The Star Weekly At War

As a child, I loved to pore through the colourful, patriotic and often amusing images pasted into my mother’s wartime scrapbook. Most of them were covers of the Star Weekly magazine, published by the Toronto Star.


The scrapbook created by my mother, June Light of Battleford, Saskatchewan, was a hard-sided ledger from the local land titles office, and it was just the right size for the oversized magazine covers, which measured sixteen by eleven inches. (Readers liked their magazines larger than life back then.) Unfortunately, it has suffered from decades of children’s scribbling and thumbing.

The Toronto Star published the Star Weekly newsmagazine from 1910 to 1973. During the war years, from 1939 to 1945, the magazine featured many original coloured cover illustrations.

These illustrations tried to boost the country’s morale using sentiment and humour. After all, we were the good guys, fighting against the tyranny of an evil empire. And that is scarcely an exaggeration, although the Star Weekly reduced the Nazis to a pack of comical bunglers.

When I went looking online, I was delighted to find someone who collects Star Weekly magazines, Ian Macdonald of Ottawa. Not only that, but he created a book, using a combination of covers and inside pages from the magazine. 

He sells his book, Star Weekly At War, through his website, ThistlExpress. I have purchased a copy of my own.

I phoned Mr. Macdonald in Ottawa to find out more about his collection. He told me that since fifty years has passed since the war ended, copyright has expired on these beautiful art works.

Incredibly, and I confirmed this with Robin Graham, Managing Director of Torstar Syndication Services, because I could hardly believe my ears when Mr. Macdonald told me, the Toronto Star itself never kept copies of its own magazine! What a shame.

If you own any old Star Weeklies and want to find out more, click here for an article by one collector: Collecting Old Magazines.

I even wrote about one of their popular illustrators, and you may read about her by clicking here: Elizabeth Cutler.

Sadly, my mother rendered her covers worthless to collectors by trimming off all the mastheads. But at least they are full-sized images. Mr. Macdonald shrunk the covers to fit into his nine-by-eleven-inch book. Here is an original clipping in my mother’s scrapbook, and the copy in Mr. Macdonald’s glossy book.

Even without the mastheads, I still love these images. Many are pointedly Canadian, showing both our men and women in uniform. Canada’s role in wartime is often overlooked, so this collection is a small tribute to our country’s tremendous effort.

This image shows Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate bridge, being patrolled both by sea and by air. The caption reads: “With clock-like regularity, air and sea units of Canada’s Pacific patrol scour the ocean for enemy craft. Here Montague Black pictures a corvette and a Consolidated “Model 31” flying boat passing the great Lion’s Head bridge at Vancouver."

Some covers feature wartime family life, like this sentimental depiction of a father and his little boy. During wartime, there was no way to protect children from the knowledge of war and its consequences.

To read about the inside pages: Inside the Star Weekly At War.

To see many other examples of these lovely cover images, simply scroll down the page.

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A sailor surprises his family at Christmas, in this lovely image dated December 23, 1944.


This little tyke has had it with the enemy -- he's going off to enlist, in this cover dated February 27, 1942!


Published on April 22, 1939, just a few months before the war started in September, this is a lovely photograph of the Queen's younger sister, Margaret Rose, at eight years old.


The Royal Canadian Air Force, Women's Division, did have marching bands, and here is one of members shown on the cover dated February 19, 1944.

Appropriate for January is this image of a miserable bugler, dated January 23, 1943.


Cute and colourful is this image of a sailor resisting the advances of a young lady, dated August 30, 1941.


One of the early covers dated July 11, 1942, showing a member of the RCAF Women's Division. Women were allowed to join the air force in July 1941.


A member of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division, salutes the Union Jack in this cover image dated September 11, 1943.


The dog, and perhaps the parrot, chime in during this accordian solo by a happy sailor in this image dated March 24, 1945.


A redheaded sailor beams after hanging a photo of his lookalike daughter in this image dated January 15, 1944.


This Star Weekly cover dated March 17, 1945 shows a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division delivering bullets to a training aircraft on a British Commonwealth Air Training Base in Canada.


This Star Weekly dated February 1, 1941 shows a German submarine being sunk by a Canadian destroyer.


This Star Weekly cover dated November 29, 1941, shows a Canadian soldier with his little girl.


The Royal Canadian Air Force, Women's Division uniforms were natty, but everyone got tired of wearing the same thing after a few years. Here a WD admires a fashionable hat in a shop window, in this Star Weekly illustration dated April 1, 1944.


The British armed forces, complete with tanks, storm across Libya in this Star Weekly cover dated January 17, 1942.


This cover from November 1, 1944 shows a group of desperate men on a liferaft about to be rescued.


A member of the Canadian Women's Army Corps takes aim, while a cowboy looking suspiciously like actor Ronald Reagan looks on in this cover dated March 4, 1944.


This dramatic fighting scene dated February 6, 1943 shows the Royal Air Force downing troop carriers bringing enemy troops to distant shores where they have no business being!


This happy homecoming, published on August 18, 1945, is complete with wife, kids and dog. To see more homecoming images, visit: I'll Be Home for Christmas.


Rosie uses her welding tool to toast her sandwich in this charming undated illustration. To see more Rosie images, click: Bombshells and Bomb Girls.


This lovely girl is wearing her boyfriend's wings over her heart, while holding his photograph, in this cover dated January 30, 1943.

The motherly woman who opened her home to lonely servicemen and servicewomen was a wonderful morale booster in World War Two, whether she lived in England, Canada or another country. This is obviously Canadian Thanksgiving in 1943.

The perfect example of British tenacity is the bulldog, shown in this image dated March 27, 1943.


This cover image dated May 1, 1943 shows one of the thousands of children orphaned in World War Two.


An American sailor and a Canadian soldier rush into combat, shoulder to shoulder, in this cover dated August 1, 1942.


Canadian troops trained in England for years before going into combat. This image dated November 22, 1941 shows one of our tanks driving through a country village.


Here’s an image dated September 5, 1943, showing a Russian cavalry attack--yes, our hard-fighting and often overlooked Ally was still using horses.


Female ferry pilots, like this image dated April 10, 1943, weren't allowed to fly combat missions but moved aircraft around between air bases.


Here’s an image showing a Canadian Overseas Nurse. She looks like an angel, and that was how the wounded men saw them.


I love this cover dated September 4, 1943, of a Canadian "Rosie the Riveter" being saluted by two Canadian servicemen in commemoration of her war work.


This image called Hope Springs Eternal shows a young woman’s delight at finding the first flowers of spring amidst the destruction of war in the background.


This recruiting advertisement for the Canadian armed forces reads, in part: "Sal is working long and hard but she realizes Victory isn't a part-time job. It's not just a matter of a couple of afternoons or evenings a week. She still has good fun, of course -- but now she knows she's earned it.

"It's done Sal a world of good, too. Balanced meals, regular hours, new self-discipline and the right companions have worked wonders. Best of all, she has the satisfaction of knowing she's doing her duty. Nothing takes the place of that."


This cover shows the somewhat ambivalent attitude of Canadian society toward women in uniform -- it looks like she is a pilot, judging by her flying helmet, but she's afraid of a mouse!

I love this image of a tough sergeant receiving a box of chocolates from "C" company -- no wonder he looks puzzled!


The Star Weekly recognized all branches of the Canadian military, in this case the Royal Canadian Navy, on this cover dated November 21, 1942.


I love this image of a lady sitting in a bombed-out building, selling violets to a Canadian couple in uniform.


This cover illustration shows how sad and discouraged people were back on December 31, 1943. This bloody, terrible war had already dragged on for four years, and there was STILL no end in sight.


This image dated November 27, 1943 shows a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot receiving good news from the home front. Nothing was more important to the men overseas than getting mail from their loved ones.


This image dated October 25, 1943 shows two kids wrapping a Christmas gift for their Daddy overseas.


This image dated April 11, 1942 shows the American air force in action against the Japanese, just a few months after Pearl Harbour.


This cover shows a member of the V.A.D., or Voluntary Aid Detachment. This was a volunteer nursing group that started in 1909 and continued through both world wars. Many members were decorated for distinguished service.


This image from April 18, 1942 shows the RAF blowing up a Nazi tanker while the survivors paddle away in their lifeboats.


This image from May 29, 1943 shows a courting couple with a horse and cart. Maybe it was aimed at promoting fuel rationing!


This image from October 18, 1941 is captioned: "R.A.F. bombs Nazi camp."


This image from March 26, 1942 shows the perceived threat from Nazi bombers. Each city is marked with the population and distance from the coast by air. The caption warns: "Just remember, these times are based on a bomber speed of 200 miles per hour. With bomber planes improving almost daily, this is considered slow.”



Here’s a cover image from May 31, 1941 showing a woman in uniform flirting with a Canadian airman, presumably telling him that he has a long lifeline.


This image from September 18, 1943 shows two of the million Canadian women who worked in factories during the war. They were sometimes known as Rosie the Riveter. To read more, visit: Bombshells and Bomb Girls.


This cover dated January 22, 1944 shows the RCAF attacking a German submarine.


This illustration comes from the February 13, 1943 Star Weekly, a newsmagazine published by the Toronto Star. The caption reads:

“Symbolic of military development in World War II is this painting of a horse-drawn sleigh making way for mechanical transports in the Quebec Laurentians. Speedy planes overhead emphasize the revolutionary role machines are playing in war. Training manoeuvers in French Canada have brought the “motor age” vividly to the attention of communities living at a pastoral pace.”


A tribute to the Canadian servicemen and women who defended Canada's West Coast in wartime, dated October 2, 1943.


A Canadian soldier holds a child with sparklers, celebrating Victoria Day on May 23, 1941.


Backed by tanks, the British army advances through Libya in this image dated January 17, 1942.

My objection to this cover image of a Canadian fighter pilot dated August 22, 1942 is that he looks too old. Most of them were just boys. But it is signed by Donald Anderson of the RCAF so perhaps he used a real person as his model.


Here's a handsome wounded devil-may-care soldier with his adoring nurse, in this image dated August 23, 1941.


I like to think this girl is pondering which branch of the armed forces to join herself, but probably the artist had something else in mind in this image dated January 31, 1942.


Don't let this paratrooper's lipstick fool you, folks -- he's a fighting machine! The First Canadian Parachute Division landed on D-Day and fought in some of the biggest battles on the Western Front. By war's end the battalion had gained a reputation: they never failed to complete a mission, and they never gave up an objective once taken. This cover is from October 31, 1942.


A father, or perhaps a grandfather, takes aim at the boy's toy soldiers in this image dated August 9, 1941.


This cover dated June 18, 1942 shows the Royal Air Force bombing Nazi factories.


The RAF bombs Naples in Italy, while Mount Vesuvius erupts in the background, in this striking image dated April 25, 1942.


This Russian woman in uniform saves a child, perhaps her own, from the advancing German armed forces in this cover dated November 28, 1942.


A Salute to the Navy’s Heroes, dated December 7, 1940. Click Tales From an Old Tar to read a Canadian sailor's story.


Canadian Air Gunner, May 2, 1942. Note the artist signed himself as Donald Anderson, RCAF. Click Love Those Lancasters to read about the only four Lancasters in the world today with operating engines.


A British air raid warden guides a woman and child to safety, on May 1, 1941, during the height of The Blitz.


After 1941, Canadian women were allowed to join the armed forces. Here's a Star Weekly cover image of a Canadian Women's Army Corps member (CWAC or "Quack" for short) dated February 20, 1943.


A Canadian "Wren" wearing a tricorne hat, September 12, 1942.


An airman weds his bride in a June wedding, June 20, 1942. Click Twenty Wonderful Wartime Weddings to see vintage wartime wedding photographs.


A Canadian airman leans over the RCAF roundel on his aircraft, June 14, 1941.


Canadian Women's Army Corps member plays bagpipes, November 6, 1943.


Kids throwing snowballs at a snowman dressed as Hitler, January 24, 1942.


A Canadian ship bearing supplies sails under London Bridge, March 21, 1942.


Christmas Leave, December 20, 1941. Click My Dad's Best Christmas, 1945 to read a heartwarming story told by my father Douglas Florence.


A couple in uniform shares a hymn book in church, October 10, 1942. Click Sacrifices Honoured in Stained Glass to see photographs of memorial church windows.


A member of the RCAF Women's Division throwing snowballs, December 11, 1943. Click RCAF Rancherette Blazed the Trail to read the story of Nancy Lee, RCAF Women's Division.

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And the final cover is Fireworks Over Berlin, dated May 22, 1943.


Bird's Eye View

  • Bird’s Eye View is my fact-based novel about a Saskatchewan farm girl who joins the air force and becomes an aerial photo interpreter in World War Two. This Canadian best-seller is available through any bookstore, and also as an e-book and an audiobook. To purchase online, click here: Bird's Eye View.


  • Wildwood is my contemporary novel about a young woman from the city who inherits an abandoned farm in northern Alberta, on condition that she and her little daughter live there for one year, off the grid. She is inspired by the diary she finds in the house, written by the original homesteader. Wildwood is available through any bookstore, and also as an e-book. To purchase online, click here: Wildwood.

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Wartime Wednesdays

  • All my Wartime Wednesdays stories written from 2013 to 2018 are available to read on my website, indexed by subject and title. To see the complete list, click here: Wartime Wednesdays.

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