The Story Behind: "Wait for me, Daddy", 1940

By | August 10, 2017

The photograph of a young boy running ahead of his mother to grab his father's hand as he marches off to war is one of the most iconic images of World War 2. Titled "Wait For Me, Daddy" the picture by Claude P. Betloff is of The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles) marching down Eighth Street at the Columbia Street intersection, New Westminster, Canada to their first active duty station in World War 2.

 The soldier in the picture is Jack Bernard, his son Warren and wife Bernice had come to see the regiment off to a secret "overseas" destination. When they began marching Warren broke free from his mother to try to catch up to his father. When word came out that the Regiment was being shipped overseas The Province newspaper sent photographer Claude P. Detloff out to take a picture of them marching out of the city.

 Detloff set up to capture the men of the regiment marching by as their column moved down a hill towards a waiting train. It was only luck that he caught this iconic image of a young mother reaching out as her son runs ahead towards his smiling father. The photo soon became famous worldwide, appearing in Life magazines and hanging in schools and households. It was even used in War Bond campaigns.

The poignant moment was a bit less dramatic than it's participants initially thought. The secret overseas destination turned out to be neither secret nor overseas. The regiment's journey was to Nanaimo, just a few hours by train on the coast where they were stationed to defend against a possible sea invasion. They didn't go to Europe until 1942, and they spent nearly two years in England retraining from a rifle regiment to an armored regiment.

They were initially issued with obsolete prewar tanks for training purposes, but as production swelled they were given the new M4 Shermans, and it was the new tanks they took into Normandy shortly after D Day for their first combat. As part of the Canadian 4th Armoured Division the British Columbia Regiment fought in the battle to close the Falaise gap and participated in the destruction of the German 7th Army. This was considered the decisive engagement of the Normandy campaign.

After Normandy the regiment turned north and in September 1944 they participated in the liberation of the historic city of Bruges. They fought in the Battle of Hochwald Gap to enter Germany, and received a battle honor for their part in crossing the Küsten Canal in April of 1945.
That was the regiments last major engagement of World War 2. The battle honor they received after the battle to cross the Küsten Canal was the 14th of the war, at a cost of 108 officers and men killed, and 213 wounded, and a loss of 120 tanks.

Father and son reunited after the war.

Jack Bernard was one of the survivors of the regiment, and he returned home to Britich Columbia with  the regiment in October of 1945. Warren grew up and was married in 1964 to a woman who realized after they met that she had seen her future husband many times throughout her life because his picture “was hung in every school in British Columbia. during the war, I saw him years and years before we actually met”.

Warren ran a marina in Tofina and was involved in local politics. He served as an alderman, mayor and councillor beofre retiring. His son still runs the family marina in Tofino. The photo he was featured in is still remembered in New Wesminster, where a statue commissioned by the city commemorating the event was unveiled in 2014. The Royal Canadian Mint issued a series of three coins commemorating the photo and the Canadian Post Office issued a stamp of the photo.
Warren himself has no memory of the day of the photo, not surprising as he was only 5 the day it was taken. He does remember the fame that followed him for years after as people realized he was the boy from the photo, and he has revisited the scene for interviews and donated his wartime memorabilia to a museum.