PENICUIK COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT TRUST

FROM IRAN TO EDINBURGH VIA ITALY

WOJTEK

THE POLISH SOLDIER BEAR

A SATURDAY OPEN HOUSE EXHIBITION

20 July & 3 August 2013 in Penicuik Town Hall

 

Following the Trust’s series of exhibitions 2008-2013

The Great Polish Map of Scotland, General Maczek & The Polish Road to Breda

Campaign to restore

GENERAL MACZEK’S

GREAT POLISH MAP OF SCOTLAND

At Eddleston near Penicuik -see www.makers.org.uk/mapascotland 

 

Welcome to the Wojtek Memorial Trust

Our mission is to celebrate the life of Wojtek and those who were with him.

As Wojtek spent most of his life in Scotland and died here, the Trust is working on strengthening links with Poland to tell the story of how the Scottish people have not forgotten, and instead of looking back, we feel Wojtek’s spirit can still live on  through a memorial in Edinburgh with a copy in Warsaw to link the two cities, but also highlighting the story to a new generation of Poles and Scots.

We have received messages from all over the world now reaching a staggering 100,000 pieces of communication.  We wish to thank all those who have contacted us and we hope, through our website www.wojtekthebear.org.uk to keep the world up to date with our project.

The Wojtek Memorial Trust. A Company limited by guarantee, registered in Scotland number SC366122.  

Registered Office: Princes Exchange, 1 Earl Gray Street, Edinburgh EH3 9EE.  Scottish Charity Number SCO41057

 

Sculptor ALAN BEATTIE HERRIOT of Howgate, Penicuik

Alan Beattie Herriot DA ARBS

graduated from Duncan of Jordonstone College of Art in 1974.

Over the past 36 years he has built an international reputation and is considered one of Scotland’s most successful figurative sculptors .

He works from his Howgate studio  in Midlothian.

ALAN BEATTIE HERRIOT DA ARBS

Endeavour Art Studios near Howgate, Midlothian, Scotland.

Sculpture in hot bronze and cold cast bronze, life-size, scale models and figurines.

Alan Herriot's sculptures portray characters from history, literature and legend. His sculptural pedigree can be traced back from Rodin, Eduard Lanteri and Alexander Carrick, Scott Sutherland to contemporaries such as Alistair Smart and Dr. Alistair Ross and David Annand.

He has produced work for the major Heritage Conservation bodies, The National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland as well as for organisations and individuals in Britain and Ireland, Holland, France and Norway.

His Ancient Mariner and Yankee Jack sculptures are sited at the Maritime Museum, Watchet, Somerset. The Highland Division Piper stands at the entrance to The House of Bruar, in Perthshire. HRH Prince Andrew the Duke of York unveiled a bronze memorial to Bamse, the WWII Norwegian sea dog at Montrose. He has recently completed a large equestrian bronze statue of King Robert the Bruce, to be sited in 2011 in The City of Aberdeen.

Wojtek (1942–1963) was a Syrian brown bear cub found in Iran and adopted by soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps. During the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped move ammunition. The name "Wojtek" is a diminutive form of "Wojciech", an old Slavic name that is still common in Poland today and means "he who enjoys war" or "smiling warrior".

In 1942, a local boy found a bear cub near Hamadan, Iran whose mother had been shot. 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. Later, 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.

The bear became quite an attraction for soldiers and civilians alike, and soon became an unofficial mascot of all units stationed nearby. With the company he moved to Iraq and then through Syria, Palestine and Egypt.

 

Private Wojtek

To get him on a British transport ship when the unit sailed from Egypt to fight with the British 8th Army in the Italian campaign, he was officially drafted into the Polish Army as a private and was listed among the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps. Henryk Zacharewicz and Dymitr Szawlugo were assigned as his caretakers.

 

As one of the officially enlisted "soldiers" of the company, he lived with the other men in their tents or in a special wooden crate, which was transported by truck. According to numerous accounts, during the Battle of Monte Cassino, Wojtek helped his friends by transporting ammunition – never dropping a single crate. In recognition of the bear's popularity, the HQ approved an effigy of a bear holding an artillery shell as the official emblem of the 22nd Company (by then renamed to 22nd Transport Company).

WOJTEK  IN PERSIA (IRAN)

 THE POLES HAD JUST BEEN SUPPLIED WITH UNIFORMS BY THE AUSTRALIANS

Polish soldier with Wojtek in Iran 1942.

The British Government deployed LMS locomotives on Persian railways to supply Russia during the war              from the poster by Norman Wilkinson 

 

Stalin’s captured Polish soldiers and their families (minus the officers clandestinely executed in the Katyn massacre) emerged from Russia via Persia and made their way to Palestine, at that time a British territory under Mandate from the League of Nations.

Stalin had agreed to release them so that the Allies could use them to help attack the Axis forces of Germany and Italy from the south and west.

Wojtek with a Polish soldier

WOJTEK IN ITALY 1944

WOJTEK IN BERWICKSHIRE 1946

WOJTEK WITH HIS EMBLEM IN ITALY

WOJTEK CARRYING AN ARTILLERY SHELL.

Sign to commemorate his role at the Battle of Montecassino painted on 22nd Artillery Supply Company vehicles

 

Wojtek remained in Italy with the troops for some months after the end of the war. The future for Polish forces was uncertain. Many of Wojtek’s comrades were from the eastern parts of Poland which had been invaded by Stalin in 1939, and the Yalta conference had agreed that these lands would stay part of the Soviet Union: there were no homes to go back to.  Finally in September 1946 the Poles sailed to the Clyde, and Wojtek disembarked at Glasgow’s Broomielaw with the men to a hearty welcome. He was transported to Berwickshire, along with parts of the II Corps. Stationed in the village of Hutton, near Duns, Wojtek became popular among local civilians and the press. The Polish-Scottish Association made Wojtek one of its honorary members.

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. At the time of his death he weighed nearly 500 pounds (230 kg) and had a length of over 6 feet (1.8 metres).[4]

 

Media attention contributed to Wojtek's popularity. He was a frequent guest of BBC's Blue Peter program. Among memorial plaques commemorating Wojtek are a stone tablet in the Edinburgh Zoo, plaques in the Imperial War Museum and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, a sculpture by David Harding in the Sikorski Museum, London and a carved wooden sculpture in Weelsby Woods, Grimsby.

 

The Wojtek Memorial Trust proposes to erect a memorial next year at the western end of Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens as shown here:

 

On 25 April 2013, Kraków council also decided to erect a statue of the bear in a park of that city.

 

BBC NEWS: HONOUR SOUGHT FOR 'SOLDIER BEAR'

A campaign has been launched to build a permanent memorial to a bear which spent much of its life in Scotland - after fighting in World War II.

The bear - named Voytek - was adopted in the Middle East by Polish troops in 1943, becoming much more than a mascot.

The large animal even helped their armed forces to carry ammunition at the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Voytek - known as the Soldier Bear - later lived near Hutton in the Borders and ended his days at Edinburgh Zoo.

He was found wandering in the hills of Iran by Polish They adopted him and as he grew he was trained to carry heavy mortar rounds.

When Polish forces were deployed to Europe the only way to take the bear with them was to "enlist" him. So he was given a name, rank and number and took part in the Italian campaign.

The bear travelled with troops (Picture: Imperial War Museum)

He saw action at Monte Cassino before being billeted - along with about 3,000 other Polish troops - at the army camp in the Scottish Borders.

The soldiers who were stationed with him say that he was easy to get along with.

"He was just like a dog - nobody was scared of him," said Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski, who still lives near the site of the camp. "He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer - he drank a bottle of beer like any man”

 

When the troops were demobilised, Voytek spent his last days at Edinburgh Zoo.

Mr Karolewski went back to see him on a couple of occasions and found he still responded to the Polish language.

"I went to Edinburgh Zoo once or twice when Voytek was there," he said.

"And as soon as I mentioned his name he would sit on his backside and shake his head wanting a cigarette.

"It wasn't easy to throw a cigarette to him - all the attempts I made until he eventually got one."

Voytek was a major attraction at the zoo until his death in 1963.

Eyemouth High School teacher Garry Paulin is now writing a new book, telling the bear's remarkable story.

'Totally amazing'

Local campaigner Aileen Orr would like to see a memorial created at Holyrood to the bear she says was part of both the community and the area's history.

She first heard about Voytek as a child from her grandfather, who served with the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

"I thought he had made it up to be quite honest but it was only when I got married and came here that I knew in fact he was here, Voytek was here," she said.

"When I heard from the community that so few people knew about him I began to actually research the facts.

"It is just amazing, the story is totally amazing."

 

© IWM (Art.IWM PST 15722)

 

 

Penicuik exhibitions

Click above for a few of over 100 Penicuik Open House weekly displays

Including

THE STORY OF THE L:OST GARDEN OF PENICUIK 

KITTY FYFFE’S POSTCARDS

HEAT & LIGHT

OLD TOOLS

POSTERS

CAMERAS

OLD BOTTLES

SHOES & BOOTS

NEWS

HATS

U3A

ART

THE COWAN PAPER ADVERTISEMENTS OF 1944

FIFTY YEARS OF CUIKEN SCHOOL

PENICUIK’S CLYDESDALE BANK

PENICUIK INVESTORS IN THE US

LINEN

GAMES

TEDDY BEARS

MODEL BOATS

ALPINE FLOWERS

SNOW PICTURES

SIGNWRITING

HANDBAGS

ARTILLERY

SCOUTING

PENICUIK CO-OP

DISCOVERY AWARDS

CARNETHY HILL RACE

JACKSON STREET SCHOOL

SALTIRE HOUSING EXHIBITION

ROSLIN & THE STORY OF BOVRIL

THE FILMS OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK

DAME MURIEL SPARK: Scottish by formation

childrens book illustration of GERMANO OVANI

Galashiels Co-operators & the ideas of William King

IMAGES OF ESKBRIDGE  from Jim Neil’s collection

CORNBANK:  Penicuik’s Radburn estate from the 1960s

PENICUIK RAILWAY and its designer THOMAS BOUCH

Penicuik’s Concorde Designer  JAMES ARNOT HAMILTON

Penicuik’s International Photographer      ALBERT WATSON

Carlops’ International City Planner            THOMAS ADAMS

General MACZEK & the GREAT POLISH MAP of SCOTLAND

Putting up a Yurt

Friends of Penicuik Arts

Penicuik Makers

PENICUIK

PenicuikGREATS

 

Penicuik Trust’s weekly CINEMA programme

 

 

 

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ALEXANDER COWAN’S INSTITUTE

 illustrated by his great-great-great grandson Robin Macfarlan

 

The Cowan Institute -with library, halls and recreation rooms- was given to the people of Penicuik by the will of Alexander Cowan, papermaker. Operated for most of its life by the Cowan Trust, it was passed in 1960 to local management under the care of the Burgh of Penicuik.

On local government reorganisation in the mid 1970s the Burgh’s assets became vested in Midlothian Council, including the Cowan Institute and the endowments for social facilities the earlier Trust had provided. 

 

Penicuik Community Development Trust was formed by public concern for the fate of the building after reports of its possible sale in 2005. The Trust is a registered charity (SC037990) run and entirely supported by the efforts of Penicuik people, and hires space in the Institute to operate an Open House with displays every Saturday throughout the year, and a weekly Cinema on Sunday evenings.    In other parts of the town It also runs the Lost Garden of Penicuik Project and the Penycoe Press community business and shop.  In addition, it works closely with the locally-run charitable bodies operating Penicuik’s Leisure Centre at Ladywood and the Penicuik Community Arts Centre in West Street.

 

 

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