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Photography 101: Day 7, Landmark

My Teddy Bear, Winnie

My Teddy Bears

Landmark: a very important event or achievement. Have you ever wondered why teddy bears are left at memorials by grieving mourners? I have. I think we repeat gestures that we no longer know the meaning of or never knew the meaning of, we just follow tradition. It gives us comfort and is meant to give comfort to others.

As many of you know, I have been studying a free online course with FutureLearn called WWI, Trauma and Memory. Although the war was very grim and the aftermath devastating for many men and their families, there have been enlightening moments as well. So, today on Veteran’s Day I am going to share a positive story. For many children I am sure it is a landmark event. This story is about Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian from Winnipeg, Canada.

Harry Colebourn, enlisted in the Canadian Army as a surgical veterinarian and soon was shipped out to Valcartier, Quebec, the mobilization point for 35,000 volunteer troops. He was with the Fort Garry Horse, the 34th Regiment of Cavalry, and would be taking care of the horses, an amazing feat in itself.  Along the way the train stopped for supplies, and Harry got off and noticed a chained small black bear near the tracks.  A hunter, who had killed the cub’s mother was trying to sell it.  Harry paid twenty dollars for the cub and got back on the train with it. He named his new best friend, Winnie, after his hometown, Winnipeg. When Harry reached Valcartier,  he trained Winnie, in his spare time, how to play and be gentle, with treats of condensed milk and lots and lots of apples.

Harry With Winnie, Picture Courtesy Colbourn Collection

Harry With Winnie, Picture Courtesy Colbourn Collection

Harry With Winnie, Picture Courtesy Colbourn Collection

Harry With Winnie, Picture Courtesy Colbourn Collection

Winnie soon found she had many soldier friends to play with and she was made the mascot for the regiment. The men were very fond of Winnie and wrote to family and friends about her and sent pictures too.  Before long the regiment shipped out (literally) to Salisbury Plains, Britain, where all of Britain and her colonies were trained for war. Winnie went with the men. When orders arrived for Harry to go to the front lines he knew this was not a place for Winnie to go and sadly left her at the London Zoo, on the condition he could return after the war and take her back to Canada. On his rest and recuperation from the madness of the war, Harry always went back to the zoo to visit Winnie, who was doing quite well. The keepers were amazed at Winnie’s gentleness, which they predicted could not last. But, it did and Winnie became a star with the children, who visited her at the zoo. She was so gentle, the children were allowed to touch her and feed her. One of the children enthralled with Winnie, was Christopher Robin Milne, the son of A. A. Milne. After the war Harry Colebourn, realizing the children adored Winnie and with Winnie thriving, decided it was best to leave her at the zoo and went back to Canada, where he practiced veterinarian medicine for the rest of his life.  A. A. Milne, inspired by Winnie’s gentleness and comfort, went on to write the Winnie the Pooh books, so beloved by children and children at heart.

Pooh in an Illustration by E. H. Shepard.

Pooh in an Illustration by E. H. Shepard.

The first Winnie the Pooh story was published in the London newspaper The Evening News on December 24, 1925. It has been suggested this may be one of the reasons that teddy bears are left at memorials. Winnie brought so much comfort to soldiers during a trial of death, horror and despair and then went on to bring comfort and love to children all over the world.

Winnie the Pooh Monument, Winnipeg, Canada

Winnie the Pooh Monument, Winnipeg, Canada

For the anniversary of WWI, Ryerson University has put together a collection by the Colebourn family titled, Remembering the Real Winnie: The World’s Most Famous Bear Turns 100.  They have graciously shared the archives and collection online for those of us who can not travel to Toronto, Canada for the exhibit. It is a must see and will make your day! Enjoy!

Photography 101, Day 6, Connect; In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields

“The “Soldiers” graves are the greatest preacher of Peace” (Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)

Thanks to a fellow blogger I met on WordPress, I was introduced to online courses from FutureLearns and Open University. I was very interested in the course WWI: Trauma and Memory, which I started lasted week. The course is free and includes videos, lectures, pictures and stories of what the men endured in WWI. The course has been a real eye opener and one of the best aspects of the course has been the interaction with other students through their comments after every session. I have gleaned even more information from the students’ comments. As a Critical Care Registered Nurse, myself, this course has been significant in studying how the term  “Shell Shock” has  progressed to now what we know as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. We are learning how mental trauma was defined and treated in WWI and the lasting effects it had on the men and their families after returning home from the war. The millions of lives that were lost in the war was just one part of it. The men returning with severe injuries and mental trauma were another. The effect on the general population of all countries involved was another. 

I am not fond of bus excursions. However, during our trip to Bruges, Belgium my husband really wanted to tour Flanders Fields and our best option was a group tour on a bus with Quasimodo Tours. It was the best bus tour we have ever taken. It concentrated on the Battlefields of the Ypres Salient. We toured German and Allied Cemeteries, the Hooge Crater Museum, (a must if you are in the area), bunkers and craters, and the field dressing station of John McCrae, author of the famous poem, In Flanders Fields, the reason why the poppy is so revered. The tour ended at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, memorial to 55,000 missing soldiers and the sacrifice they made. It is also possible to visit an ancestor’s grave if advanced preparations are made. The tour was a very moving experience. I have come full circle with the visit to Flanders Fields and the class. Here are pictures to compare. May we all remember our brave soldiers on this Veteran’s Day!

Chateau Wood Ypres 1917

Flanders Fields, Chateau Wood, Ypres, 1917

Poppy Memorial at a German Cemetery, Flanders Fields

Poppy Memorial at a German Cemetery, Langemark, Flanders Fields

German Cemetery, Flanders Fields

Langemark Cemetery, Flanders Fields

The Front bogged down in Flanders Fields on November 11, 1914 until the end of the war in 1918. One  22 day battle was fought with German troops made up of poorly trained volunteers, students, and apprentices, many as young as 13.  The Volkbund, (The German War Graves Commission), was created after the war to lay out and construct Langemark Cemetery, just one of the German Cemeteries, collecting funds by grants from Germany and relient on donations to maintain this special site. In Germany the site became known as the Students Cemetery. To this day, it is still maintained by students  from several countries, who volunteer to maintain it. 44,304 victims lie here.

Memorial at Passchendale, Flanders Fields

Allied Memorial at Passchendale, Flanders Fields

Hooge Crater 1915, Flanders Fields

Hooge Crater 1915, Flanders Fields

Miles and miles of tunnels were built in order to blow up opposing sides. This crater was the aftermath of blowing up the village of Hooge.

Shell Casings are Still Dug up from the Farm Fields

Shell Casings are Still Dug up from the Farm Fields of Flanders

Shell casings and explosives are still found 100 years after the war. They are left by the roadside for ordinance men to pick up after the explosives are determined safe to do so.

Memorial at Hooge Crater, Flanders Fields

Memorial at Hooge Crater, Flanders Fields

The Hooge Crater Museum was opened by Roger and Rosita de Smul in 1994 in a renovated chapel and small school on the Ypres-Menin Road. Since then the museum has expanded several times and now holds many of the finest WWI collections in the area. It contains a unique collection of First World War uniforms, displays and military artefacts.

Since Roger’s retirement in 2008 the museum is under the management of Nick and Ilse. The museum and café have undergone redevelopment and it is one of the finest museums for remembrance of the First World War in the Flanders area.

Decorative Shell Casings in the Hooge crater Museum, Flanders Fields

Decorative Shell Casing Art in the Hooge Crater Museum, Flanders Fields

Graves, Flanders Fields

Graves, Flanders Fields

Rows and Rows of Graves, Flanders Fields

Rows and Rows of Graves, Flanders Fields

Australian Infantry, Small Box Respirators, Ypres 1917

Australian Infantry, Small Box Respirators, Ypres 1917

Hill 60, Flanders Fields

Hill 60, Flanders Fields

 

Memorial at Hill 60, Flanders Fields

Memorial at Hill 60, Flanders Fields

Hill 60, Flanders Fields, Belgium

Walk to Hill 60, Flanders Fields, Belgium

Bunker, Flanders Fields

Bunker, Flanders Fields

Trenches in Flanders Fields 31July1917

Trenches in Flanders Fields, 31 July 1917

Field Dressing Bunkers, Flanders Fields

Field Dressing Bunkers, Flanders Fields

 

Bunker, Flanders Fields

Bunker, Flanders Fields

Battle of Menin Road, Wounded at Side of the Road

Battle of Menin Road, Wounded at Side of the Road

The Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

The Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium

The final stop of the tour is The Menin Gate Memorial, located at the eastern exit of the town of Ypres and marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line. The Last Post Ceremony is held under the gate everyday at 8pm. It is a ceremony you will never forget.

Photography 101, Day 5, Solitary

Solitary, one grave among thousands in Belgium. This was taken near Ypres, Belgium. For the story of Flanders Fields and the Red Poppy look here. As Veteran’s Day approaches let us Remember our veterans.

Photography 101: Solitary; A Solitary Grave in Flanders Fields, Ypres, Belgium

Photography 101: Solitary; A Solitary Grave in Flanders Fields, Ypres, Belgium

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