Polar Bear Memorial at National Memorial Arboretum

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The Polar Bear Association Memorial was the first monument and sculpture to be erected at the National Memorial Arboretum. It is a tribute to the 49th Infantry West Riding Division and was dedicated on 7 June 1998. Inheriting the fine reputation forged by its predecessor in The Great War, the Second World War found the 49th Infantry stationed in Iceland and because they were snowed in under 20 foot of snow for most of the campaign, their commanding officer called the men ‘his Polar Bears’ and the Polar Bear on a block of ice was soon adopted as their mascot and shoulder flash. Made from yellow hardwood, the bear is 9 ft long (2.7 m) and 5 ft high (1.5 m) and weighs 2.5 tonnes; it was created by the Essex Woodcarvers and took six men a year to carve. Inside the bear is a capsule containing the names of all the members of the 49th Division who did not come home, together with relevant letters and documents.
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