In mid-February 1944, Polish soldiers who had just arrived in the port of Naples from Alexandria, Egypt was welcomed by British official Archibald Brown, courier for the British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
They were to advance with the British soldiers in an Allied campaign in Italy. Besides checking the crew manifest, Brown had to establish good communication with the freshly arrived servicemen.
He had already spoken with every member of the unit – the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps, except one.
He couldn’t anyway because they spoke different languages; one was English, while the other was strange vocalization. That soldier was not even a human but a bear.
Just two years earlier and by a mere chance, Poland’s army enlisted a willing, eager, wild, and certainly unusual member ever, a bear named Wojtek.
That event occurred some 80 years ago, but the soldier is still remembered today for his simple heroic deeds.
Throughout his short career in the army, some would say that he served beyond the call of duty right from the beginning to the day of his discharge.
10 /10 Corporal Wojtek
During an interview many years later, Archibald Brown recalled how he knew who Corporal Wojtek was for the first time.
In the port of Naples, he looked through the roster and became aware that only one soldier had not appeared yet. He had the corporal’s pay book and service number, but the soldier seemed to have vanished from the unit.
He called out the name, and still no answer. One amused colonel told Brown that the corporal only understood Persian and Polish.
Brown was then taken to a cage holding an adult Syrian bear whose name was Wojtek.
9 /10 Orphaned Syrian Brown Bear
However, how Wojtek ended up as a soldier in Poland’s army is a little bit murky. Legend has it that a boy from the Hamadan Province found the bear cub in the wild in northern Iran.
The cub was alone, perhaps because some hunters had shot the mother.
The young boy took the bear cub home and cared for it the best way he could, but it wouldn’t be long until the cub found a new home. In fall 1942, the boy sold the cub to Polish soldiers for some canned food.