The True Story Behind the Iconic WWII ‘Wait for Me, Daddy’ Photo
The Wait for Me, Daddy photo is one of the most iconic photos to come out of British Columbia during WWII.
The heartfelt image depicted a young boy running towards his father as he prepared to get deployed overseas. While the story of the photo might seem clear, there’s actually a more complex story behind the scenes.
Jack Bernard Was a British Columbia Regiment Member
Before Canada entered WWII, Jack Bernard was acting as the sergeant major for the British Columbia Dragoons.
However, because the government did not activate his unit when the war began, he decided to drop down in rank, so he could enlist as a private in the British Columbia Regiment, which was also known as the Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles.
The BC Regiment Was Eventually Ordered Overseas
For a small while, the British Columbia Regiment was ordered to perform a number of guard duty assignments.
However, the members were eventually ordered to move to a destination overseas, which was kept secret. The idea was that the duties of the regiment would be more active in the ongoing war.
The Soldiers Marched Out
On October 1, 1940, the soldiers in the BC Regiment were ordered to march down 8th Street near the Columbia Street intersection in New Westminster, British Columbia. They were marching toward the train to make their way out of the city.
None of them could have possibly known that they were about to be part of one of the most famous World War II photos captured in Canada.
The Iconic Photo Was Captured During Deployment
Warren Bernard, otherwise known as “Whitey,” was upset that his father have been reassigned overseas with the British Columbia Regiment.
While his father was lined up and preparing to leave, Warren broke free from his mother’s arms to try and run after his father, putting out his hand in a ‘wait for me’ fashion.
Jack’s Son, Warren, Was Only 5 At the Time
Warren was only five years old when his father’s regiment was reassigned for a secret overseas mission.
He didn’t understand much about what was going on with the war, which made this iconic photo feel even more human. All Warren knew is that his father was leaving, and he did not want him to.
The Photo Was Captured by Claude Dettloff
Claude Dettloff happened to be in the area at the same time the soldiers were in line heading for the train.
In 1940, Claude was a photographer for the BC newspaper, The Province. He had been assigned to set up his equipment to capture shots of the troops as they waited for the train to come and take them away.
Dettloff’s Photo Captured a Heartfelt Moment
Dettloff could not have known that he was going to capture one of the most historical WWII moments from Canada’s perspective.
When Warren reached out for his father, Jack moved his rifle to the left side so he could hold his son’s hand for just one more moment. The photo, which the newspaper titled, Wait for Me, Daddy, captured a raw and heartfelt moment between a father and son.
His Granddaughter Said He Was a Skilled Photographer
Dettloff’s granddaughter, Candace Macpherson, talked about her grandfather in a 2014 interview, noting his natural talents as a photographer.
She remembers growing up knowing about the iconic photo and praised his skills for capturing moments using good timing, not the technology that is available to us today. Before smartphones and digital cameras, photography required a good level of patience.
Jack Only Ended Up Being Sent Three Hours from Home
Unbeknownst to Jack and the rest of his regiment, the ‘secret destination’ only ended up being a few hours away from home.
The regiment was ordered to Nanaimo, British Columbia, where they were told to wait and defend against any potential attacks from the Japanese and Germans. They would only be here for two years.
Eventually, The BC Regiment Was Sent Overseas
In August of 1942, the war began ramping up and troops overseas needed all the help they could get.
The Canadian government decided to send the British Columbia regiment overseas during the time, converting it from infantry to armor. This would mark the beginning of the three-year period Jack would be overseas and many miles away from his son and wife.
Soldiers Didn’t See Any Action Until D-Day
The first place the Canadian regiment arrived was the United Kingdom.
However, it wasn’t until they were relocated to the beachhead for D-Day on July 23, 1944, which had already been well established, that they would see any accident. It was the first time in Jack’s four years of deployment that he would get to fight in the war.
The Regiment Then Moved to France
The Canadian servicemen would not stay in Normandy long, as many of the battles had already moved on once they arrived.
Instead, they would be once again relocated to France, where they would participate in Operation Totalize, a mission that helped destroy the German army that was stationed there at the time. Eventually, they pushed the German army into Holland.
The Last Battle Took Place on the Kusten Canal
The last battle that Jack and his regiment ever participated in was on April 17, 1945, as they were crossing the Kusten Canal.
This battle marked one of the last days of the final phase of the Northwest European campaign in WWII. Here, Canadian servicemen fought alongside Polish Army members, eventually clearing the last members of the German resistance.
Bernard Was One of the Lucky Survivors
Less than a month after the Kusten Canal battle, the war in Europe was coming to an end and troops were being sent back home.
Luckily for Bernard, he was able to come home in October, having survived his time spent overseas. Unfortunately, many British Columbia Regiment servicemen were not as lucky as Bernard. The regiments alone had 213 wounded and 122 dead.
The Photo Received Plenty of Exposure
Even though the photo of Jack and Warren was taken long before the war came to an end, it was put on the front page of The Province newspaper the day after it was shot.
The photo showed up in just about every school throughout British Columbia and gained so much traction in larger media outlets that it was eventually picked up by major publications like Life.
You Can Now Find a Statue in British Columbia
The city of New Westminster would eventually commission a bronze statue to honor the iconic photograph of Jack and his son.
The statue was unveiled on October 4, 2014, and still stands today in Hyack Square at the bottom of 8th Street, in the same place where Dettloff took the photo so many decades ago. The monument was beautifully designed with soldiers lined up in a square frame, which looks very similar to a piece of film.
Warren Became a Local Celebrity
The day the photo made it into the newspaper, Warren became somewhat of a local celebrity.
In both 1943 and 1944, while Warren was on summer break, he traveled around his province with a support group that was trying to get people to buy war bonds to support their soldiers fighting in Europe. Warren would speak at these events, saying “Buy a bond, bring my daddy home.”
In Fact, Warren’s Eventual Wife Knew Her Husband Way Before Meeting Him
Warren’s future wife, Ruby, said that the photo of him running after his father was so popular that she knew of him many years before they actually met in person.
The photo could be seen in several major publications and was hung up in just about every school throughout British Columbia until the war ended.
Unfortunately, Jack’s Marriage Did Not Survive
Because of Jack’s chosen deployment, he was unable to save his marriage upon his return.
Warren’s mother, Bernice, was very upset at the fact that her husband was deployed. Apparently, many soldiers were “milling about” and saying goodbye to their families, while Jack was heading straight for the ship without having spent much time saying his goodbyes. Of course, there was more to the story than that.
His Wife Was Upset He Joined the War In the First Place
Bernice never wanted her husband to involve himself in the war as it was, and she was very upset when he purposefully reduced his rank to private so he could join the war effort.
Warren said that was the last time his family was ever together as a singular unit. After that moment, it was hard for her to forgive him and hard for him to come back.
Wanted Him To Maintain His Rank
At the time, Jack was 33 years old with a wife and a dependent son.
Bernice was very angry that he did not wait until his regiment, the British Columbia Dragoons, were called into the war effort. If he had waited, he would have been listed in the Canadian service as a sergeant, making twice what he made as a private.
Bernice Never Forgave Jack
Because Bernice felt that Jack had abandoned her and his son, she was never able to forgive him.
In fact, the two ended up getting a divorce before he returned home. Warren believes that they would have stayed together if things did not happen the way they did. It was an odd time and a very unfortunate set of circumstances.
It Was Odd, As People Did Not Divorce In Those Days
Plus, Warren noted that getting a divorce was certainly not common in the 1940s.
He says that they may have even stayed together for that fact alone. Where he grew up, in Vancouver, he was one of the few children with divorced parents. Warren noted that he was a bit of an anomaly in the group of friends that he ran with.
Warren Was Eventually Reunited with His Father
Though there was not a joyous embrace between Bernice and Jack when the British Columbia regiment arrived back on national shores, Warren was excited to see his father.
Warren’s grandfather took him to the train station where the soldiers were being transported back home. He knows that it was likely the happiest day he experienced as a ten-year-old boy.
His Father Had His War
During their reunion at the train station, Warren said that his father told him, “In the end, I had my war.”
It’s still unclear as to what Jack was looking for when he dropped his rank as a sergeant to become a private and enlist in the early stages of the Second World War. And whether his “war” was a literal one or an internal struggle is very much up for debate.
The Photo Fell Under the Radar for Quite Some Time
The Wait for Me, Daddy photograph was one of the most iconic moments captured during WWII.
However, when the war subsided, many forgot about it. Even though it captured a heartfelt moment, people wanted to move on, and the photograph was a reminder of sadder days for Canadians and the rest of the world.
He Later Donated His Memorabilia to a Museum
Warren received quite a bit of memorabilia in the years after the photo was taken.
He eventually decided to donate his memorabilia to one of the local museums. Warren believed it was important that the iconic photograph was properly archived in the city in which it was taken.
Beyond the Statue, the Royal Mint Announced a Coin Series
The statue was not the only piece of art that was created to eternalize the iconic moment.
The Canada Post debuted a stamp with a depiction of the iconic moment, and The Royal Mint released a unique coin series that featured an adaptation of the photo.
This Story Showcased the Way the War Impacted the Community
Rob McCullough, a member of the New Westminster Cultural Services Department, noted the cross-cultural impact the photo had on people throughout the world.
The relationship between sons and fathers, the separation of family members, and boundless love are things that we all experience, and this photo captures those intangible elements and how they impacted the community and the rest of the world.
Jack Was Able to See His Son Become a Man
Not only was Jack lucky enough to make it home after the end of the war, but he was also able to see his son grow into a man.
Warren would eventually become the mayor of Tofino, making his father proud.