Remember Me

Remember Me

Friday, April 29, 2016

Charley's visits 'his bear' at the London Zoo, it's his kid sister's birthday and his first zeppelin raid

London S.W.  April 29 1916

Dear Mother 
The raid of January 31, 1916, by nine zeppelins 
was one of the largest Britain saw during the war. 
The Germans bombed the West Midlands
towns of Bradley, Tipton, Wednesbury and Walsall.
          Well I have had the first experience of being in a zeppelin raid and seeing them in action they dropped a few bombs and killed a few people but it did no material damage.  There were women and girls fainting on every corner.  I myself rather enjoyed the situation.  
At the corner of the street to where I billet the police had the proprietor of a Saloon open the bar and about four of us were carrying out Brandy to the women who had fainted, after the zepp had gone, the police ambulances came up and we loaded about thirty women in them and that ended the zepp raid as far as I was concerned.  
“British policewomen are pictured running and spreading 
the “Zeppelin” alarm in London to notify of an air raid.  
Tell Your Friends!” 1916
          How is everything in general.  Tell V-V I thought of her on her Birthday and what us kids were doing the first 29 of April I saw her.  

          Is Dad going to get in much crop this year.  Potatoes are worth 5 cents a lb here and the old timers tell me that the living is just about three times what it used to be but it is a fact you can get Board in Winnipeg a lot cheaper than you can get it here.
          As yet we have not got this place properly going yet although I have been awfully busy on the books and as I never had any knowledge of Surgical Instruments it sure gives me all the work that I can handle and the Officer in Charge don’t know anything about Instruments either, but I will manage all right. 

          As yet there has been no promotions as we are not a separate unit yet but I am recognized as senior so when they do come through I will be first.  That sounds pretty good doesn’t it.
      There are a great many things to see in this town and I guess if a person was to live here for years he wouldn’t see half the historic sights etc.  I saw the little Bear that we bought on our road to Valcartier, it is in the zoo and on the fence around it is this inscription.
          "The Mascot of the 10th Brave Canadians who have so Nobly fought for the Empire."  I told some of the people that I had a share in that bear and of all the foolish questions that they asked me, they think that in Western Canada you can stand on your back door step and shoot hundreds of them.

          Well Mother I have got to get busy now I have three invoices to check off and enter so remember me to Dad and VV and write soon.  Love Chas

Harry Coleburn and Winnie the Bear
I have reason to believe that when Harry Coleburn bought his bear on the way to Valcartier that some of the other men he was travelling with would have pitched in a coin or two to make up the $20 price tag. $20 would be just under $400 dollars today. Charley was travelling by train from Winnipeg at the same time as Harry Coleburn and Charley was attached with the officers when he first arrived in Valcartier as part of the Canadian Army Medical Corps. I believe that Charley contributed some money to Harry's purchase of Winnie the Pooh.

I have contacted the London Zoo to verify the inscription Charley mentions and have not yet had any luck. If anyone, perhaps other people who have personal letters or photos from Canadian soldiers of the 1st WW with any mentions of bears at the zoo or have any clues ... it would be great to share notes.

"The London Zoo stopped bringing in animals during the Great War, it did receive one new arrival – a bear named Winnie who had been brought over as a mascot by Canadian troops". See more at

Doctor Harry Coleburn: When World War One broke out in August 1914, Coleburn was already a trained officer and immediately offered his services to his country. Subsequently, he was given leave of absence from the Department of Agriculture and left Winnipeg on August 23rd 1914, bound for Valcartier, Quebec. While enroute to Valcartier, he was detached from the 34th Fort Garry Horse and transferred to the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps. (C.A.V.C.)

On the 24th of August, the train stopped at White River, Ontario where Harry purchased a small black female bear cub for the sum of $20 from a hunter who had killed her mother. Shortly after this, Harry named his little cub "Winnie" after the City of Winnipeg, his home-town. On September 12th 1914, he was taken on strength of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade Headquarters under the command of Lt. Colonel Arthur W. Currie who was later on to become the commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Today, April 29th would have been Charley's little sister; Vida Valerie's 17th birthday. Seems a fitting day to make this connection between Charley Bailey and Winnie the Pooh.
Happy Birthday VV.  She's the one who saved Charley's letters. 

Vida Valerie Perrin (nee Lloyd)
Born: April 29th, 1899 Brandon Manitoba
Died: Sept 20, 1982 Summerland, British Columbia

No comments:

Post a Comment