Anzac spirit alive in Australia

The statue of a soldier at The Cenotaph Martin Place in down town Sydney. Photo / AFP
The statue of a soldier at The Cenotaph Martin Place in down town Sydney. Photo / AFP

Australians have proved the Anzac spirit is alive and well, with huge numbers attending dawn services across the country, as the centenary of Gallipoli nears.

Tens of thousands of people stood motionless in the darkness to remember their fallen countrymen and women as they marked the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915.

More than 30,000 attended the service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, a large increase on previous years, while some 40,000 packed the lawns beneath the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, and thousands filled Sydney's Martin Place.

In Brisbane, more than 18,000 people overflowed from Anzac Square eager to be close despite organisers asking for people to watch it on screens in King George Square.

The Anzac spirit has been credited for helping Tasmania through its worst bushfires in 50 years, during the dawn service in Hobart.

And across the Tasman, rain could not deter thousands from gathering at the cenotaph in Auckland Domain for New Zealand's biggest dawn service.

In Canberra, Victoria Cross winner Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith made a moving tribute to one of his fallen mates, reciting the words of the teenaged son of Matthew Locke, killed in action in Afghanistan's Chora Valley in 2007.

"Whenever something challenges me and I think of giving up I can feel dad looking down on me cheering me on. His death left a hole in my heart but his spirit has given me the motivation to push myself further than ever before," wrote Keegan Locke.

Like many dawn services around the country, the service at the Australian War Memorial featured some innovations, among them readings of accounts of Afghanistan by Australian servicemen and their families.

The names of iconic Australian battles were flashed onto the side of the Memorial building, and images of Australian men and women taken in more than a century of conflict.

A video featuring Australian diggers fighting at the Somme in France during World War I was played in Adelaide, marking a departure from the traditional service that has been attended by growing crowds in recent years.

Tim Barrett, Commander Australian Fleet, told the thousands packed into Martin Place in Sydney the Anzac spirit continued to inspire Australian servicemen and women in current conflicts across the world.

"It is this Anzac spirit that shows us not who we are intrinsically as Australians but who we want to be as a nation," he said.

Vietnam veteran Col Kelson has attended the dawn service in Sydney for 28 years.

"Why wouldn't you come," the 64-year-old said.

"Let's face it, there's lots of blokes that aren't; never had the opportunity to be here today.

"It's all about them."

- AAP

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