Wojtek was a Persian bear cub who was adopted by a unit of Polish soldiers training under the British Army in the Middle East during World War II. The 22nd Transport Company, Artillery Division, raised him the best they could to be a good soldier. Wojtek fit in quite well, as his favorite activities included wrestling and drinking beer. When the unit was deployed to Europe, the only way they could take Wojtek with them was to make him an official soldier.
In Naples, it was British Courier Archibald Brown’s job to help process Polish soldiers that had just arrived from Egypt to advance with British soldiers against German and Italian forces. But when he called Wojtek’s name, no one answered.
“We looked at the roster, and there was only one person, Corporal Wojtek, who had not appeared,” Brown said in an interview years later. So he asked the other soldiers why Wojtek didn’t come forward. An amused soldier replied: “Well, he only understands Polish and Persian.” To his great surprise, Brown was led to a cage holding a full-grown bear.
Wojtek soon proved he was more than just a mascot when, during the series of assaults known as the Battle of Monte Cassino, he put his strength to good use after being trained to carry heavy crates filled with mortar shells from the supply trucks, delivering them to the men operating the large guns on the front line.