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“Wait for me, Daddy”

For the week of Monday, September 28, 2015

On October 1, 1940, the Vancouver Daily Province photographer Claude P. Dettloff snapped the iconic Second World War photograph “Wait for me, Daddy.” He was in New Westminster, B.C., intending to photograph the men of the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles) marching down Eighth Street. They were to board the ship, SS Princess Joan, to join the war. Just as Dettloff was about to take the picture, a young boy tore away from his mother’s grasp to run after his marching father. Click! He forever captured the mother’s flapping coat, the boy’s eager outstretched hand, and the father’s gentle smile.

“Wait for me, Daddy,” taken by Claude Dettloff, 1940
© Claude Dettloff / Library and Archives Canada / 1940

For Canadians, Detloff’s photo came to symbolize the ties between soldiers and those they left behind. The boy reaching out towards his father represented anxiety over the separation of war, while the marching soldiers embodied Canadian pride and loyalty. For the boy in the photograph, Warren “Whitey” Bernard, that moment was to follow him throughout his life.

The picture was published in the Vancouver Daily Province the next day and gained international fame. During the war, it appeared in magazines such as Life, Liberty, Time, Newsweek and Reader’s Digest, and hung in countless schools in British Columbia. Many years later, Whitey’s wife would joke that she had seen him many times before they actually met.

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Jack and Whitey Bernard’s reunion at the Canadian National Railway station, 1945
© Claude Dettloff / Library and Archives Canada / 1945

The photograph also caught the interest of the government. Whitey was recruited for Victory Bonds drives, which helped fund Canada’s war effort. At public fundraising events, Whitey stood on the stage to say, “When you look at the picture, please think of all Canada’s little boys and girls who, like myself, want their daddies home. That’s why we ask you to put ‘Victory’ first.” His well-rehearsed speech tugged on heartstrings and opened many pocketbooks.

Seventy-four years later, on October 4, 2014, a bronze statue of the scene was unveiled close to where the photograph was taken. Whitey was there, holding his granddaughter’s hand during the unveiling ceremony. The famous photograph was also commemorated as a stamp and on a two-dollar coin.

Claude Detloff's photography artisitically expressed Canadian wartime experiences, much like the work of A.Y. Jackson, Frederick Varley, and Arthur Lismer during the First World War. All three were war artists before forming the Group of Seven, and are designated as national historic persons.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of this photograph. To learn more about Victory Bonds and the war effort at home, read What If ..., The Best Socks at the Front are from Newfoundland, and Off to Work We Go! in the This Week in History archives.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada! As well, click here to learn more about the work of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

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