The Maple Leaf in the Mediterranean

Gunners of the Royal Canadian Artillery pause to read a new issue of The Maple Leaf together. Photo: Library and Archives Canada.
Gunners of the Royal Canadian Artillery pause to read a new issue of The Maple Leaf together. Photo: Library and Archives Canada.

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Continued from The origins of The Maple Leaf.

Army personnel with newspaper experience were recruited to staff The Maple Leaf in Naples. Some volunteered—like Sergeant W. G. “Bing” Coughlin, who wrote in to the fledgling newspaper to ask if they needed a cartoonist. Early issues had no illustrations, lacking the zinc with which to make engravings; to hold them over until the Army could furnish supplies, newspaper staff visited local undertakers to requisition zinc plates from coffin interiors.

Other difficulties abounded: rats chewed the supplies, bombs took out the power, Italian officers used the press room as an air raid shelter, and the Germans, in their recent retreat, had attempted to cripple the presses by stealing the Es from the movable type used to print the papers. Nevertheless, The Maple Leaf went out daily—by whatever means necessary. It was not uncommon for the paper to be distributed by pack mule.

Rome fell to the Allies on June 4, 1944 and the paper prepared to move, with an advance party of staff racing to the city to scout a new location. They settled in the Pensione Iaccarino, directly across from Rome’s Foreign Press Club, and from there had considerably less trouble. Staff worked through the evenings, filling the pages with letters, stories, and comic strips for the morning’s publication. Material was drawn from news agencies, Canadian press syndicates, and war correspondents’ dispatches, and reporters travelled to the front on a regular rotation to write articles on the war effort.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel Dick Malone had established sibling papers in Caen, France and in London to serve the Western Front. With the link-up of the Italian and Western forces in spring 1945, the Rome and Caen editions were merged in Brussels. It was the Brussels Maple Leaf that would continue to inform and inspire Canadian troops to the end of the war and beyond.

Continued in The Maple Leaf on the Western Front.

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

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