Janey Jensen and Terry Harris grew up with their grandparents and wanted to remember their war effort at a Whanganui service on Thursday morning.

Both were at the service to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

"It's an honour to be standing here remembering them 100 years on," Ms Jensen said.

Her maternal grandfather Bernard Tamatea Pokaiwhenua Walden, from Kaiwhaiki, was a member of the Maori Pioneers in World War One.

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While at primary school her daughter Saffron researched the Battle of the Somme. Imagining what it would have been like, she wrote a fictitious letter home from a soldier in the trenches there.

Ms Jensen's partner,Terry Harris, had a grandfather who fought in World War One as well.

He came to the service with photographs of his grandad, Thomas Samuel Harris, in his pocket. He also wanted to remember his grandad's two brothers, Jack and Roy, from Sanson and Raetihi.

They also went to fight in the war. Roy was wounded and died later, in New Zealand, of those wounds.

"We're here out of respect for those who have gone before us, and the sacrifices they made," Ms Jensen said.

There were about 18 people at the Cenotaph for the brief service, taken by Whanganui Returned and Services Association president Graeme Paul, Padre Stephan van Os and bugler Mac McCallion.

Mr Paul said the Battle of the Somme was the first major engagement New Zealand soldiers were involved in. It took "a huge toll", with one in seven of the soldiers killed.

Revd van Os gave a prayer for peace and protection, and two wreaths were laid.