Wairarapa salutes Anzacs at dawn

By Andrew Bonallack editor@age.co.nz -
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Servicemen march from the park entrance, including Epineha Ratapu, 28th Maori Battalion, of Masterton (right, in wheelchair).
Servicemen march from the park entrance, including Epineha Ratapu, 28th Maori Battalion, of Masterton (right, in wheelchair).

More than 2000 people braved a cold and clear dawn service at Masterton's cenotaph in Queen Elizabeth Park for Anzac Day services yesterday, effectively the 100th anniversary since remembrance services began in New Zealand.

At 5.55am, the crowd at the cenotaph parted as the parade marched through the park gates, the precision crunch on gravel of veterans and servicemen and women followed by the uneven steps of scouts, St John personnel, fire crew, school pupils and members of the public.

At the head of the march was the sole surviving member of the Maori 28th Battalion, Epineha Ratapu.

Officiating were Archdeacon Hareata Tahana, Reverend Merv Jones and Masterton RSA president Bob Hill.

Willow Knight, 9, Masterton, was one of the first to arrive at the cenotaph with her father.

She said she came last year, as a Brownie, for the first time, and wanted to attend again.

"My great-great-great grandmother was a nurse," she said. "We learnt about it at school."

War medals and replica medals were in abundance on the right chests of families, while others opted for photographs of their relatives.

After the service, the Masterton Returned and Services Association put on a breakfast and coffee -- with a touch of rum added.

Mr Hill said it was probably a smaller attendance than the 2015 Gallipoli centenary services, a trend that appears to have been similar across the country.

He was impressed by the number of youngsters attending the service.

"It's a whole community effort.

"This community can be very proud of their town."

He said the rum in the coffee was a navy concept, and something he came across while serving alongside the British army in Malaya.

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