Teddy Bears marching to war


Members of Britain’s WWI-era Teddy Bear army are coming up for auction at Halls on 11 December.

The very first British toy company to manufacture teddy bears, JK Farnell & Co, is today almost forgotten to everyone except teddy bear collectors. As we remember fallen soldiers this Remembrance Day, a much-loved set of World War I Farnell Soldier Bears is soon to come up for auction at Halls Sales Room in Shrewsbury.

Officially known as Campbell Bears, Soldier Bears were manufactured between 1914 and 1920 and were often given by wives and girlfriends to soldiers when they went to war and so got the nickname.  Instantly recognisable because of their red, white or blue mohair fur each little 3.5in bear had an upturned nose that would stick out of the soldier’s breast pocket as a good luck charm and reminder of sweethearts at home.

David Lewis, Toys and Models Specialist at Halls commented, “Many of these little bears were bought by Leanda Harwood from Sotheby’s in May 1999, who went on to make 81 numbered sets of three, and put them in mini suitcases with little booklets about their history. The set we have coming up for auction on 11 December were originally part of a very large collection owned by twins David and Guy Campbell who were born in Devon in 1910. Despite costing a shilling each in 1924 their aunt bought them 50 for Christmas. As other boys played with toy soldiers these two had serried ranks of miniature teddy bears. Thankfully both survived their time as soldiers during WWII but they are known to have taken one of the bears with them.

“Looking well loved, these little bears make a super collector’s item for anyone interested in commemorating our teddy bear or military history and are worth upwards of £1,000

JK Farnell & Co was eventually taken over by Merrythought in Ironbridge which continued to manufacture its most famous bear, the Alpha, said to be the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh.



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