25 Apr 2012

Australians honour soldiers at dozens of services

1:37 pm on 25 April 2012

Thousands of Australians have stood shoulder to shoulder at Anzac Day dawn services, united in remembrance and respect for the nation's generations of diggers.

The term was coined in the gold fields of Australia and came to typify the horrific experiences of Australian soldiers in battlefield trenches across the world.

At services in every capital city, and dozens more in the smallest Australian communities, people turned out to mark the 97th anniversary of the day Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli in 1915.

At Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, in the cold and the rain, Afghanistan veteran Colonel Jason Blain said Anzac Day was about honouring the old Anzacs, but also the new.

"They're the ones with the responsibility to protect all that our nation holds precious," he said, of the 3000 personnel current serving overseas.

In Adelaide, RSL spokesman Bill Denny told a dawn service all Australians must never forget the true horror of war.

In Sydney, with no surviving WWI diggers to commemorate Anzac Day, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the men and women who served in that conflict joined thousands at the Cenotaph in Sydney's Martin Place for the dawn service.

A prayer for the troubled world opened the service and the assembled were asked to think of those in active service in Afghanistan, the Middle East, East Timor, the Solomons and Southern Sudan.

In Canberra, at the Australian War Memorial, Salvation Army Lieutenant Colonel Philip Cairns spoke of the sobering thought that occurs to every digger.

"Would they be prepared to die for their country? All too often in our history the answer to this question has had to be yes," he said.

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Governor-General Quentin Bryce will attend a service in Gallipoli itself.

They will be joined by the thousands of young Australians, including Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, who travel to Turkey each year in what has become a national rite of passage.