The numbers may have been down on last year but there were still several thousand who turned out for yesterday's Anzac Day dawn service.

On an unusually mild autumn day, those who marched to the War Memorial Centre forecourt were encircled by hundreds of others flanking the forecourt in front of the hall and the museum. Still others found vantage points along Queen's Park above the memorial steps.

Yesterday's commemoration marked the centennial of the first Anzac Day service held in the Wairarapa.

Wanganui RSA president Ted Morris said while numbers may not have matched the estimated 10,000 of last year, he was still very pleased with the crowd.

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Throughout the service cloud scudded across a bright moon. Three salvoes from the RNZAF firing party broke the dawn silence, a prelude to the sombre strains of the Last Post.

Mayor Annette Main and Mr Morris led the wreath-laying ceremony, followed by Returned and Services personnel, defence forces, schools and rest homes.

Whanganui City College student Finn Williams gave the address, his speech focusing on the enormity of the casualties from the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

"But this day is not about bloodshed, it is about the people who bravely fought for what they believed in," he said.

He said the casualties suffered on both sides were horrendous. "This is a day when we, as a country, feel great pride in what we achieved in those nine months, rather than hang our heads in remorse of the sacrifice made to achieve them."

Reverend Rosemary Anderson said the reality of combat was that the participants were constantly facing death.

"Those who have never experienced combat can never fully comprehend the toll it takes and that's why it falls to us to remember their sacrifices," Mrs Anderson said. "We stand here in honour of them, as we do every year, to reflect and remember that they gave their tomorrows so that we can have our todays."

And with the singing of God Save the Queen, Advance Australia Fair and God Defend New Zealand, the parade was dismissed. Some headed into the War Memorial Centre for the traditional rum and coffee; others made their way home. But all were reflecting on our nation's special day of remembrance. It was morning. And we did remember them.