Thousands turn out for Anzac dawn service
More than 12,000 Cantabrians gathered at Cathedral Square for the Anzac Day dawn service this morning, in remembrance of those who had made "the supreme sacrifice'' for their country.
Veterans, families and many others came out on a cold and cloudy morning, paying tribute to New Zealanders and others who have served in conflicts since the Boer War.
The crowd watched respectfully as hymns were sung and dedications made to the soldiers, before wreaths were laid at the Citizens' War Memorial.
Speaking at the start of the ceremony, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said Anzac Day was the "most sacred day of the year'' for New Zealanders. Parker said the day was a chance for all people to recognise the sacrifices made by New Zealand soldiers.
"No matter where you are from or what language you speak, what we have in common is a debt of gratitude to those who we commemorate today.''
Corporal Ralph Cruywagen, a New Zealander serving in the Australian army, read out an Anzac dedication on behalf of the people of Australia.
The crowd's attention was also drawn to the sky during the service, as a DC-3 aircraft made two passes over the Square.
Christchurch RSA president Russell Barron said after the service that he was ``happy and humbled by the support from the citizens of Christchurch''.
A rough head count from council events staff had put the crowd size at between 12,000 and 14,000, which Barron said was larger than expected.
He was pleased to see the large number of young people and youth groups who came to pay their respects, which he said boded well for the future of Anzac Day.
"Once you've been to [an Anzac Day service] and if it's a good one like today you'll always remember it, and you'll keep coming back.''
The dawn service is the first of many commemorations being held around Canterbury today to mark Anzac Day.