25 Apr 2014

Gallipoli bond enduring says G-G

10:07 pm on 25 April 2014

New Zealand's Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae has told thousands gathered at Anzac Day services in Gallipoli that the bonds formed 99 years ago between New Zealand and Australia still endure today.

Services have been held around the world to mark the day when those who fought in war are honoured, from Anzac Cove in Turkey to Antarctica and on an oil rig off the coast of Africa. The latest on Friday was held at Chunuk Bair on the Gallipoli Peninsula - the scene of one of New Zealand's epic stands, with more than 1000 lives lost.

Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae

Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae Photo: GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Sir Jerry told the service he climbed the track from Anzac Cove to Chunuk Bair in 2010 and in doing so followed in the footsteps of his grandfather. He said most of the New Zealanders who died at Chunuk Bair have no known grave.

"Chunuk Bair is a sacred ground for New Zealanders - the ghost of New Zealanders, their blood, their sweat and their tears are here. It has become a byword for valour in our national memory."

Earlier, Sir Jerry told thousands gathered for the Dawn Service on the shores at Anzac Cove that New Zealand and Australia's "histories, peoples and well-being are tightly interwoven. We continue to have close partnerships in security and defence, most recently in our near region in Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands, and further afield in places like Afghanistan and the Sinai."

A smaller-than-expected crowd gathered at Gallipoli for the early morning service on Friday to remember those who served in a military campaign that claimed the lives of more than 120,000 men.

Just 4400 mostly Australian and New Zealand pilgrims turned out ahead of the 2015 centenary commemorations which will see 10,500 people crammed on to North Beach.

Australia's Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson told those gathered that the soldiers who landed at Anzac Cove 99 years ago experienced the true horror of war.

"The men who came ashore along this coastline 99 years ago were, by their own admission, ordinary men. They did not seek glory, nor did they want their actions to be glorified, for it was they who quickly came to know the true horror of war. That these ordinary men have, however, done extraordinary things is beyond doubt."

Some 8700 Australians died during the eight-month campaign alongside more than 2700 New Zealanders. It is estimated that up to 87,000 Turks lost their lives.

Australian Defence Force chief General David Hurley read the Ode of Remembrance:

Sarah Henderson at Anzac Cove.

Sarah Henderson at Anzac Cove. Photo: AAP / NZ Defence Force

Australian Defence Force chief General David Hurley read the Ode of Remembrance:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,

They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

Lest we forget.

Sarah Henderson from the RNZAF band played the Last Post at Anzac Cove and at Chunuk Bair.

Crowd numbers down

The official crowd of 4393 at Gallipoli on Friday is about 1000 fewer than organisers expected and compares with 5200 in 2013. Numbers were thought to be down last year because people were waiting to see if they could secure a ticket to the 2015 centenary commemorations.

However, the 10,000 successful ballot applicants, who will join 500 official guests on the peninsula next year, were only notified earlier in April, meaning those who missed out didn't have time to book a trip in 2014, AAP reports.

Organisers are therefore expecting a spike in numbers in 2016. It is estimated that 10,000 pilgrims attended the 90th anniversary at Gallipoli in 2005.

Counts have been conducted since with numbers subsequently staying high for three years before declining to this year's low.

The head of the Villers-Bretonneux dawn service this week argued that the Western Front is likely to surpass Gallipoli as the focal point of Anzac Day commemorations beyond next year.

But Australia's Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson said while numbers at Villers-Bretonneux had been increasing dramatically over the past few years "the Gallipoli dawn service will be, in my view, a defining day for this nation for a long, long time to come".

US message of support

In an Anzac Day message, the United States praised Australian and New Zealand servicemen and women, past and present. Secretary of State John Kerry said the legacy of the brave and determined individuals who served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front in World War I is extraordinary and enduring.

Speaking on behalf of President Barack Obama and the people of the United States, Mr Kerry said: "We will never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice." The US stands with its Australasian allies with unwavering support as a true friend and partner, he said.

New Zealanders and Australians waiting for the ceremony to begin on Friday.

New Zealanders and Australians waiting for the ceremony to begin on Friday. Photo: AFP