“Well Winnie, what did you do in the Great War?” asked Piglet.
Winnie in her mind drifted back to those days when King and Empire called her or rather brought her. not for her the Kings shilling, but to the fur trapper, she was with, $20 Canadian. Winnie had just been sold to Lieutenant Colebourn, Canadian Army Veterinary Corps. The place was White River, Ontario, the date was the 24 August 1914. Winnie was a young Black Bear cub. The fur trapper had shot and killed her mother. Colebourn was on a troop train that had stopped to pick up water and feed and exercise the horses. The soldiers were on their way to Valcartier to be trained before sailing to Europe. On the 12 September 1914, Colebourn and his bear were attached to the second Canadian Infantry Brigade. Winnie had become a mascot. They would soon be on their way to England. At the beginning of October, they and the rest of the first contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force set sail. They were now on the way to England. How Winnie coped with life at sea is not known, Colebourn was apparently seasick for most of the voyage, but she was and remained a firm friend to Colebourn and the other soldiers. On arrival, the Canadian Soldiers including Colebourn, plus of course Winnie, made their way to Salisbury Plain. Salisbury Plain was a huge training area for the Empire’s Armies, the Canadian contingent was based around West Down, Larkhill, Pond Farm as well as in other places. Winnie had become a pet to the troops, following them around a bit like a sheep dog. Very tame and very friendly everyone was fond of Winnie the Black Bear. The two months the Canadians spent on Salisbury Plain had now past and the soldiers were heading to France and the Western Front. Winnie could not go, wars are no place for people, let alone a medium sized Ursus Americanus. Winnie was at first “Loaned” then given to Regent Park Zoo. Winnie had become used to the company of people and because of her nature, she was allowed human visitors. People were taken into where Winnie was, they were allowed to feed her and play with her. Winnie was never to return to Canada, it is doubtful if she would ever have survived in the wild. Up until her death in 1934 Winnie continued to meet human visitors. One of her visitors was Christopher Milne. It was his father A.A. Milne who introduced Christopher and the rest of the world to Winnie, the rest, as they say, is history.