Herbie by Bing Coughlin – To a kid, the funniest cartoons!

When I was a kid, there was an old, hardcover book with a blue cover that was my favourite book.  It was called HERBIE! and I thought it was a cartoon book.  Little did I know that inside is a collection of WWII-related cartoons that used to appear in the war publication, “The Maple Leaf.”

William Garnet “Bing” Coughlin was born in Ottawa and moved to Philadelphia in 1923 with his family.  Soon after the outbreak of WWII he returned to Canada to serve in the Canadian Army with the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards.  As a sergeant, he participated in the invasion of Sicily and fought for four months in the Italian campaign. It was during this campaign that his cartoons began to appear in the soldiers’ magazine, “The Maple Leaf.”   Bing Coughlin became the spokesman for the Canadian enlisted man. Featured as “This Army”, his cartoons showed life as it was behind the lines and up at the front, always taking the view of the common soldier.  Coughlin’s ubiquitous Canadian foot solder was “Herbie”. An unnamed French Canadian enlisted man with toque and mustache also appears with Herbie in many cartoons.

Two volumes of “This Army” were published by “The Maple Leaf” in Rome, in 1944 and 1945. A year after the war, a new collection of “Bing” Coughlin’s wartime cartoons was published by Thomas Nelson and Sons, Canada. Called simply “Herbie!” the 1946 edition was reprinted in 1959, on the 20th anniversary of the start of WWII.