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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Soldier Bears aka Mascot Bears


David Ridgus

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Folks

My wife has just pointed out to me an article in July's edition of 'Home and Antiques'. It is about so-called 'Soldier Bears' small teddy bears (about 3.5 inches high) that were made in their thousands and taken to the front as mementos of home. I had not heard of these and a search of the Forum only raised one post by Moonraker some years ago. They are ridiculously appealing and the article says that their eyes were positioned slightly higher on the head so that when they were in a pocket they looked up at their 'owner'. They are apparently very collectable and go for hundreds of pounds

A quick Google also found this article in the Daily Mail

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2319937/Patriotic-red-white-blue-teddy-bears-taken-WWI-soldiers-auction.html

Perhaps some forum folk already own them.

David

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... It is about so-called 'Soldier Bears' small teddy bears (about 3.5 inches high) that were made in their thousands and taken to the front as mementos of home. I had not heard of these and a search of the Forum only raised one post by Moonraker some years ago.

The problem I have with this statement is that many firms produced cheap little souvenir bears of this type before, during, and well after the war. Steiff for example was still producing bears of this type at least as late as the 1950's. Earlier ones to be rather thin, later ones tend to be chunkier. It's not as if they were specifically made for soldiers, although during the war firms selling them might have found a new target market as such. It feels more like the auction house is cashing in on the 100th anniversary by linking them to it. Would still love to own those mind...

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My late wife was a sucker for Teddy Bears and the house used to be full of them. I can confirm that little bears very much like these were still being made (usually by East Asian makers), at least until about 2009. Indeed if I search the inner recesses of wardrobes and chests of drawers I suspect that I might find one that evaded the move to the charity shop. They were nothing to do with soldiers. That said one can well imagine a Sebastian Flyte like 2nd Lt leading his men, Webley in hand and teddy bear in a knapsack. Soldiers (and sailors) doubtless had all sorts of mementos from home.

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A small teddy bear, I imagine would be the sort of thing a small child would want her/his 'daddy' to take with him, what father could turn that down. A genuine one with provenance would fetch a reasonable sum.

khaki

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A small teddy bear, I imagine would be the sort of thing a small child would want her/his 'daddy' to take with him, what father could turn that down. A genuine one with provenance would fetch a reasonable sum.

khaki

Proving the age and origin of a bear I imagine would be relatively easy, proving that soldier X indeed took the same bear to France with him would be much more difficult.

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Were any bears made with steel plate incorporated - for use by agnostic soldiers who doubted the efficacy of a prayer book or bible in the top pocket? :hypocrite:

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Yes it would have to have some documentation such as a letter from the front that mentioned the bear or a photo maybe.

khaki


Were any bears made with steel plate incorporated - for use by agnostic soldiers who doubted the efficacy of a prayer book or bible in the top pocket? :hypocrite:

That might be hard to bare,bear

khaki

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From "The sun also wanes"

Pooh was back from the Somme on leave - recovering from his wound. Christopher Robin visited him. They hadn't met for months not since Christopher Robin had declared he was a contientious objector.
"How is everyone?" asked CR. "How is piglet?"
"Some horrid French soldiers," said Pooh with a catch in his voice, "Ate Piglet."
" And Tigger?"
"Sergeant Tigger went west weeks ago. We reckoned he moved around so fast that Jerry would never hit him - but they got him with a minenwerfer."
There was a silence, CR hardly dared ask. "How has Eeyore fared?"
"Oh him," said Pooh with a slight curl to his lip, "He's all right, he's at staff college. He'll be leading the brigade next month".
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Excuse my ignorance - what is 'The sun also wanes'

Honora

Read a little Hemingway (it's meant to be a double parody)

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The sun also waxes.

There is much bruin lore when it comes to the Great War. I give you, par example, Winnipeg and the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry mascot. Is it actually true?

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I haven't come across a bear named "Winnipeg" as such. Certainly there was a Winnie named after the Canadian city.

Book

Shortly after the outbreak of the war Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, a veterinary surgeon with the Fort Garry Horse, was travelling by train to Valcartier. Changing trains at White River Bend, he saw a trapper with a female bear cub whose mother had been shot. Colebourn bought the cub for $20, naming her Winnie, after Winnipeg, his home town. When he joined the 2nd Infantry Brigade she became that unit's mascot and went with it to Salisbury Plain. There she was a firm favourite with the soldiers and slept in Colebourn's tent. One account says 'under his bed', which is fanciful given that most soldiers made do with blankets and bed-boards, though low-slung camp beds could be purchased.
On 9 December 1914 Colebourn passed through London and, mindful that shortly he would be in France and thinking the war would soon be over, left Winnie at London Zoo, where she became a firm favourite with visitors and keepers, being very tame and well behaved. After the war Colebourne returned to reclaim Winnie, but left her there after seeing how well loved she was. In 1924 Milne visited the zoo with his son, Christopher Robin, who became enchanted with Winnie. Two years later Milne, having changed the bear's gender, published the first Winnie-the-Pooh book.
In 1996 Canada Post published a souvenir sheet of four stamps commemorating Winnie, one showing Colebourn bottle-feeding the original bear cub. A statue of the two stands in Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg.
I haven't noted a Princess Pats mascot, but there were various other animal mascots attached to the First Canadian Contingent including, I believe, a couple more bears.
Moonraker
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Okay, I am completely wrong. Winnie was the mascot of the Fort Garry Horse. Incidentally, I grew up in Winnipeg. Here are some observations of the year 1996 :

-In March you can easily suffer frostbite

-In April you will suffer from a huge snowfall

-In May, of the same year, you can suffer sunstroke

-In June of the same year you can be eaten alive by mosquitoes

-In September, same goes for sunstroke

-In October, Hallowe'en is met with a snowfall and minus 15 c.

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Btw, Mooraker,

Thanks for correcting the record. For the life of me I don't know why I thought there was a PPCLI/Winnie the Pooh connection. But I did state the fact with such certainty!

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Okay, I am completely wrong. Winnie was the mascot of the Fort Garry Horse. Incidentally, I grew up in Winnipeg. Here are some observations of the year 1996 :

-In March you can easily suffer frostbite

-In April you will suffer from a huge snowfall

-In May, of the same year, you can suffer sunstroke

-In June of the same year you can be eaten alive by mosquitoes

-In September, same goes for sunstroke

-In October, Hallowe'en is met with a snowfall and minus 15 c.

There was a bear originally named Winnipeg but shortened to Winnie - see

Which has photos but exactly which units mascot she was seems to depend upon whom you read.
In WW2 the Polish army had a bear as a mascot - it served at Monte Casino see http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/Wojtek_the_bear.jpg
and in the cold war there was an American army bear - Private Teddy http://www.britishpathe.com/video/us-army-bear-mascot-sent-to-zoo
During WW2 it was claimed that a German unit had a bear but a photo suggests that it was a man in a fur suit!
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Thank you Centurion,

I am completely mixed up today! (And embarrassed) Some Winnipeg trivia to proffer, that I believe is true. Check out Valour Road.

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The problem I have with this statement is that many firms produced cheap little souvenir bears of this type before, during, and well after the war. Steiff for example was still producing bears of this type at least as late as the 1950's. Earlier ones to be rather thin, later ones tend to be chunkier. It's not as if they were specifically made for soldiers, although during the war firms selling them might have found a new target market as such. It feels more like the auction house is cashing in on the 100th anniversary by linking them to it. Would still love to own those mind...

Andrew

According to the article in Home and Antiques the ones made in England by Farnell (known as the British Steiff) were indeed made especially for soldiers. The range of miniature bears were marketed as "Mascot Bears" and were first introduced in 1915. They proved so popular that they were continued to be produced into the 1920s.

One with unimpeachable provenance connecting it to a subaltern killed on the Somme sold for £4230 as long ago as 2002.

By the way Christopher Robin's bear was a Farnell bear from their 'Alpha' range

David

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Andrew

According to the article in Home and Antiques the ones made in England by Farnell (known as the British Steiff) were indeed made especially for soldiers. The range of miniature bears were marketed as "Mascot Bears" and were first introduced in 1915. They proved so popular that they were continued to be produced into the 1920s.

One with unimpeachable provenance connecting it to a subaltern killed on the Somme sold for £4230 as long ago as 2002.

By the way Christopher Robin's bear was a Farnell bear from their 'Alpha' range

David

Why would soldiers need mascot bears in 1920? Is this unimpeachable provenance according to the article or is there some independent evidence?

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Is this unimpeachable provenance according to the article or is there some independent evidence?

The bear (Edwin) was found on the body of 2nd Lt. Percy Kinnersley-Baddeley and returned to his wife who had given it to him. She kept it next to a picture of him for the rest of her life and it was sold after her death. The article is presumably quoting the details from the sale.

David

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According to the article in Home and Antiques the ones made in England by Farnell (known as the British Steiff) were indeed made especially for soldiers. The range of miniature bears were marketed as "Mascot Bears" and were first introduced in 1915. They proved so popular that they were continued to be produced into the 1920s.

That sort of proves my point though - the tiny bears in general aren't specifically for soldiers, but one well-known maker marketed them as such, and from that information the description is being erroneously applied to all similarly sized bears regardless of date or maker...

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Val Shushkewich, in the book to which I link in my post 12, says that Colebourn at first called the bear cub "Winnipeg Bear" after the city where he had settled as a veterinarian. Later he shortened the name to "Winnie".

The cub was female, but A A Milne changed Winnie's gender in his books.

Moonraker

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