On this day in history : 18th January 1882 – The birth of Alan Alexander Milne….who brought to us that loveable little bear Winnie the Pooh….

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Winnie the Pooh Image credit: Paul K via Flickr

A.A. Milne was born in Kilburn, London and attended Westminster School and later Trinity College, Cambridge – graduating with a B.A. in mathematics….

Whilst at University he edited and wrote for a student magazine – and it wasn’t long before he came to the attention of British humour publication ‘Punch’…. A.A. Milne became a contributor to the magazine and went on to become its assistant editor….

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A.A. Milne in 1922. Public domain

In 1913, just before the First World War, Milne married Dorothy (Daphne) de Selincourt…. As war broke out he joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as an officer – but his suffering of a debilitating illness meant a transfer to the Royal Corps of Signals…. After receiving an injury at the Battle of the Somme he was invalided back to England…. Once he had recovered he spent the remainder of the war in military intelligence, writing propaganda for MI7….

In August 1920 a son, Christopher Robin, was born to the Milnes….and in 1925 the family moved to a new country home – Cotchford Farm, Hartfield, East Sussex. The farm lay adjacent to the northern edge of Five Hundred Acre Wood in Ashdown Forest….which became Milne’s inspiration for his Hundred Acre Wood, the home of Winnie the Pooh and his friends….

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Milne and his son Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear, at Cotchford Farm, their home in Sussex. Photo by Howard Coster, 1926. Fair use.

Christopher Robin owned a teddy bear, purchased in Harrods of London – and given to him as a first birthday present in 1921…. Originally the bear was called ‘Edward’….but he underwent a name change…. The Milnes were frequent visitors to London Zoo – and it was there that Christopher Robin fell in love with a certain Canadian black bear – called Winnie….so named for her previous owner….who came from Winnipeg, Canada….

Canadian Lieutenant Harry Colebourn had bought the bear as a cub from a hunter for 20 dollars…. Lt. Colebourn was on route to England during WW1….and the bear cub became the unofficial mascot for the Fort Gary Horse Regiment – a Canadian Army Reserve armoured regiment….

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Harry Colebourne and Winnie, 1914

It was whilst the regiment were away in France that Winnie came to be in London Zoo, as she was left there for safe-keeping. Once the war was over she was officially donated to the zoo and became a much-loved attraction….

The other part of Winnie the Pooh’s name came from a swan called Pooh that the Milnes encountered on a family holiday….

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Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh Image credit: Thoth God of Knowledge via Flickr

As we know Winnie the Pooh is usually shortened to just ‘Pooh’….and this might be the reason why….

“But his arms are so stiff….they stayed up straight in the air for more than a week, and whenever a fly came and settled on his nose he had to blow it off. And I think – but I am not sure – that that is why he is always called Pooh”…

Pooh’s friends – Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger are all based on Christopher Robin’s other stuffed toy animals….Owl and Rabbit came from Milne’s imagination…. The original toys, Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger and Kanga (unfortunately Roo got lost) can be seen at the New York Public Library – as they were gifted to them by American publisher E.P. Dutton in 1987…. They now receive over 750,000 visitors a year….

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Original Winnie the Pooh stuffed toys : Clockwise from bottom left : Tigger, Kanga, Edward Bear (a.k.a. Winnie the Pooh), Eeyore and Piglet

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