Gumboots and gun salutes

JIMMY ELLINGHAM, JILL GALLOWAY, MATHEW GROCOTT AND ZARYD WILSON
Last updated 12:00 25/04/2013

92 year old WWII veteran Pat Hickton gears up for the dawn service in Palmerston North.

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Early morning downpours halted fleetingly as the Anzac Day procession beat a new path to The Square's cenotaph for Palmerston North's dawn service today.

Marchers made their way to the town centre from the Cosmopolitan Club, after the closure of the city's RSA late last year, as a couple of thousand people, including many children, defied the wet conditions to slip out of bed before first light.

The low cloud cancelled a planned 6am flyover from airforce Iroquois helicopters, so all that could be heard on the hour was the chink of umbrellas closing and clump of gumboots and heavy shoes on the soaked ground.

Bill Yates, of Palmerston North, looked on while thinking of his two uncles who served in World War II in the air force and British merchant navy respectively.

He said he enjoyed coming to the dawn service every year.

Jordahna Albert, also of Palmerston North, shared that sentiment.

Her parents are both ex-army and her father served in Singapore and Sinai, Egypt.

"I've come just about every year since I was kid."

The service began with Mike O'Connor, of the Returned and Services Association, reminding everyone that 98 years ago today, Kiwi troops landed at Gallipoli, Turkey, for what turned out to be bloody and brutal campaign for allied forces.

It was also 70 years since New Zealand entered the Pacific theatre in WWII.

Rev Jenny Watson then gave a "special welcome" to anyone attending their first dawn service and said it was great to have so many families turn up.

As naval officer and RSA member Lieutenant Commander David Leese began speaking, the five-minute window of calm weather closed and the voices carried by The Square's loudspeakers had to compete with the din of rain beating down on the sea of open-again umbrellas.

Mr Leese spoke about the Kiwi troops who died overseas, paying tribute to them and those who were still with us.

He also noted the recent withdrawals of New Zealand soldiers from East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.

As many groups laid wreaths at the war memorial, the brass band played Amazing Grace.

Rain soaked soldiers who had stood motionless to attention for almost half an hour, then fired a three-gun salute before RSA patron Arthur Lockwood recited the Ode of Remembrance.

"They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old . . . We will remember them."

A lone bugler played The Last Post and Reveille before the veterans and their families marched off.

Many people stayed to read and photograph the names etched into the war memorial, while others sloshed away home.

Palmerston North Korean War veteran Rob Ware, 76, who served for six years from 1953, was heading back to the Cosmopolitan Club.

"I'm one of the older-timers . . . I'm heading back for a rum and coffee."

About 1000 people gathered at the Feilding's war memorial in Manchester Square for the town's half-hour dawn ceremony, punctuated by a lone helicopter flying over half way through.

Feilding High School pupil Lauren Harrigan gave a speech about how it was important to remember all veterans, not just those who lost their lives in Turkey in 1915. Afterwards, there was time for a catch-up and breakfast at the Rangitikei Club.

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In Levin, overnight rain stopped in time for the town's dawn service, which was attended by more than 500 people. Fewer than 50 veterans marched from the town's RSA to the cenotaph for the service, the start of which was punctuated by a flyover from a lone air force helicopter.

Levin RSA president Les MacDonald told those gathered it was the 59th time the Horowhenua town had held a dawn service to remember those who died defending New Zealand.

"As the dawn is about to pierce the night let their memory remain with us," he said.

Hundreds braved steady rain in Marton for the march from High St to Marton Memorial Hall.

Rangitikei Mayor Chalky Leary, along with representatives from local schools, police and many other groups laid wreaths on the war memorial to the sound of a constant drum roll.

Nga Tawa Diocesan School chaplain and returned servicewomen Amy Houben said it was her son's first Anzac day.

"It is important that our children understand why we commemorate Anzac day," she said.

"I hope young people come to understand what terrible tragedy war is."

Marton RSA president Duncan Hart told the gathering he was grateful for the presence of young people in the crowd.

- Manawatu Standard

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