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A teddy bear that served as a tank crew’s mascot during the Second World War is due to go to auction after spending more than 40 years in a Staffordshire loft.
Its owner, 76-year-old Tom Matthews, said the toy was given to his father, also Tom, in the Dutch town of Raamsdonksveer in 1944.
Tom jnr explained how the Royal Artillery soldier had helped secure a supply of coal for the freezing townspeople, who had run out of fuel. “My father was given the bear by a teacher he was billeted with. He was humbled by the gift as she had so little. She wanted him to take the bear home for me as she was so appreciative of what he’d done.
“Dad didn’t want to take it but she insisted. It had no eyes so she got two buttons and stitched them on. She also darned his nose and paw. She said, ‘It’s not much but I hope your son will enjoy him’.
Now, however, he is concerned about the future of the historic family heirloom.
“My wife and I have no children, no one to leave the bear to. I’d hate him to end up in a skip during house clearance because someone thinks he’s just a scruffy old bear. He’s seen and done a lot of things – more than most people. I want someone to buy him who will look after him and share his story.”
“One of my first memories of dad is seeing him – and the bear – after he was demobbed in 1946. I would only have been about three, but I remember him walking through the door at 2.15am and saying, ‘What the bl**y hell is he doing up at this time?’
“He told me he’d used the bear as a pillow when he slept in his tank during the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during the Second World War. The bear also crossed the Rhine and took part in the Allies’ victory parade in Berlin, sitting on dad’s lap.
“I was a bit frightened of it at first. It sat on a chair by the side of the bed. It ended up in the loft for decades until this year, when our local paper requested stories to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which Dad took part in.”
Tom snr (second left, back row) in the British army in Germany, 1945.
Pictures: Hansons Auctioneers