Features and coverage of the wartime Maple Leaf

Continued from The Maple Leaf in London.

The purpose of The Maple Leaf was always to inform and entertain the troops of the Canadian Army. To that end, it ran a number of regular features with tones ranging from serious to comical, always keeping in mind the concerns of the rank and file.

The most important element of The Maple Leaf’s coverage, of course, was the news from Canada and the Canadian fronts. News from home was intended to keep the troops connected with Canada; the frontline news, in addition to giving the soldiers a sense of the bigger picture, was a huge boost to morale. Regular readers were eager to see their unit represented in print, often hounding the staff on when a promised article would be published. Predictably, this made trouble for the censors, who would often try to delete references to specific units, their positions, or their achievements—facts that made up the meat of these articles.

Beginning in May 1944, The Maple Leaf began publishing a poetry column featuring soldiers’ verse; it received so many submissions that the chore of sorting through them swiftly became a newsroom punishment. They also ran a column featuring an editorial question and answer session on post-war problems. It proved so popular that they solicited opinions on a variety of related issues—from the utility of Army training in civilian life to veterans’ organizations to what to do with gratuity pay—from the men in the trenches, running their answers in a six-week series beginning in October 1944. In March 1945, this was replaced with a letter to the editor column, which allowed soldiers to submit their own questions to print for the first time.

Art editor Les Callan did sketches and wrote short profiles on the Canadian soldiers making the push into Germany; cartoonists illustrated articles and created comic strips like This Army, Herbie, and Monty and Johnny, which ran alongside popular syndicated strips such as Li’l Abner, Our Boarding House, and Blondie. Pinup photographs made regular appearances—a common practice of the time that would be considered wholly inappropriate today. The paper also ran a baby beauty contest, soliciting photographs from proud Army fathers (and carefully returning them after the winners were selected).

As the war drew to a close, the focus shifted from reporting on the activities of Canadian soldiers to helping returning troops readjust to civilian life. In addition to providing logistical information, The Maple Leaf also ran an article on civilian fashions for those soldiers looking to make the most of their pay. The paper would continue publishing for as long as a significant Canadian Army presence remained in Europe, not printing its last issue until May 1946.

Continued in The Maple Leaf in the post-war period.

Information for this article has been collected from Barry D. Rowland & J. Douglas MacFarlane, The Maple Leaf Forever, Natural Heritage/Natural History Inc. (1987).