Interest from Northland's youth will ensure that New Zealand's war dead will never be forgotten, Whangarei RSA Trust chairman Archie Dixon says ahead of Anzac Day on Thursday.
With two days to go before the country remembers New Zealand's soldiers on Anzac Day, Mr Dixon is expecting huge crowds at Laurie Hall Park's Field Of Remembrance.
The Field of Remembrance contains around 500 white crosses and by Thursday most, if not all, will have a photograph and write up on one of the district's war dead, placed by family members, friends or loved ones.
Mr Dixon said since the Whangarei RSA instigated the first Field of Remembrance (in 2010) in the country, numbers turning up for Anzac Day were increasing.
He said more than 200 young people from around the district took part in a ceremony to honour local service men killed in war by putting the white crosses in place in Laurie Hall Park earlier this month, and that involvement would ensure that "We Shall Not Forget" remains true.
Mr Dixon said the white crosses were an effective visual reminder of those who had fallen in war. "Before 2010 and the establishment of the Field of Remembrance it was common practice to get 3000 to 4000 to Anzac Day commemorations at the Cenotaph in Rose St," he said.
"But since the Field of Remembrance there's been 6000 to 9000 people coming here to remember our war dead in Laurie Hall Park. It will be increasingly poignant for us when we relocate the Cenotaph from Rose St to an appropriate place in Laurie Hall Park in the future."
Mr Dixon said the Field of Remembrance would be held every year until at least 2018, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War between 2014 and 2018, and he said it was encouraging that so many young people were continuing to keep the day alive. He said the 100th anniversary of New Zealand and Australian troops landing at Gallipoli in 2015 would be particularly moving for the RSA.
As if to illustrate his point about youth interest, as the Northern Advocate was talking to Mr Dixon at the Field of Remembrance a group of three to four-year-olds from nearby Educare North childcare centre were visiting the crosses.
Educare North worker Teri Dunsbee said the youngsters were interested to find out more about the crosses and what they meant.
"They have some questions about it so we thought we'd come down so they could learn more," she said.