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Fur valour… the teddy bear that survived fighting Hitler

Up for auction: The bear with a World War II photo of Mr Matthews Snr (on the left) PICTURE: SWNS

A TEDDY BEAR that travelled in a tank with the British army as a lucky mascot during World War II is up for auction after spending years gathering dust in a loft.

The cuddly toy was given to Thomas Matthews by a grateful Dutch villager after he landed at Juno Beach on D-Day with the Royal Artillery’s 62nd anti-tank regiment in 1944.

It joined him in his M10 as the Allies pushed back Hitler’s Third Reich — and proved a very lucky mascot for the brave soldier, who was shot twice in the leg with spent bullets, which he simply pulled out before plastering over the wounds.

Mr Matthews died in 1990 aged 74 and gave the 4ft cuddly toy to his son, also named Thomas, who has kept it in his loft at his home in Stafford, Staffordshire.

The retired aircraft technician, 76, who is married to Mo, 75, said: ‘One of my first memories of dad is seeing him — and the bear — after he was demobbed in 1946.

‘It was 2.15am and we were all there to welcome him home. He had a large German ammunition box and inside was the bear.

‘He told me he’d used the bear as a pillow when he slept in his tank at Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge. The bear also crossed the Rhine, came under shell fire and took part in the Allies’ victory parade in Berlin, sitting on dad’s lap.’

The bear is being sold by Hansons Auctioneers in Teddington, south-west London, on December 9. The guide price is £400-£600 but it is expected to fetch much more. Mr Matthews said: ‘We 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 added: ‘I want someone to buy him who will look after him and share his story.’