Anzac soldiers remembered at dawn services

8:32 pm on 25 April 2017

The service and sacrifice of New Zealand and Australian soldiers has been marked this morning at Anzac Day services around the country.

Crosses in Christchurch's Cranmer Square to mark those who died in the two World Wars.

Crosses in Cranmer Square, Christchurch, commemorated soldiers who died in both World Wars. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

Hundreds of services were held at dawn - from the large civic ceremonies in major centres, to smaller commemorations in towns and settlements dotted up and down the country.

In Wellington, the forecast rain held off as a substantial crowd gathered at the National War Memorial to hear speakers and sing hymns at the national service.

In her first service as Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy said 100 years ago today, most of New Zealand's troops were serving on the Western Front.

"We can only imagine the thoughts of people attending services in 1917. For the bereaved, an Anzac Day service was the nearest thing to a funeral that their loved ones would ever have," Dame Patsy said.

"For those whose family memebrs were still in action, their thoughts would've turned to what was in store for their husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers."

Bill Mitchell, 104, served in the Pacific Islands during World War Two.

He was proud of the service he did for New Zealand, he said.

World War Two veteran Bill Mitchell, 104, was at the Wellington dawn service.

World War Two veteran Bill Mitchell, 104, was at the Wellington dawn service. Photo: RNZ / Maja Burry

It was a still, clear morning for the huge crowds at Auckland War Memorial Museum, with many young children in the thousands-strong crowd.

Rochelle Abernethy brought her 7-year-old grandson Cooper, who was attending his first dawn service.

It was touching to see the veterans smile at the young people in the crowd, Mrs Abernathy said.

As the sun rose over the city at about 6.30am the flags were lowered and the Last Post sounded, followed by a fly-past by a helicopter from RNZAF Number 6 Squadron.

Crowds gather at Auckland's War Memorial Museum

The country's largest ceremony was held at Auckland War Memorial Museum Photo: RNZ / Joanna Mackenzie

In Hamilton, RSA chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Don Oliver spoke of the sacrifice made by so many in all wars.

He quoted an anonymous soldier who said dying for one's country was not so bad - being forgotten was worse.

As the parade of veterans marched off the crowd applauded.


Hamilton's cenotaph was bathed in red light Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

In Christchurch, Mayor Lianne Dalziel spoke to the thousands of people gathered in Cranmer Square, before wreaths were laid on the cenotaph in the square.

An estimated 5000 people turned out for Dunedin's service.

Meanwhile, New Zealanders attending Anzac commemorations at Gallipoli this year will face "incredibly tight" security after a warning terrorists could target the events.

Queen's Gardens, Dunedin

Queen's Gardens, Dunedin Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer