Like most people, I grew up watching cartoons and reading stories about Winnie The Pooh. Pooh bear is still very much a part of the Disney landscape and, therefore, popular culture.
What I did not know, was that Winnie was an actual bear who served time with the Canadian military (yes, she was actually a part of the military!) during WWI. Harry Colebourn, a military veterinarian (they were still using horses in combat during WWI) rescued the bear at a Canadian train station and named her Winnie, which is short for Winnipeg. Winnie tagged along with Harry all the way to Europe, until the war made it impossible to properly care for the bear and forced him to find a better home – at the London Zoo.
Winnie remained at the zoo for the remainder of her life, which is how she met the real-life Christopher Robin, who was the son of Alan Alexander Milne, the author of the original Winnie The Pooh stories.
As an adult, I read this story thinking…um…really?…Wow! All of these years of seeing Pooh Bear in television, movies and storybooks and I had absolutely no idea! It’s amazing what you can learn when you visit the local library. :-)
“In 1919, just before Harry returned to Winnipeg, he made another hard decision. He decided that Winnie would stay at the London Zoo permanently. Harry was sad, but he knew Winnie would be happiest in the home she knew best.”
–Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who inspired Winnie-The-Pooh, written by Sally M Walker and Illustrated by Jonathan D Voss