Connections: Winnie The Pooh and PTSD
Did you know that A.A. Milne, the author of the famous “Winnie the Pooh” stories was a veteran of both WWI and WWII? He suffered from PTSD (in those days known as ‘Shell Shock’) all of his life after the wars. But how to explain the war to his son, Christopher Robin Milne, weighed on his heart. So he began writing, and his stories have become timeless.
A.A. Milne served in the British Army – 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as a member of the Royal Corps of Signals. During WWI, he was deployed to the Battle of Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of British military history.
On August 10, 1915, Milne and his men were sent to enable communications by laying telephone line dangerously close to an enemy position. He tried warning his command of the foolishness of the action to no avail. Two days later, he and his battalion were attacked, just as he had foreseen. Sixty British men perished in an instant. Milne was one of the hundred or so badly wounded in the ambush. He was sent home for his wounds suffered that day.
When Christopher Robin Milne was born, he stopped writing for a time, even though it was therapy for his PTSD. But one trip to the zoo changed his life:
The Canadian Bear named “Winnie”
Milne and Christopher Robin went to the London Zoo. There, they “bonded” over a small black bear from Canada named “Winnipeg” or Winnie. The bear had been a mascot for The Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Milne felt a little like the bear, since it was reclusive and shied away from the people.
A.A. Milne purchased a stuffed teddy bear for his son. But he still scared the little boy, as often he mistook ordinary sounds like bees or popping balloons for war. So in order to explain the war to his son, he penned “Winnie the Pooh.”
The book was published in 1926, when Christopher Robin was just 6 years old.
The PTSD Connection
Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress.
Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga & Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.
By WWII, Christopher Robin and his father both went to war. Christopher became a “sapper” or combat engineer. His duties included breaching fortifications, demolitions, bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, preparing field defenses, as well as working on road and airfield construction and repair. After Christopher’s service, he finally understood what his father’s legacy was all about.
Alan Milner served as a Captain in the British Home Guard during WWII.
A.A. Milne died on January 31, 1956 at his home in Hartford, East Sussex, England. His son, Christopher Robin, passed in April of 1996.
Cartoons, and even movies are made from the characters in Winnie The Pooh. The following trailer was created for the Movie “Christopher Robin” in 2018. Has anyone caught the real theme inside the author’s heart?