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To the men of 22 Company, Wojtek was a soldier. He had his own number, he stepped up from Private to Corporal, and he carried ammunition boxes in the hell that was Monte Cassino.

Tuesday, 30th January 2018, 08:00 am

To the rest of the world he was a large brown bear.

His remarkable story, which included a posting to Winfield, was recalled by Brian Cook, of Duns, who was guest speaker.

The bear was enlisted after being found in a bag carried by a young boy. He grew up nurtured and loved by the soliders, who eventually came to the Borders, and Berwickshire in particular, in 1946.

He bathed in the River Tweed at Union Chain Bridge, but showed no interest in the salmon. His favourite swim was in the sea at Berwick, and he visited all the local towns, raising money for charity.

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Polish men had been killed in large numbers before the Russians were invaded by Germany and became our allies. Then they were killed by the Germans. Those who escaped formed their own armies, based in Iran and Egypt.

Wojtek went through the full embarkation process on his way to Italy. But in 1947, in Scotland, his future was in doubt until he was sent to Edinburgh Zoo, where he stayed 17 years.

He is remembered on numerous memorials, including Duns, and many Polish visitors go to see them.