Thousands attend Anzac Day dawn service at Pukeahu park in Wellington video

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff.co.nz

Thousands turn out for the Dawn Service at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington.

When dawn broke in Wellington on Anzac Day, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was covered in poppies left by the people who attended the early service in Wellington.

The Wellington pre-dawn was still and quiet, with not a cloud in the sky.

The sun only peeked above the hills at the end of the dawn service, which added to the solemnity of the 100th commemorations of Anzac Day. 

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Thousands turned up at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, much fewer than last year's record 40,000, but still a large enough crowd to pack out the grass areas and stand united to remember those who had served New Zealand in all of the wars since our country began.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Chaplain Class 2 Anthony Hawes welcomed everyone to the service, including Prime Minister John Key, Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, and Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae.

​"A hundred years ago, there was a call for a national day of mourning and it was answered," he said.

Thousands gather at Pukeahu park for the Anzac Day dawn service.
NZDF

Thousands gather at Pukeahu park for the Anzac Day dawn service.

"And now here we are still gathering 100 years later."

The Governor-General said that New Zealanders would be turning out to services all around the country because of the importance of remembering those who had served the country in all wars. 

The dawn service was one of the most sacred commemorations in New Zealand because that was when the Anzac troops landed in Gallipoli, he said.

Governor-General  Sir Jerry Mateparae speaks to the service about the importance of Anzac Day.
NZDF

Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae speaks to the service about the importance of Anzac Day.

Tribute was also paid to those who had welcomed refugees from war-torn countries to peaceful New Zealand.

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"Our hope is that there will be a time when war and conflict are consigned to history.

"And while this may seem a lofty aspiration, surely it is incumbent on us to pursue it.

Current serviceman in the Anzac Day parade in Wellington.
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Current serviceman in the Anzac Day parade in Wellington.

"We imagine the hardships and horrors of war suffered by our forebears... We commit to a better, safer world for our children and our children's children."

The Ode was read in Maori by Warrant Officer Jack Rudolph and in English by retired Lieutenant Colonel Ron Turner. 

The Last Post and Reveille echoed off the hills, and the large crowd gave a resounding response to the words from Laurence Binyon's poem – "We will remember them".

Dawn in Wellington from the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
AMY JACKMAN/FAIRFAX NZ

Dawn in Wellington from the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

Jesse Garlick and Rosy Herstell, both 23, left their flat on Cuba St and headed to the park at about 3am to get a front row seat on Anzac Square.

They were snuggled up in sleeping bags and had a thermos of tea and lots of snacks to get them through the hours until the 5.30am service. 

Herstell said many members of her family had served in different wars and she had never missed an Anzac Day.

A poppy being placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington
NZDF

A poppy being placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington

Bob Peters is a veteran of four services – the merchant navy, army, navy and air force – and his family have served the country for more than 100 years.

"They've all served from the South African war to the First World War, to the Second World War, to Vietnam and onwards," he said.

"I like that someone from their family is here [at the service] for them."

He served in the four services simply because he wanted to and said he loved every minute.

"It's the comradeship with the people themselves. You go through a lot of learning curves and it wakes you up a bit and forces you to do things that are well out of your comfort zone. 

"Achieving those little things for yourself with those people, that's what really makes it worthwhile."

Current serviceman Corporal Maaka McKinney, who has been in the army for 24 years, said Anzac Day was as important today as it was 100 years ago.

"It's the foundation of what our country is today. As time goes by it's important that we keep doing it," he said.

"It's important that the youth of today learn about what Anzac is, what our grandparents and great-grandparents did in the First and Second World War, and also understand what we are doing today."

 - Stuff

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