Sunday 9 October 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

A Little Known Fact

Winnie the Pooh and Friends
New York Public Library
Photo ©KSB

Yesterday my daughter visited New York Public Library where she took this photograph of Winnie the Pooh and his friends, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger. The New York Public Library has been their home since 1987 where they are cherished and loved by millions of visitors.

On August 21st 1921, a 20" Harrods teddy bear was given to Christopher Robin Milne on the occasion of his first birthday. Originally named Edward bear, this was later changed to Winnie, after a black bear Christopher saw regularly at London Zoo. The name 'Pooh' came from a swan he had met whilst on holiday!

What has this to do with WW1?

Harry D. Colebourn (April 12, 1887–September 24, 1947) was born in England and moved to Canada when he was 18. He attended Ontario Veterinary College where he  received a degree in veterinary surgery. He later settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

On his way across Canada, on his way to England, where he was to embark on overseas duty during WW1, Colebourn came across a hunter who had a black bear cub for sale. Coleman purchased the cub for $20 and took it with him all the way to the army training camp at Salisbury Plain, England. Colebourn named the bear cub, 'Winnie', in honour of his home town of Winnipeg. 

Colebourn was a member of the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, and was attached to the Fort Garry Horse as a veterinarian, and Winnie the black bear became their unofficial mascot. 

While Colebourn served three years in France, attaining the rank of Major, he kept Winnie at the London Zoo to which he eventually donated her. 

After the war Colebourn worked for a while at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London but later returned to Winnipeg where he set up in private veterinary practice. He is buried in Brookside cemetery, Winnipeg. 

There are statues of Colebourn and Winnie in Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo and also in London Zoo.

A. A. Milne wrote Winnie the Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928)

Methuen &Co Ltd. London


  1. Thanks Josie - I had heard of "Winnie" but not the connection with that bear and the name of Christopher Robin's bear. And how extraordinary that the toys are in the US and not here! Funny old world.

  2. I think the publishers own the toys, Susan. They've only been back to England twice since they left in 1947.


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