Did you know that the real Winnie was a Canadian? That's right, Winnie-the-bear was born somewhere near a log cabin just outside White River, Ontario.
As a young black bear cub, Winnie had no indication of the fame and fortune that awaited her that's correct, her. She played, ate berries, and did other regualr bear things until her mother was killed and a hunter found the cub, fed her, and brought her to White River. Shortly thereafter, a train passed through town on its way to Military Camp Valcartier, Quebec. Lt. Harry Colebourn stepped off that train for a breath of fresh air and met the guardian hunter. A young vetinary officer serving with Winnipeg's Fort Garry Horse, Colebourn purchased the cub and stepped back on the train.
Born in England, Lt. Colebourn had earned his degree from the Ontario Vetinary College in Guelph, and had worked for the Department of Agriculture in Winnipeg. His diary for August 24, 1914, reads "On train all day. Bought cub bear at White River, Amt. paid $20.00." He had just left his home and position in Winnipeg to serve the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Europe, and in honour of the Manitoba city, named the cub Winnie.
The two became good friends on the journey overseas and arrived safely at Salisbury Plain where the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade was encamped. Winnie stayed in Colebourn's tent, slept under his bed, and became a favorite pet to many of the Canadian soldiers. She played games with the men and followed them around camp like a puppy. But when the unit was ordered to the battlefields of France, Winnie had to be placed with the London Zoo for safekeeping.
Mascots and pets were not uncommon among the Canadian soldiers, and the London Zoo records no fewer that five black bears were presented to them by Canadian units during the first year of the Great War. But Winnie was everyone's favorite. A newspaper story quoted a keeper who exclamied "Never trust a bear!" but went on to exclude Winnie who, he said "is quite the tamest and best behaved bear we have ever had at the Zoo."
Lt. Harry Colebourn never forgot his bear. When ever on leave from the front, he visited Winnie and had planned to take her back to Canada after the war. When he saw how much she meant to the kids visiting the zoo, however, he changed his mind.
Winnie lived to the ripe old age of twenty at the London Zoo.
| One of Winnie's most delightful charms was her uncanny ability to remember an admirer. She would always greet a recognized, friendly face in the same fashion by rubbing her flanks against their legs and this is how she said hello to a regular young visitor named Christopher Robin. Christopher was the son of A.A.Milne, World War I veteran, author, and one-time assistant editor of Punch Magazine. Both father and son were quite taken by Winnie. In 1926 A.A.Milne published "Winnie-the-Pooh" and two years later followed with the sequel "The House At Pooh Corner." Milne's Winnie, the Winnie-the-Pooh we know today, was perhaps not as well behaved as the origina, but is every bit as irresitible.
It is possible that Milne did not know how the zoo's Winnie got her name. But in his introduction to Winnie-the-Pooh, Milne described for us his link to the White River bruin:....
Christopher Robin once had a swan that he used to call Pooh. Well when Edward Bear said that he would like an exciting name all to himself, Christopher Robin said at once, without stopping to think, that he was Winnie-the-Pooh. And he was. So as I have explained the Pooh part, I will now explain the rest of it.
When Christopher Robin goes to the Zoo, he goes to where the Polar Bears are, and e whispers something to the third keeper from the left, and the doors are unlocked and we wander through dark passages and up steep stairs, until at last we come to the special cage, and the cage is opened, and out trots something brown and furry, and with a happy cry of 'Oh Bear!' Christopher Robin rushes into his arms. Now this bear's name is Winnie, which
shows wat a good name for bears it is.
|Although this is the first Canadian stamp to use Disney's Winnie the Pooh,Winnie already has four statueserected in London, England and Canada. In 1981, the Zoological Society of London unveiled a statue of Winnie to commemorate Milne and his illustratorErnest Shepard. An accompanying plaque gives no credit to Lt. Harry Colebourn. To rectify the situation, a second statue was presented to the London Zoo in 1995 by the people of Manitoba, with proper credit given.
A statue of Winnie and Lt. Colebourn was erected in Winnipeg in 1992, and White River, Ontario erected a
Disney-type statue of Winnie sitting in a tree with his cherished
honey pot in hand. In addition, a Shepard-type Winnie was featured when Great Britian issued four stamps in 1979 to commemorate children's books during the International Year of the Child.
And for Stamp Month this year, 82 years after Lt. Colebourn originally befriended a little cub at a Canadian train station. Canada honours the world's best loved bear.
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|*Article reproduced with permission, from "Canada's Stamp Details".
vol.#5, 1996, Copyright (c) Canada Post Corporation.
This article originally appeared on a Canada Post Corporation web page
selling a series of four Winnie the Pooh Stamps which Canada issued in 1996 and are no longer available.
|Lieutenant Coleburn with Winnie -
December, 1914 on
|The receipt that records Winnie's arrival to London Zoo, December 9th, 1914 - and her death May 12th, 1934|
|Statue of Lieutenant Coleburn with Winnie
London Zoo, unveiled 1999.
A copy of this statue also stands in
|The Original Poohsticks Bridge, on the Esate of Mr. Arthur Clough of Hartfield,
was built in 1907 and used to carry wood from Ponsingford to Clochford Lane.
In 1979, after suffiecient funds had been raised to restore the bridge,
it was reopened by Christopher Milne.
Christopher was not willing however to play Poohsticks.
|The Original Poohsticks Bridge on the Estate of Mr. Arthur Clough of Hartfield,
was built in 1907
|The restored "Poohsticks Bridge" as it was renamed, was reopened in 1979 by