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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 October 2005, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
'Polar bear' D-Day vets honoured
Polar bear plaque unveiled
The plaque is unveiled on the site of the former Esplanade Hotel
A plaque commemorating the 49th Reconnaissance Regiment, known as the polar bears, has been unveiled in the town where it was founded in 1942.

The regiment helped to liberate northern France and Holland after D-Day, and its ex-servicemen return to the Porthcawl in south Wales each year.

The museum keeps memorabilia for the regiment, which was disbanded in 1946.

Secretary Gwyn Petty said: "They made such an impact - they married 11 of the prettiest girls in the town."

Mr Petty said the 900-strong regiment was stationed in Iceland when it adopted its logo of an angry polar bear but were based Porthcawl for their training for the D-Day landings.

After landing in France, the polar bears acted as Montgomery's left flank as the Allies moved across northern Europe, scouting ahead to find out the strength of the enemy, suffering 55% casualties as a result.

Polar bear plaque
The plaque pays tribute to the regiment's 'many fallen comrades'
He said: "Monty was very proud of them. The went through northern France and Belgium and liberated so many towns along the way.

"There are very strong affinities where the polar bears go to in Holland. They liberated a lot of towns.

"They were often the first Allied troops people saw. It's a remarkable affinity.

"When the war finished they had so many bits of memorabilia they asked (the museum) if we would look after them. A lot of the older people in Porthcawl remember them."

The regiment was based in the former Esplanade Hotel, which has since been demolished.

A block of flats stands on the site and the museum approached the developers to have the Welsh slate plaque placed on the building.

In August, around 500 veterans with 40 British Legion standard bearers took part in a parade through Porthcawl as part of Britain's VJ commemorations.



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