Going by the big crowds that turned out for Anzac Day services across the region it was clear the final line of the traditional ode has taken hold of all ages — "We will remember them".

"It is just marvellous," said Napier RSA president John Purcell after the Napier Dawn Service at the Sound Shell, which took place under clear skies and a brilliant glowing dawn.

Veterans stand to attention among the huge crowd at the Sound Shell service. Photo / Paul Taylor
Veterans stand to attention among the huge crowd at the Sound Shell service. Photo / Paul Taylor

Fair weather across the rest of the Bay also greeted the other 36 services staged throughout the day.

Read more:Hundreds attend Anzac Day services in Central Hawke's Bay
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As has been the growing trend over the past decade, the services attracted all ages, with many younger people proudly bearing medals earned by a father or grandfather.

"It is such a special time for so many people, and it was great to especially see the young, and particularly so many teenagers, turning out," Purcell said.

The Sound Shell grass and colonnade arena was packed and the crowd some put at around 7000 to 8000 also spilled across the nearby Marine Parade.

Thousands also packed the Civic Square cenotaph in Hastings for the Dawn Service and large numbers were reported at the early services in Wairoa and Waipukurau, as well as the highly symbolic service at Lone Pine in Taradale.

Clubs Hastings CEO Jackie Wells was like Purcell — overwhelmed by the turnouts.

Eight-year-old Finn Ballantine-Wooley from Havelock North was deep in thought during the Napier Dawn Service. Photo / Paul Taylor
Eight-year-old Finn Ballantine-Wooley from Havelock North was deep in thought during the Napier Dawn Service. Photo / Paul Taylor

She estimated close to 6000 at the Hastings Dawn Service and said the turnout of several thousand for the mid-morning service at the Havelock North Cenotaph would have been a record.

"Just seeing the numbers at both is so heartening."

The Hastings RSA representative for the Hastings Dawn Service was John Sturgess while Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazelhurst was the guest speaker and delivered a thoughtful and stirring speech.

The guest speaker at the Havelock North service was Margaret Harman, who was a NZ Civilian Surgical Team nurse at Qui Nhon Hospital in Vietnam, and she gave a thoughtful and well received speech, with the young well represented by Havelock North High School students who gave readings, sang and also performed a haka.

Thousands descended upon the Havelock North Cenotaph grounds for the mid-morning service. Photo / Paul Taylor
Thousands descended upon the Havelock North Cenotaph grounds for the mid-morning service. Photo / Paul Taylor

There was also a flyover by Jan White in a vintage Tiger Moth as well as a spectacular release of doves which fittingly took place during the wreath laying.

"Just a very wonderful day," Wells said, delighted to see so many young people turning out.

The young were very much part of the crowds as well as the services across the region.

At the mid-morning Memorial Service at the Taradale Memorial Clock Tower thousands heard a touching speech from Taradale Intermediate student Maia Driver in the form of a letter home to someone who had lost a loved one to battle.

About how the days were long and the fighting savage, but life was made easier by having buddies like the one who had fallen around them.


Taradale RSA president Peter Grant said Maia was chosen after winning her section of the recent schools' Spirit of Anzac Speech Competition, and would set a new tradition at the annual services where the young would speak.

The other guest speaker was Bledisloe School principal Carol Beavis who gave a moving address which revolved around her links with both Anzac countries, having been born in Australia and now living in New Zealand.

World War II veteran Norm Bitters read the Ode of Remembrance and later laid a wreath.

On the young front, students from Iona College, Sacred Heart College and Napier Boys High School featured at the Napier Dawn Service, with Boys High head prefect Connor Molloy stepping forward as a guest speaker.

He told the story of an old boy who served and survived the Great War only to die a year later back home — one of about 9000 victims of the influenza epidemic that swept the land.

"It is so seldom spoken of," he said. "The challenges that still faced New Zealanders after the war had ended."

His speech drew tears.

The other guest speaker, Royal New Zealand Navy Commodore James Gilmour, spoke of how a cruel irony of the Gallipoli campaign was that both sides believed they were fighting defensive wars.

He also spoke of how the mounting losses heading into 1918, exactly 100 years ago, led many New Zealanders to question their beliefs as they were "nearing the end of their endurance".

Although it was seen as the war to end all wars, it was not. Twenty years later the world was at war again, and since then a string of combat callouts including Malaysia and Vietnam had cost the lives of New Zealanders.

"Anzac Day is about remembering them," Commodore Gilmour said.

Purcell, in his service introduction, summed it up simply and sincerely as he paid tribute to the veterans of all campaigns.

"A grateful country thanks you."

He told of how the events of Gallipoli gave the country a sense of pride, spirit and tradition.

Like many families, for Napier couple Crystal and Daniel Bot it was an early start for them and their youngsters Lachlan and Indiana.

Lachlan has turned 7 and has been coming to the Dawn Service with mum and dad since he was just 1.

Crystal said it was a family day and like most families they had a military history.

"So special to see it growing," her husband said. "We will always come to this."