed from Egypt to Italy, Wojtek was officially drafted into the Polish Army as a private and listed among the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps.
Following the end of World War II in 1945, the bear was transported to Berwickshire in Scotland, along with parts of the II Corps.
Stationed in the village of Hutton, near Duns, Wojtek soon became popular among local civilians and the press.
Following demobilization on November 15, 1947, Wojtek was given to the Edinburgh Zoo. There Wojtek spent the rest of his days, often visited by journalists and former Polish soldiers, some of whom would toss him cigarettes, which he then proceeded to eat, because there was no one there to light it for him. Wojtek died in December 1963, at the age of 22.
Map of Wojtek’s route from Scotiana: