WOJTEK the bear has come home to the Borders.

On Sunday a statue to the officially enlisted soldier of the Polish army was unveiled in Duns 70 years after he left the Berwickshire town to see out his days in Edinburgh Zoo.

The life-sized memorial was gifted to Duns by its Polish twin-town of Zagan.

And joins similar statues which have already been erected in both Zagan and Monte Cassino in Italy, where it saw active service.

Deputy mayor Magdalena Wiadomska-Lazewska unveiled Wojtek on Sunday afternoon. She said: "Our towns may be 1,000 miles apart but today shows that we can come together when we are all aiming in the same direction.

"The memory of this bear is close to the hearts of many people in different parts of Europe.

"Wojtek the bear was an exceptional soldier in World War Two.

"We can now all look at our statues with equal pride."

Orphaned brown bear Wojtek was bought as a cub by a young Polish refugee, Irena Bokiewicz, as she walked across the Elburz mountains to escape from the Soviet Union in 1942.

As the bear grew she donated him to the Polish Army who were based in Iran.

The soldiers rewarded Wojtek for good behaviour with beer, which became his favourite drink.

He was also taught to salute as well as other tasks around the military camp.

Wojtek became an unofficial mascot for all the units stationed nearby.

He moved around the Middle East with the company, travelling through Iraq and then Syria, Palestine and Egypt.

Allied commanders had imposed orders that troops advancing on Rome as part of the Italy conflict were not to be accompanied by animals.

In order to get Wojtek onto a British transport ship from Egypt to fight with the British 8th Army they enlisted him in the 22nd Transport Division of the Polish 2nd Army Corps as a corporal.

During the brutal Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944 Wojtek voluntarily carried shells for Allied guns and transported ammunition.

Andrew Mitchell, chairman of Duns Community Council, knows the story well. He told us: "Wojtek was as brave as any soldier. He assisted with artillery shells throughout the battle at Monte Cassino."

In recognition of the bear's popularity, an effigy of a bear holding an artillery shell became the official emblem of the 22nd Company.

At the end of World War II in 1945, the bear couldn't be repatriated to Poland and was transported to Scotland, along with many of the Polish soldiers.

They were initially stationed at the Haining in Selkirk, where Wojtek became an immediate attraction.

The soldier bear and his comrades were then sent to Sunwick camp at Hutton, near Duns, where he swam with the men and carried logs.

During his time at Sunwick, the Polish-Scottish Association made Wojtek one of its honorary members.

After demobilization in November 1947, Wojtek was moved to the Edinburgh Zoo where he spent the rest of his days regularly being visited by Polish soldiers, who continued to reward him with cigarettes and beer.

Wojtek died in December 1963, at the age of 22.

Mr Mitchell added: "Wojtek has now returned to Berwickshire, thanks to the people of Zagan.

"It is appropriate that the base for the statue is made from Hutton stone, where Wojtek lived while in Berwickshire."

During Sunday's ceremony Zagan's priest, Wojtek Rybica, blessed the new statue before joking that he may have been named after the famous bear.

In recognition of the links during the war Duns is twinned with the Polish town of Zagan and chair of the Duns and District Twinning Association, Brigid Lady McEwen from Duns Twinning Association said: "We are delighted that the bear who came to Berwickshire in 1946 has come home again."

Last year a statue of Wojtek was erected in Krakow as well as Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

Wojtek was born in the mountains of Iran, an orphaned brown bear cub who was rescued by Polish soldiers in 1943 as they moved through the Middle East.

His exploits included “capturing a spy who had infiltrated the soldiers’ camp”, according to the Wojtek Memorial Trust.

The so-called “soldier bear” was then taken with Polish forces in a British troop ship to fight in Italy in 1944, including at the battle of Monte Cassino.