May 1, 2013
Winnie The Pooh creator A.A. Milne wrote British propaganda during WWI
by Nick Davies
Well, this might make you look at Winnie the Pooh a little bit differently. A.A. Milne, the creator of the beloved children’s character, was recently discovered to have been recruited by MI7b, a secret British propaganda group during World War I. Josie Ensor reports for the Telegraph that a cache of classified documents has been uncovered that links Milne to the organization, along with several other prominent writers.
The intelligence unit MI7b was created in 1916 in order to create pro-war propaganda for the UK. It was disbanded in 1918, and the government ordered that all its documents be destroyed, but one of its members, Captain James Lloyd kept 150 of the group’s documents. They’ve been locked away in a trunk until now, and were nearly thrown away before Lloyd’s great nephew Jeremy Arter realized what he had come across. He was shocked to find that his uncle had preserved the only remaining archive of the secret group’s records, telling the Telegraph:
When I turned the front cover and saw the name AA Milne I knew it would be a historic document. I was astonished when my research showed that they were meant to have been destroyed soon after the war because they were deemed “too incriminating.” He broke every rule in the book and took his work home with him—that’s the only reason any evidence survived.
The discovery of Milne’s involvement with MI7b is particularly notable because he was known to be a pacifist. Ensor writes that he prided himself on never having shot at the enemy while he served in the British Army, and denounced the war in 1934’s Peace with Honour. The author of the award-winning biography A.A. Milne: His Life, Ann Thwaite, acknowledged that Milne had written about working on propaganda he didn’t agree with, though never specifically about MI7b.
Among the recently unearthed documents is a pamphlet called the Green Book, a collection that includes some poems by Milne that show his reluctance to be in the propaganda business. One of them reads, “In MI7b / who loves to lie with me / About atrocities. / And Hun Corpse Factories / Come hither, come hither, come hither / Here shall we see / No enemy / But sit all day and blather.” While he was conflicted about being involved with MI7b at the time, World War II changed Milne’s mind about pacifism, as he retracted some of his previous views in 1940’s War with Honour.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.