The Story Behind: “Wait for Me, Daddy”, 1940

The photograph of a 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 II. Entitled “Wait for me Daddy”, the photo by Claude P. Betloff is of the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles) marching down Eighth Street at the intersection of Columbia Street, New Westminster, Canada, to their first active post in 2nd World War.

 The soldier in the photo is Jack Bernard, his son Warren and his wife Berenice have come to take the regiment to a secret destination “overseas”. As they started to march, Warren broke free of his mother to try to catch up with his father. When word spread that the Regiment was being sent abroad, The Province newspaper sent photographer Claude P. Detloff to take a picture of them marching out of town.

 Detloff prepared to capture the men of the regiment who were marching as their column descended a hill towards an awaiting train. It was just luck that he picked up this iconic image of a young mother reaching out as her son runs towards his smiling father. The photo soon became famous around the world, appearing in Life magazines and hanging in schools and homes. It was even used in War Bond campaigns.

The heartbreaking moment was a little less dramatic than attendees initially thought. The secret fate abroad turned out to be neither secret nor foreign. The regiment’s journey was to Nanaimo, just a few hours by train from the coast, where they were stationed to defend against a possible maritime invasion. They didn’t go to Europe until 1942, and spent nearly two years in England, switching from a rifle regiment to an armored regiment.

They were initially supplied with obsolete pre-war tanks for training purposes, but as production increased they received new M4 Shermans, and it was the new tanks they took to Normandy shortly after D-Day for their first combat. As part of the 4th Canadian Armored Division, the British Columbia Regiment fought 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 took part in the liberation of the historic city of Bruges. They fought in the Battle of the Hochwald Gap into Germany and received a battle honor for their part in crossing the Küsten Channel in April 1945.
This was the regiments’ last major engagement of World War II. The battle honor they received after the battle crossed the Küsten Canal was the 14th day of the war, at a cost of 108 officers and men killed, 213 wounded, and a loss of 120 tanks.

Father and son reunited after the war.

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

Warren ran a marina in Tofina and was involved in local politics. He served as alderman, mayor, and alderman before retirement. His son still runs the family marina in Tofino. The photo in which he appeared 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 a Photograph.
Warren himself has no memory of the day the photo was taken, which is not surprising as he was just 5 years old on the day it was taken. He remembers the fame that followed him for years after people realized he was the boy in the photo, and he revisited the scene for interviews and donated his wartime memorabilia to a museum.