|Harry Colebourn with Winnie|
Somehow, he was able to smuggle the bear onto the boat, and when they arrived at the camp in France, the bear became particularly well-liked by the soldiers. Given such a close relationship with humans, Winnie became extremely tame and trusted.
Yet, the rigours of trench warfare forced Colebourn to make a difficult decision. He could not care for his pet while continuing his duties as a soldier. He took Winne to London where she found a home at the London Zoo. With her tame and extroverted nature, she grew to be very popular. In fact, children were allowed into her cage, and even played and rode her back. She remained at the London Zoo for twenty years, and attracted crowds of visitors throughout her life. One of the zookeepers described Winnie as “the only bear they ever trusted entirely.”
Christopher Robin Milne, a young London boy, would come often to visit Winnie. Christopher owned a regular menagerie of toys– Piglet the pig, Eeyore the donkey, Kanga the kangaroo, and Tigger the tiger. He acquired a stuffed toy bear, which he named Winnie, after his beloved friend at the zoo.
Christopher convinced his father Alan Alexander Milne, a playwright, to write a collection of children’s stories. The first volume, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” was published in 1926, and became an instant hit. The stories revolved around the escapades of a young boy, Christopher Robin, and his anthropomorphic collection of animals.
The book was followed by others in the series and have sustained their popularity over the years. In 1961, the Walt Disney Company purchased the rights for the characters from A.A. Milne’s estate and produced a series of feature films, using the unhyphenated title “Winnie the Pooh,” which became one of the company’s most successful franchises.