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Just 'bear' facts

Last Updated : 02 March 2021, 21:22 IST

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The Army and animals have a working relationship, with mutual affection. Horses, mules, oxen, elephants, camels, dogs, cats, rats and pigeons have been in use in armies from times immemorial. Even moose have been used as deep snow cavalry by Sweden and USSR. But not many may have heard of Sir Nils Olav, promoted to the rank of a Brigadier by the Norwegian King’s Guard on Aug 16. No, he was not a human, but a King Penguin in Edinburgh Zoo! Or about an elephant entering an army mess in Binnaguri in North Bengal on Sep 19 2020, drinking up the rum and being unable to exit?

Artillery units are generally turned over every two-three years to other locations, and an advance party moves to each other’s location,6-8 weeks ahead of the main move. This is a story from my regiment some years after my retirement. The officer-in-charge of the advance party from my regiment, a Major, had moved and established old friendships at the new location in Sikkim.

Welcome drinks followed the first evening. After a few drinks, the Mess Havildar reported to the CO with a smart salute, “Sahib, guest log aa gaya hai”. All officers got up. Wondering who these ‘guests’ could be who did not enter the mess, but were received by all officers, the Major too accompanied the CO to meet them. In the diffused light, he could see two jawans with a patila (Big Utensil) and some Mess Staff. CO was given a stack of langar chapatis to be fed to Papa Bear. Major picked up a bigger stack, offering it to the Mama Bear, who shared it with her two babies.

Thereafter the other officers picked up a few each and fed them in turn. Returning to the mess, the CO told the Major that this too was an important taking over point. It is the bear family that has adopted the regiment, turning up at the same time every day.

Interestingly, when the regiment along with our advance party, moved to test operational readiness at pre-determined locations at a short notice, only a small rear party was left behind. Arriving at the usual time, the Bear family found a more or less deserted area. May be pestered by the Mama Bear, Papa and Mama moved to the ration store, ransacked and took away an ‘atta’ bag! No one knows if Mama Bear made chapatis with it and if so how!

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Published 02 March 2021, 20:09 IST

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