November 10, 2021

New Westminster 1940: Province Photo of Soldier & Son Becomes Iconic Image

In British Columbia in the 1940’s everyone knew this photo.

This was photographed in New Westminster British Columbia on October 1, 1940 when the British Columbia Regiment Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles marched out of town.  The troops were shipped to a training camp on Vancouver Island and then railed across Canada and sailed to England for active duty.

3ba5163c-110d-4bbf-9bff-5b54178dfe0b-A31811.jpg (2332×3000)The little boy saw his father once in 1943 and then not again until 1945. The parents did not stay together after the war, and the boy, Warren Bernard who is now in his 80’s, wonders whether they would have stayed together if the war had not happened.

This image was photographed by a Vancouver Province photographer Claude Dettloff and was later picked up by LIFE magazine. It became one of the most known photographs during the Second World War, and was displayed in every school in British Columbia.

For many it symbolized what the war did and what it was about: the splitting of families, of lives, of familial contacts with children. In this CTV interview by Kevin Drews, Mr Bernard had stated

That’s probably the last time we were together as a nuclear family, as they put it today,” said Bernard in a recent telephone interview from his home. “We were never together again as a family after that moment.”

Mr. Bernard now lives in Tofino and was part of the ceremony unveiling a memorial sculpture based upon the photo which is located at Eighth Avenue and Hyack in New Westminster. Sculpted by Veronica de Nogales Leprevost and Edwin Timothy Dam, it is different from many works memorializing war as it stresses the impacts on families  and the uncertainty of the return of soldiers, who were also beloved family members.

The YouTube video below highlights a conversation with Mr. Bernard talking about how the war shaped his young life. The photo has also been featured on a stamp and on a coin.

Image: VancouverArchives

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