It may be the most famous Canadian photo of the Second World War.
It has been 80 years since the Vancouver Daily Province published a front-page photo of a five-year-old boy breaking away from his mother’s grasp to run after his soldier father.
Rifleman Jack Bernard was marching off to war as part of a parade by the B.C. Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles) down Eighth Street in New Westminster. The date was Oct. 1, 1940. The iconic photo of the Bernard family saying goodbye captured the sacrifice and separation that Canadian families endured during the war.
The photo, named Wait for Me Daddy, would be featured in Time, Newsweek and Life magazines and used to fundraise for the war effort. B.C. Regiment historians have identified six soldiers in the parade over the years, and now the identity of another of the 1,100 men in line in that photo has been confirmed.
The soldier at the front of the line behind little Warren (Whitey) Bernard, is Harry Campbell, with the strap of his weapon tight across his uniformed chest. His wife, Sophie Campbell, can be seen across from him, behind Whitey’s mom, Bernice.
How did Campbell, a son of Jewish immigrants living in Montreal, and his wife, wind up on scores of commemorative coins, stamps, sculptures and posters? And why hasn’t their story been more widely known until now?
To make a positive determination, the regiment’s historians require the soldier’s wartime discharge papers, military service number and photos. With Campbell’s records recently provided by his family, the regiment’s former commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Archie Steacy, 91, is “just thrilled.”
“We’ve never been able to identify him before,” Steacy said from his home in North Vancouver.
Harry Campbell’s only son, Lawrence, has always known that his father is one of the soldiers in the famous photo.
“The fellow walking erect, that’s my dad,” said Lawrence, now 73 and living in Kaslo.
Famous in own right
When Harry Campbell marched down Eighth Street with his regiment that fall day on the way to war, he was already famous in his own right.
Harry was a star centre for the New Westminster Salmonbellies, a pro lacrosse team. With his skill for scoring goals and his penchant for fighting (104 penalty minutes in the 1937 season), Campbell helped propel the team to win the 1937 Mann Cup, the Canadian lacrosse championship. The victory sparked spontaneous bonfires, parades and overall raucous celebrations in the Royal City 83 years ago.
For beating the Orillia Tigers in the best-of-five tournament, Harry received a gold watch, a framed certificate and a souvenir lacrosse ball. Sportswriters commented on Campbell’s four assists in one game, noting that he “physically collapsed after Game 2,” and highlighted his trademark technique of swinging his lacrosse stick at opponents.
“They didn’t wear helmets or masks in those days,” said Lawrence.
Harry got his start playing professionally for the Montreal Maroons’ lacrosse team for two seasons, and before that had been on that city’s Young Men’s Hebrew Association junior lacrosse team.
As one of five boys and two girls in a Jewish immigrant family, Harry learned to be tough. He was a Golden Gloves boxer and his older brothers used their fists brawling against gangs who they felt were anti-Semitic.
In 1936, at age 29, Harry decided to try his luck at a career other than lacrosse and boarded a train headed west, planning to make his way to Australia and work as a lifeguard. As fate would have it, one of the passengers on the same train was a young woman from Winnipeg who was headed to Hollywood to try to become a star. According to family lore, Harry threw a snowball at Sophie Trasiewick when the train stopped in Banff. He knocked her hat off, and the two quickly fell in love. They were married in 1936 and their daughter, Ardyth, was born in 1937.
The family settled in Vancouver. When the war broke out, Harry joined the B.C. Regiment. The riflemen guarded local military installations until the day in October 1940 when the “Wait for me, Daddy” photo was taken.
On the day, Sophie was there to say goodbye to Harry.
“Something caught my mom’s eye there,” Lawrence said, looking at his copy of the photo. It shows his mother looking to her left as she walks beside Harry. “She was a good-looking person there. They were very happy and together.”
Ardyth, then three years old, missed her chance at the spotlight.
“My sister once told me she wished she was in the photograph, but she had to stay with grandpa,” Lawrence said of his older sister.
“I grew up knowing that was my mother (in the photo) because she told me,” said Ardyth Fenn, now 84 and a retired teacher living in Calgary. “I remember that picture so clearly.”
Three brothers in uniform
When the regiment left New West that day, the soldiers were shipped out to Nanaimo. After nearly eight months, the regiment was posted to Niagara-on-the-Lake for more training and to guard the Welland Canal in Ontario. Sophie joined him there and worked as a civilian in the war effort. Lawrence isn’t sure if completed her training as a registered nurse, but he has photos of her in a nurse’s uniform and she told him she worked with polio patients.
Harry wanted to be sent overseas. (Indeed, he had applied to join the Royal Air Force in London as early as 1935, and had been politely rejected.) But he couldn’t meet the physical requirements due to a severe shoulder injury sustained during a lacrosse game. His “trick shoulder” would dislocate. Harry was posted to Ottawa, where he was a signalman and cryptologist doing intelligence work.
By then, three Campbell brothers were in uniform.
Harry’s brother Lionel wanted to fly planes in the RCAF but his eyesight was poor and he served as an orderly and attendant at air force bases, including in North Battleford, Sask., and later in St. Hubert, Que. He was part of crash crews picking up downed airmen hurt or killed in training.
Selwyn Campbell, known as Solly, was conscripted by a Montreal Army regiment and went overseas late in the war. At first, he carried ammunition for a Bren gun crew, then became a sniper with Montreal’s famed Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment). By the war’s end, Solly had collected 20 bags of wartime souvenirs to bring home but was permitted to take only one on-board the ship home. He gave his sniper’s rifle scope to one of his nephews.
At the war’s end, Harry and Sophie moved back to B.C. and Lawrence was born in 1947. Harry kept his hand in the lacrosse world and was hired as coach of the Native Sons Club in Nanaimo in 1952. He also worked for several years at the Alcan Aluminum smelter in Kitimat. His identity card says he was on the company’s police force.
The couple’s third child, Charmaine, came along in 1955.
In 1960, Harry and Sophie bought the Kaslo Hotel on the shores of Kootenay Lake.
“The Duncan Dam was just going through. They thought they’d make a killing,” Lawrence said of his family’s venture.
Around 1962, the Campbells’ 25-year marriage ended. This wasn’t unusual for many couples who had endured the turmoil and separation of war. Even the Bernards, who figured so prominently in the Wait for Me, Daddy! photo, would divorce before the war ended.
Hundreds came to bid final farewell
After Harry and Sophie divorced, he continued working in the hotel in Kaslo, where he made many friends and was well-known, especially among the truck drivers and lumberjacks who came to the hotel bar to drink.
In 1973, at age 65, Harry died of a heart attack “on the floor in front of me,” Lawrence said.
Harry’s nephew, Eric, son of war veteran Lionel Campbell, travelled from Montreal for the funeral.
“I remember it like yesterday,” recalled Eric, now 66 and a retired curator for the Montreal Aviation Museum. “They closed the city. There were 700 people. The place was packed.”
Although the funeral was held in a church and a Catholic priest officiated, Eric, then 19, was invited to recite the traditional Jewish funeral prayers.
“I pulled out my Magen David (necklace with the Star of David) and a mezuzah (silver case with sacred Jewish prayer scroll inside),” Eric said, remembering feeling the weight of his family’s expectations.
“My uncle was a bit of legend, he was like the go-to guy,” Eric said of Harry’s ability to get along with people, whether it was at the bank, the hotel or the Royal Canadian Legion.
Lawrence says looking at the famous photo he has seen so often makes him think about war, and the sacrifices that all the men on parade on that New West street would make.
“All these people going off … all these young soldiers walking like this. It just never ends and you wonder how many of them never came back,” Lawrence said.
Steacy, the B.C. Regiment’s historian, said 125 men from the regiment were killed during the Second World War.
There are no outward signs on Harry Campbell’s grave in Kaslo to show what religion he followed. That felt right to Lawrence, who said his parents didn’t raise their children to be any religion.
Ironically, 20 years ago, Lawrence felt pulled to explore his own spirituality and became a lay minister in the United Church. For two decades he has been officiating at funerals and acting as the chaplain for the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies at the local Legion. Every year, Lawrence places a poppy on the war monument at Kaslo’s Vimy Park, near the shores of the lake, and also on his father’s grave.
Recently retired from his official clerical duties, Lawrence will pay tribute to his dad’s service again this year, but as a private citizen.
In Montreal, Eric has decorated a shrine of sorts with poppies for Remembrance Day. The display includes his copy of the famous Wait for Me, Daddy! photo and a portrait of his father and two uncles in uniform. As for the photo that made the Bernard family household names during the war, Eric is pleased that his own relatives’ story will now also have a place in the B.C. Regiment’s official history.
An aviation buff, Eric once considered following in their footsteps when he was old enough to join the military. His father Lionel and his Uncle Solly pleaded with him not to.
They told Eric: “We fought the war so that you don’t have to,” he said.