Winnie-the-Pooh is a well known and beloved character created by A. A. Milne in the 1920’s. The bear of very little brain, his sidekick Christopher Robin, and his animal friends live in the Hundred Acre Wood and go on all sorts of silly adventures. The stories of Winnie-the-Pooh are heartwarming tales of friendship for the young and the young at heart. January 18 was the birthday of A. A. Milne, so it has been dubbed National Winnie-the-Pooh Day.
But did you know, there is a Canadian connection to Winnie-the-Pooh? If you grew up in Canada, you may be familiar with the Heritage Minute of Winnie, the black bear cub that traveled from Canada across the Atlantic to England during World War 1, alongside Canadian veterinarian and soldier Lieutenant Harry Colebourn.
Winnie was quickly accepted amongst the soldiers and became the mascot for the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade. But when the order came to head to France, Harry made the decision to take Winnie to the London Zoo.
A few years later, A boy and his father visited the zoo and discovered Winnie, a loveable bear that allowed visitors into her enclosure to play with her. This boy’s name was Christopher Robin Milne and his dad was Alan Alexander Milne, the author of Winnie-the-Pooh.
A relative recently gifted my daughters the books Finding Winnie and Winnie’s Great War, authored by Lindsay Mattick, the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn. Finding Winnie is the true story of Winnie as Lindsay tells a bedtime story to her son Cole, named after his great, great grandfather. Winnie’s Great War is a children’s novel based on the true story of Winnie, with imagination mixed with historical fact. Both heartwarming tales include dated photos of Harry and Winnie, as well as Harry’s diary entry and zoo records. These books are also a great way to further discuss topics of the World Wars and animals in wartime.
So cozy up on the couch and read or watch the tales of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, and maybe even include a small smackerel of honey in your celebrations of National Winnie-the-Pooh Day!