Anzac Day services mark 100th commemoration 3 minutes ago

UPDATED: 7.38AM Thousands gather for Anzac Day services around the country including scores of men and women in uniform.

Today marks the centenary of the first commemoration of Anzac Day on the distant shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Defence Force staff will attend more than 300 events, including the national commemorations in Wellington, where a vigil guard will form at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

In Auckland this morning men, women and children of all ages began arriving as early as 4:30 on the floodlight museum forecourt.

Daniel Smith got up at three this morning to make his way from New Lynn to Auckland Domain for the dawn service.

He’s been attending for the past 16 years.

“I have no connection at all. I’m Polynesian. It’s just out of respect for those who have given their lives, that’s all.”

Aucklanders Bruce and Jean MacQueen said it was an especially poignant occasion.

“We both have family members that have fought and now out two children are singing in the Auckland Youth Choir.

“My granddad was in Egypt. I can’t put into words what this morning means,” said Mrs MacQueen.

The dawn service began with a karakia from Vietnam veteran Miki Apiti.

He said Anzac Day commemorations are very different now to those when he first came back from the war.

“It’s awesome. It’s really awesome to see the amount of people. There’s over a thousand, I would imagine, that’s here today.”

Chaplin Dr Leon O’Flynn offered prayers saying there’s no greater testament of love than when a life is given for another. 

He honoured their sacrifice and prayed fallen soldiers will be remembered as family members and friends  – not just an abstract memory.

Two Rangitoto College students read an Anzac dedication. One student is on exchange from a Turkish school.

The Turkish teenager said the importance of the message hit home as he spoke to the hushed crowd.

Istanbul exchange student Yigit Can Kaya said he only discovered yesterday he would be addressing the large gathering.

But as he stood on the outdoor podium facing the memorial cenotaph he cast his mind to those young men who had lost their lives in war from his school.

“Taking part and the certainly made me think about the students from our school who fought and died and it made me think it could have been me,” said Mr Can Kaya.

The 18-year-old, who has just arrived in the country for a two week-long exchange at Auckland’s Rangitoto College, said he was honoured to be selected for the role alongside fellow college student Isabel Corbett.

“I will never forget this day,” said Mr Can Kaya.

” I will watch this footage 10 years from now and look back.”

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said it is a special, emotional day saying the importance of young for Anzac has not diminished but continues to strengthen as evidenced today. 

Mr Brown said in the poignant dawn light we remember the bravest of the brave and express the deepest appreciation for their acts of valour.

The mayor lay a wreath at the foot of the cenotaph.

The lights were then lowered before The Anzac Ode is read first in Maori by Mr Apiti and then in English followed by the Reveille played on the bugle.  

A massed youth choir performed the stirring hymn “I vow to thee, my country” followed by both the New Zealand and Australian national anthems.

As the New Zealand national anthem is sung the first rays of morning light peak through the canopy of cloud.

Auckland War Memorial Museum is staying open this morning, and offering free guided tours around its galleries.

There’ll be a poppy badge making workshop for children, a poetry competition and a poppy inspired dance by local seniors.

WELLINGTON 

Wellington’s Pukehau National War Memorial held the Anzac Dawn Service where thousands also attended.

A canon was let off to mark the beginning of the service.

Governor General Sir Jerry Matepere spoke at the service.

“Up and down the country memorial big and small, New Zealander will be attending..

“Australians and New Zealanders willl gather at other places around the world at Dawn “It’s a sacred ritual,” he said.

He continued saying New Zealanders engaged in war, 40 years after the land wars.

One hundred and one years after ANZACs landed, there was a renewed interest in family genealogy.

Let us remember them, he ended.

A wreath was then laid by Sir Matepere, Lady Janine Matepere, the Australian High Commissioner and Turkey ambassador Yesim Say.

A prayer is said: “We thought of those who lost their lives in war and conflict. We pray we may do our duty without fear and favour to fight for justice…

“To all assembled go forward into the world with peace.”

John Key has also attended this morning’s service in Wellington.

“It’s great to see so many New Zealanders from one end of the country to the other to commemorate Anzac Day and particularly pleasing increasing numbers of young people as they take an opportunity to reflect on our history but also to consider our future.”

To commemorate 100 years of ANZAC,  Wellington resident Fay McGregor took an old army blanket and attached poppies to it last year.

The words “Least we forget” is also embroidered in.

“It was a really lovely service this morning.

“Last year was really special.”

Her husband’s great grandfather served in Second World War but was tragically killed. 

Graham McColl’s father and his father’s three brother’s all fought in the First World War.

Mr McColl has attended the dawn service for the past eight years to remember his family who fought the war.

One of Graham’s uncle died but the rest survived, he said.

His father later went to England and was a war pensioner for the remainder of his life.

He proudly wore his father’s war medals on his right-hand side.

Mr McColl also wore his Order of Merit medal he gained for his services to hospitality at Waikato polytechnic on his left-hand side of his coat.

“It gives me an opportunity to remember my family every year and for the medals to be displayed,” he said.

New Zealand Army soldier Tu Phillips bought his son, Rawiri to the dawn service.

Being one-month-old, it was Rawiri’s first service, and he was dressed just like his dad, complete with his dad’s medal attached to his camouflage shirt.

“Yeah we’ll be taking him to the dawn service every year.

“My dad served in the army in the infantry regiment and I’m wearing his medals as well as mine,” said Mr Phillips.

A wreath laying service will be held at 9am at the Cenotaph Precinct, followed by the full National Commemoration at Pukeahu at 11.

The Ataturk Memorial Service will be held at 2.30 this afternoon at the Ataturk Memorial site at Tarakena Bay.

And at 5.30 this evening the Last Post Ceremony will be held back at the National Memorial, followed by a light and sound show remembering the First World War. 

HAMILTON

The rain and drizzle has held off as the thousands of locals remembering those who lost their lives stood and gathered at Memorial Park.

The role of cavalry horses in war are to be be remembered at this morning’s commemorations in Hamilton.

Mayor Julie Hardaker said 25 horses are joining the parades.

“10,000 horses went from New Zealand and fought and only four returned. Some remained in Europe but many of course were killed or injured.”

Julie Hardaker said it’s fantastic to see more Hamilton residents attending the services each year, including young families.

She said people of all ethnicities attend Anzac Day services, reflecting the city’s diversity.

“And I think that’s really important as well. Anzac Day is to commemorate all conflict, and many people who come and resettle in New Zealand come from a place of conflict, so I guess it has a special meaning for them as well.”

CHRISTCHURCH

More than 1600 white crosses have been placed in the square, representing the number of Cantabrians so far killed in the war a century ago.

There will be hundreds more at next year’s service, in memory of those killed on the Western Front in 1916, especially at the infamous Battle of the Somme.

Thousands gathered in Christchurch’s Cranmer Square for the dawn service.

Second World War veteran Bill Mitchell, 103, lead a march by returned and service personnel from the Christchurch Returned and Services Association (RSA) on Armagh St.

Mr Mitchell, who served with the RNZAF as an aircraft engineer in the Pacific, will be driven in a US jeep at the head of the parade alongside the New Zealand Army Band. 

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel welcomed the large crowd and urged them to remember those who gathered a century ago and to share in their sense of loss.

Denise Pearce is in the crowd at Cranmer Square, wearing her father’s medals.

“It’s very important. This is the 70th year I’ve been to dawn parade. Mum brought me as a baby.”

New Zealand Army Band got a round of applause after performing Dave Dobbyn’s Welcome Home which was sung at Chunuk Bair at last year’s centenary commemorations at Gallipoli.

Warrant Officer Jamie Osbourne gave an emotional address on behalf of Australia remembering all service people during all wars and conflicts of the last century.

GALLIPOLI

Thunder, lightning and rain are greeting New Zealanders and Aussies trooping in to the Anzac commemoration site on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Open air seating has been set up for the dawn service, which takes place this afternoon New Zealand time.

Numbers are expected to be well down on last year’s centenary commemorations, with one estimate putting the expected crowd at only around 1000.

Authorities at Gallipoli are reported to have increased security tenfold, after receiving threats.

People who do get there will face airport style security screening.

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Seven Navy vessels are today visiting their home ports.

The HMNZS Otago and Wellington will be in the harbour of their namesakes.

The Rotoiti will be in Whangarei, the Hawea in Tauranga, the Manawanui in Whitianga, while the Te Kaha and Endeavour will be at home in Napier.

The Navy said the visits will give people a chance to find out more about its work and how it contributes to the country’s security and prosperity.

Air Force fly-pasts have marked the end of Anzac Day dawn services across the country.

An Orion flew low over the heads of a huge crowd at Auckland Domain…our reporters in Christchurch and Dunedin have also seen very large turnouts.

Defence Force soldier Mark Pullen said it’s truly gratifying for service personnel to see so many people paying their respects.

“It just means everything, especially to the wider community of all the military, so Navy Air Force and Army.”

Defence Force personnel are also attending services in France and Belgium, and at Gallipoli.

Staff deployed all around the world will pause to mark Anzac Day, including an Air Force squadron in the United States on exercise.