On August 24th 1914, en route to the war in Europe, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn purchased a black bear cub at White River, Ontario, for $20 from a hunter who had killed its mother. He called her Winnie after his home town Winnipeg. Lt. Colebourn took her with him to England, where his regiment, the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade, was in training on Salisbury Plain. The bear became the pet of the soldiers and the mascot of the regiment. She was left at the Zoo for safekeeping on December 9th 1914 by Lt. Colebourn, when his regiment went to fight in France.
Lt. Colebourn’s original intention was to take Winnie back to Canada with him when the war was over; he would often visit her at the Zoo when on leave from the battle zones in France. However, when the war ended, Lt. Colebourn donated Winnie to London Zoo in appreciation of the care that had been taken of her in those years, and in recognition that Winnie had become a great favourite with visitors.
The author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin frequently came to see Winnie. Milne decided to name his fictional character, Pooh Bear, after her, and so Winnie the Pooh was born.