The words of God Save the Queen could be heard far and wide as thousands of voices sung the tune to begin Tauranga's civic memorial service yesterday morning.

Little and big voices of all those who came to pay their respects filled Memorial Park as two low-flying jets flew over the service, creating a poignant start to the important ceremony.

A day for the veterans.

Veterans led the parade at the beginning and the end of the service. Photo / Andrew Warner.
Veterans led the parade at the beginning and the end of the service. Photo / Andrew Warner.

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless was the first speaker, welcoming the huge crowds who had turned out and reflecting on the importance of the ceremony.

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He paid tribute to those who fought in the war and in Gallipoli itself, saying that today we reflect on those "who gave their lives so we could be free".

RNZAF Group Captain Carol Abraham said Anzac Day was a time created to show pride for your country, duty to your community and a reminder that we must live to make the world a better and brighter place.

"We no longer have World War I veterans among us and our World War II veterans are thinning, now is the time to honour them."

She said there were 86 fallen soldiers locally who fought in World War I, which was a large number of people from the small settlement Tauranga once was.

Head prefects from Bethlehem College, Misha Nesbitt and Rebecca Bridgman, spoke on behalf of the younger generation. Nesbitt highlighted how New Zealand's relative safety in a generally peaceful nation could make us forget the sacrifice past soldiers made for us.

Two yellow planes did a flyover at the service. Photo / Andrew Warner.
Two yellow planes did a flyover at the service. Photo / Andrew Warner.

Off the back of this, Bridgman said how tragic it was that the nation's safety that veterans had fought so hard for had been "jolted" following the events in Christchurch.

More than 50 wreaths were laid in the wake of the speeches, decorating the cenotaph with an abundance of colour.

Sweet pipe band music created an old-time ambience, perfectly fitting the occasion.

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Tauranga MP Simon Bridges and his young family, along with veterans, nurses, emergency service workers and students, made their way up the stairs to pay their respects.

A poignant moment for all was watching veterans salute the cenotaph as a tribute to likely friends and family who lost their lives fighting alongside them.

National Leader Simon Bridges and family lay a wreath. Photo / Andrew Warner
National Leader Simon Bridges and family lay a wreath. Photo / Andrew Warner

The Ode to the Fallen was read emotionally by Tauranga RSA president Fred Milligan before the Last Post silenced the thousands.

This silence erupted again with the Australian and New Zealand national anthems sung loud and proud, before the final march past to conclude the ceremony.

Many service-goers told the Bay of Plenty Times they thought it was important to see younger generations getting involved with the service.

Training warrant officer in the New Zealand Army, John Harris, who was a part of the march, said the civic service was all about including the children and making them aware.

He said it was extremely important to remember who we were as a nation and pass the knowledge and honour on to the next generation.

More than 50 wreaths decorated the cenotaph. Photo / Caroline Fleming
More than 50 wreaths decorated the cenotaph. Photo / Caroline Fleming

Veteran and president of the Bay of Plenty Officers Club, Des Underwood, who served for just under 60 years, said the service was a part of their "continuity" and a way to pay respect to those who served alongside them.

Alister and Rachel Keam, whose son Elijah marched in the parade, said it was easy to forget what soldiers did for the nation and they felt it was their duty to teach their children about it.

Mother and daughter Michelle and Karen Wharerau said they came down to pay respects as their father/grandfather fought in World War II.

Karen Wharerau said they come every year to lay their poppies and as the country was losing its World War II veterans, it was more important than ever to thank and respect them.

Alister and Rachel Keam with their children Amber, 12, Elijah, 10, Bethany, 7, and Samuel, 5. Photo / Caroline Fleming
Alister and Rachel Keam with their children Amber, 12, Elijah, 10, Bethany, 7, and Samuel, 5. Photo / Caroline Fleming