Sam Hardy used to join the public in observing the Anzac Day dawn ceremony as a student but to march as a Navy officer in her hometown was pretty special.

The 20-year-old from Whangarei was part of the several hundred Air Force, youth, scout groups and students that marched from Rust Ave to Laurie Hall Park in Whangarei on Wednesday to remember the fallen soldiers.

But even more special for Hardy was that her great-grandfather Des Bourke, 93, fought in World War II in Bougainville and was one of the proud returned servicemen at the dawn ceremony.

Four generations of the family were there, including her mum Toni Hardy and grandmother Robyn Webb.

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Sam Hardy, right, marked Anzac Day with her great-grandfather Des Bourke. Photo / Tania Whyte
Sam Hardy, right, marked Anzac Day with her great-grandfather Des Bourke. Photo / Tania Whyte

Bourke was in the Royal New Zealand Air Force's ground crew in World War II. Hardy, an ordinary rating with the New Zealand Navy in Auckland, came up to Whangarei for Anzac Day because she wanted to be part of the occasion in her home town.

She joined the Navy in July last year and is training to become a communications warfare specialist.

While studying at Whangarei Girls' High School, she took part in a four-day defence careers experience at the Air Force base in Whenuapai and at the Navy base in Devonport, Auckland. The trip motivated her to join the Navy.

Mum Toni Hardy said her family was "super proud" of her, just like they were of their other children.

"She has chosen to go in that direction, not because of my granddad, but the Navy was something she chose to do. She said to me afterwards that it was great to take part in the ceremony with leaders and others from the Navy that came up from Auckland."

Toni Hardy said it was great to see the younger generation showing their respect at the Anzac Day commemoration.

Bourke was born and bred in Whangarei too.