Awesome Pictures: Wait for me, Daddy

British_Columbia_Regiment_1940

What is it:

Wait for me, Daddy is one of the most famous Canadian pictures of the Second World War. It was taken October 1st, 1940, in New Westminster, British Columbia by Claude Dettloff.

Why is it Awesome?

This is Remembrance Day, and it’s the only day that I celebrate for the reason it’s on the calendar. This long column of men was the British Columbia Regiment (the Duke of Connaught’s Own), an armoured reconnaissance unit, marching to war. The little boy wasn’t the only one who saw his father leave. Three and a half years after this photo was taken, this unit suffered enormous casualties at Hill 195 in Normandy. The regiment made its way to the wrong hill in the dark and and found itself surrounded by German armoured units on adjacent hilltops. They lost all their vehicles in the dawn action that followed, although the boy’s father did survive the war.

Canadian_tank_and_soldiers_Vimy_1917My generation has never been called upon to serve as our grandfathers and great grandfathers did, and that is a priceless gift. In the First World War, Canada was a nation of only six million people, yet we put 600,000 men in uniform. 67,000 of them died, and another 173,000 were wounded. In the Second World War our twelve million citizens fielded an armed forces of 1,100,000, with 45,000 dead and another 54,000 wounded. We ended the war with the third largest navy in the world, having begun with only six obsolete destroyers. That’s two generations of unlimited potential invested in a worldwide conflagration. Winning made us the country we are today, and insured a world where such a war will never be fought again. That is a debt I can never repay, but I can honour the sacrifice and the commitment that went into it.

Bodies_of_Canadian_soldiers_-_Dieppe_RaidMy family served in both world wars. In fact, if my great great uncle Henry had not been gassed in Flanders, my grandparents would never have met: He was a Windsor native, but the humid air was too much for his war ravaged lungs, so he was sent to the clear, cold air of Muskoka by his doctors. There he met my grandmother’s family, and that’s how my grandfather and grandmother met. My grandmother’s brother, great uncle Pip, was killed on the beaches of Dieppe. My grandfather is deaf in one ear because of a burst eardrum from a salvo from the HMS Norfolk off the D-Day beaches.

NormandySupply_edit

Look at the resources that those before us committed. Years of their lives. The concerted effort of every facet of a nation’s industry and commerce. Everyone at home lived on rations. You couldn’t get gasoline or sugar or chocolate or nylons without great effort. Everyone had a garden in the back yard. There were drives for scrap metal and rubber and animal fat for the war industry. Two generations didn’t get a chance to go to university, so that their children and grandchildren would be better off. Tens of thousands of Canadian lives were cut so short that at twenty-six I am already older than most of the dead.

Wearing a poppy is the least I can do. Taking my hat off when I pass a cenotaph is the least I can do. Whatever they did, just being alive at that point in history made them contribute to a better future. When I see a veteran, I thank them sincerely, and I listen to whatever they want to tell me. The vast majority of them look at my youth and talk about the opportunities that stretch out before me. That is the legacy they built.

Remembrance Day doesn’t stop at 1945, or even Korea. There’s a war on right now in Afghanistan. I knew the hundredth dead soldier. I know several others who have served their country there. My cousin is in the Reserves. Remembrance Day is about honouring the sacrifice of young men and women who dedicated themselves to making Canada what it is today. That’s what this picture means to me.

One Response to Awesome Pictures: Wait for me, Daddy

  1. […] When I do, I will. Remembrance Day is something I take very seriously, as I have written here and here. I urge everyone to think long and hard about the sacrifices made in years and lives so that you […]

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