Anzac Day still raw as thousands gather

FAIRFAX MEDIA REPORTERS
Last updated 11:26 25/04/2011
Anzac Day
JOHN BISSET/Timaru Herald
LEST WE FORGET: Air training Corp cadet Willem Johnson stands vigil at an Anzac Dawn service at the Cenotaph and war memorial in Timaru.

Anzac Day in Auckland

Anzac Day 2011 dawns in Wellington

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Anzac Day

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Anzac Day traditions, honoured by thousands in bleak and wet weather around the country today, were different in Feilding and Christchurch.

While most remembered the fallen of distant wars in Feilding they recalled four of their own who had died in the last year.

Earthquake battered Christchurch has had to forgo its traditional gathering in Cathedral Square for a less attended service in Hagley Park.

Services were being held around the world. One of the first, after New Zealand, was in Honiara in the Solomon Islands - scene of one of World War II's most savage battles.

Today New Zealanders there are peace keepers, as they are in Dili in Timor Leste where a dawn service will be held later today.

In New York, the annual Anzac celebrations were this year led by New Zealand, attended by 220 people on the rooftop of the British Empire building in the Rockefeller Centre.

Prime Minister John Key is to attend Anzac services in Hyde Park, London, after overnight touring the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery in the north east of France.

Feilding though was at its most poignant.

Three local men, Ohakea airmen Flight Lieutenant Hayden Madsen, Flying Officer Dan Gregory, and Corporal Benjamin Carson, died a year ago today while heading to Wellington for Anzac Day commemorations.

The Iroquois helicopter they were in crashed in farmland near Pukerua Bay.

Miraculously, the fourth man on board, Sergeant Stevin Creeggan, survived with severe injuries.

Iroquois helicopter crews from Ohakea's 3 Squadron flew past a number of services in Manawatu and Horowhenua today as a sign of respect.

Family members of Feilding soldier Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell, who died in combat last August in Afghanistan, were also on hand to pay their respects.

In Christchurch, with the Cathedral still locked within the inner city cordon, only about 2500 residents attended the Hagley Park service which usually attracts more then 10,000.

Vietnam veteran and parade marshal Patrick Duggan has been attending the dawn parade at the cathedral for the past 24 years and said it was sad to break the tradition.

"It would have been great to have it at the cathedral, even just as it stands now, but we had to take safety into consideration."

He said last year's service drew a crowd of about 15,000 Cantabrians and it was disheartening to see only a small bunch gathered today.

"I just don't think people want to leave their homes at the moment," he said.

As he ordered the veterans to begin their march he joked: "What we lack for in quantity we make up for in quality."

Mayor Bob Parker made a special reference to the change in location as he addressed the crowd.

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"We seem to have spent an awful lot of time standing here gathered together in the recent months ... we are in a place we haven't stood before as a service but we are in a place that has special poignancy in light of the recent events," he said.

A cross made by the Australian Urban Search and Rescue team, from the timber of the Christ Church Cathedral, was manned by four military guards during the service.

Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand, Mayor Bob Parker and other officials paid tribute and lay wreaths at the base of the cross.

Auckland's Dawn Service was marred by heavy rain.

A small band of veterans, heads bare to the rain, marched onto the Court of Honour in front of the Museum with a huddle of umbrellas from around 4000 people watching on.

The harsh conditions took their toll on the younger onlookers and ambulance crew dealt with a small procession of people who had passed out in the cold.

No one was seriously ill.

Students from a visiting Turkish high school played a role in planting a cross in the Field of Remembrance.

Last year's service saw both Australian and New Zealand national anthems sung while a new work, Poppy and Pohutukawa, was performed.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Judith Collins commemorated Anzac Day in Auckland and said those who stepped ashore Gallipoli 96 years ago would always be in our memory.

The Anzac spirit between Australia and New Zealand was forged by those men but lived on today, as evident during the recent Christchurch earthquakes and Queensland floods, she said.

"Today is also about acknowledging those men and women who have served our country since Gallipoli, both in times of conflict and peace."

More than 400 defence personnel were currently deployed around the world and should be remembered today also.

"We are eternally grateful to these men and women, and we owe it to them to honour their commitment not only today, but in the future."

In Wellington, a soft rain fell as The Last Post was played but the weather did not deter hundreds from turning out to a dawn service.

Ninety-six years since the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I, there appears to be no chance of the 2721 New Zealanders who died there being forgotten.

The street around the Wellington Cenotaph was packed with young and old by 5.30am.

Turkish Ambassador to New Zealand Ali Yakital said even as we neared 100 years since the  Gallipoli Campaign no Turk, New Zealander or Australian could stand on the Gallipoli Peninsula without remembering the "tragedy and the triumph" that took place there.

"Every year we are looking back on our shared history," he told the crowd.

The year 2015, which will mark a century since the campaign, would be a ''significant'' year for the three countries, he said.

Across the Waikato, RSA clubs reported strong attendance numbers, with crowds swelled by a large turnout of young people.

In Cambridge, 400 people crammed into the Town Hall while a further 200 sought cover outside as the town held only its second indoor service in 20 years.

Hamilton RSA president Len Knapp was pleased by the 5000-strong turnout of people who marched from Knox St to the cenotaph on Memorial Dr.

Despite the rain, Mr Knapp was heartened by the many young people who turned out to show their respects.

"I think everyone, no matter what their ages, knows of someone in the armed services. Today gives us all an opportunity to show them our respect. You get a great feeling when you see a large crowd like this gather."

In Morrinsville, more than 180 gathered at the RSA for a dawn service.

President Wally Pearce said the service was a timely reminder of the perils of war.

''Especially for young people I think today brings home to them that not everything in the world is as nice as it could be.''

At Matamata, crowd numbers swelled to more than 400 while at Otorohanga about 150 gathered for a indoor dawn service.

In Palmerston North several hundred people gathered in The Square.

Veterans, their families and Defence Force personnel were surrounded by hundreds of others while The Last Post was played, flags were raised and guest speakers talked of the sacrifices the men and women of New Zealand and Australia had made for their countries.

Light rain fell during the first of two ceremonies in the city, with umbrellas and rain jackets and poppies prominent.

Rotorua reported on of its biggest Dawn Parades with around at Ohinemutu.

Guest speaker Lieutenant Colonel Graham Vercoe, a son of the celebrated late legendary Anglican Archbishop Whakahuihui Vercoe, retraced steps had had taken on a tour of the battlefields at Gallipoli several years ago.

He found hiking through and over the famous battle fields at Gallipoli a sobering experience as the route took him on a circuit from the landing beach back to the parade ground.

He said he was privileged to be able to follow the paths on which New Zealand solders and Maori servicemen - who were placed into eight patrols according to tribal affiliation - had walked before him.

An illuminated plaque unveiled at Muruiki Cemetery at Ohinemutu last week, lit up six plaques featuring points of conflict at which New Zealand soldiers had served.

In Nelson, more than 3000 young and old people gathered at an emotional ceremony at Anzac Park at dawn to remember those New Zealanders who gave their lives in war.

People arrived early to assemble at the park, watching as a parade of veterans, cadets and members of the public marched in.

- Stuff

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