The Current

The true tale of Winnie the Pooh, an unlikely First World War legacy

Long before Winnie the Pooh was a cartoon superstar, the real bear, a very docile Winnie was the mascot of The Fort Garry Horse Manitoba regiment, travelling across Canada with military veterinarian Harry Colebourn. Now his great-granddaughter honours him with a new children's book.
"There is something you must always remember," Harry said. "It's the most important thing, really. Even if we're apart, I'll always love you. You'll always be my Bear." From the book "Finding Winnie" when Harry takes Winnie to her new home at The London Zoo. (Illustrated by Sophie Blackall)
In 1914, Harry Colebourn rescued a baby bear and took the bear to war. He named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnpeg. (Courtesy of Lindsay Mattick/Harper Collins)

I've decided to name her Winnipeg, Harry told them, "so we'll never be far from home. Winnie, for short.- From Lindsay Mattick's book "Finding Winnie"

Between Disney and the English writer, A. A. Milne, the character of Winnie the Pooh has touched millions.

This picture of Winnie and Harry inspired a statue that now stand in Winnipeg and London.
 The silly old bear is easily one of the most adored children's characters of the last century and the current one as well.

To the Canadian writer Lindsay Mattick, Winnie the Pooh is like family... in a way. 

Her great-grandfather, Harry Colbourn, was the First World War soldier who first came to love a little bear cub he called Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg.

Lindsay Mattick has written a new book titled, "Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear". She joined Anna Maria in our Toronto studio.

Harry and his fellow soldiers of the Fort Garry Horse Manitoba regiment, with their mascot, Winnie. (Courtesy of Lindsay Mattick/Harper Collins)
Harry kept diaries throughout World War I. This diary page is from the day Harry found Winnie. On August 24, 1914, her wrote "Bought bear $20." (Courtesy of Lindsay Mattick/Harper Collins)

This official Animal Record Card shows that Winnie began her stay at the London Zoo on December 9, 1914. (Courtesy of Lindsay Mattick/Harper Collins)


This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.