25 Apr 2011

Thousands attend Anzac services throughout NZ

10:22 pm on 25 April 2011

Thousands of people turned out for Anzac Day services in New Zealand on Monday to remember those who fought and the many who died for their country.

This year marks the 96th anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli beaches during World War I.

Crowds young and old braved rain in most parts of the country to attend services.

The first dawn service was held in Hamilton at the cenotaph in Soldiers Memorial Park at 5.40am, followed by a Ceremony of Remembrance in Wellington.


Turkish ambassador to New Zealand Ali Yakital told those gathered at the Wellington cenotaph he is filled with special emotion for being part of the service marking the 1915 battle at Gallipoli and that great mutual respect has grown out of the horrors of war.

A single shot heralded the beginning of the dawn service after about 100 veterans marched to the monument. About 3000 people attended.

Later, about 300 members of the public and Defence Force personnel gathered outside the National War Memorial for a wreath-laying ceremony.

At the sounding of The Last Post, the New Zealand and Australian flags beside the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior were lowered to half-mast, then raised again, as a bugler inside the memorial played the Reveille.

At the end of the ceremony, foreign dignitaries and war veterans led by Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English laid flowers and poppies on the tomb.

A vigil by personnel from the three armed services was held at the National War Memorial from 6am until 5pm.

Mateship defining aspect of Anzacs

A sea of umbrellas dotted the parade to the cenotaph at the Auckland War Memorial Museum at 5.45am, followed by a dawn service at 6am attended by about 4000 people.

Mayor Len Brown read the dedication and the Australian and New Zealand national anthems were sung. However, an RNZAF fly past had to be cancelled due to the weather.

In Hastings, nearly 2000 people turned out for the dawn service at the cenotaph despite heavy rain.

One of the oldest veterans attending was 91-year-old Pedro de Treend who said he often reflects on the futility of war.

"In the desert it was okay - it was like a game, more or less. But once you got to Europe with all those beautiful buildings and women and children being killed, it just seemed so futile - just a loss. Mind you, (the war) had to be - we had to get rid of Hitler."

Retired Air Commodore John Worden said one of the defining aspects of Anzac was the "mateship" that existed between New Zealand and Australian servicemen.

Mr Worden said there was also mateship between New Zealand soldiers who they looked after each other and sometimes died for their comrades. He told those gathered the qualities of selflessness and a concern for others are precious.

South Island services

In Christchurch, an Anzac service usually held in Cathedral Square was moved to North Hagley Park because of the February earthquake and the destruction in the central city.

About 7000 people attended the service at 7am at a specially-built cenotaph near a lone oak. The park was the scene of the memorial service for those who died in the 6.3-magnitude earthquake on 22 February.

A timber cross made by the Australian Urban Search and Rescue team, which took part in recovery efforts, was gifted to the city and placed on top of the cenotaph.

In Dunedin, a dawn service was held at Queens Gardens at 6.30am.

In Queenstown, more than 600 people marched through the resort town's streets to attend a service in the Memorial Hall.

Ten World War II veterans either marched or were transported in a restored jeep. Many young people also joined the parade, while tourists looked on from their hotel balconies.