Record turnout for dawn service

Record crowds attended Nelson's dawn Anzac Day parade and ceremony, organisers say.

People gathered on the streets before 6.15am to honour those walking in a parade led by the City of Nelson Pipe Band from Millers Acre to Anzac park.

At the entrance of Anzac park Raina Ferris of Ngati Kahungunu iwi led an emotional karanga welcoming those gathered and remembering those who had been lost.

LEST WE FORGET: Cadet Tom Paine during the dawn service at Anzac Park.
LEST WE FORGET: Cadet Tom Paine during the dawn service at Anzac Park.

It was eight year old Elizabeth Collcutt's first dawn parade.

She was up from Christchurch to spend the school holidays with her grandfather Rod White

They came to remember Elizabeth's great grandfather Alvin White who served in World War II and her great, great grandfather, Alfred Thomas White, who served in World War I.

Alfred fought at the Battle of Messines in Belgium and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery after getting his troops ot safely.

Elizabeth had the medal pinned to jumper with pride.

After the war he returned to the region serving as principal at Brightwater School and surrogate father to Rod who was still a young child when his father left for World War II.

"It's a juxtaposition of how the wars affected the family," Rod said.

He had attended many dawn parades as a child and was pleased to be carrying on the tradition with the next generation.

Elizabeth was bubbling with respect for her grandfathers and said she was "really proud" of them both and had found the service "really interesting".

She was inspired by Garin College student Emily O'Connell's speech and hoped to step into her shoes one day.

O'Connell spoke passionately about her great, great uncle leaving New Zealand shores for what he thought would be an adventure only to perish at Passchendaele in the final year of the war.

O'Connell spoke of the horrors and hardships of World War I not just for the soldiers, but also their families left behind.

"Brave, brutal and bloody," she said to the crowd.

O'Connell said it was an honour to be part of the day's events and the "amazing" service.

Parade Commander and MC Derek Nees led the service. He said later it went "extremely well with the biggest crowd we have ever had" and he was glad weather had held together.

An honoured special guest was Able Seaman Bill Boyle, aged 88, who had served in the New Zealand Navy in World War II and had been to the Solomon Islands, and part of the Battle of the Atlantic in which he said the merchant navy were the true heroes.

When he returned home from the war he was finally able to have a "tot of whiskey" as he had finally reached the legal drinking age of 21.

The Bishop of Nelson Richard Ellena led and finished the service in prayers and blessings and prayed for peace in today's conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

Kaumatua Archdeacon Andy Joseph said a karakia honouring those who had served and followed this with a moving waiata.

The New Zealand and Australian anthems were sung to remember the troops on both side of the Tasman who made up the Anzacs.

Wreaths were lay at the cenotaph by a number of groups, including Nelson College, Nelson College for Girls, the police, the Nelson City Council, Labour MP Maryan Street, and the armed forces.

Former army man Colin Agnew lay a wreath with his son in remembrance of those who had served on behalf of the Patriots Defence Force Motorcycle Club, which is for ex-military personnel with an interest in motorbikes.

He said the service was marvellous and had the largest turnout of any he had attended before in Nelson.

To finish the service the Last Post was played as the New Zealand flag was lowered and Reveille followed as it was raised.

Councillor Ian Barker and Mayor Rachel Reese represented the Nelson City Council at the service.

Barker said it was wonderful to see so many more people attending the service and to see "our Australian brothers and sisters" more involved.

"It is more moving every year and more emotional," he said.