The tradition of firing guns at the end of Anzac Day dawn services has been scrapped by the Defence Force, upsetting Returned Services Association members.

NZDF said it would no longer provide firing parties at Anzac Day services, prompting some RSA branches to try to arrange their own volley fire.

In a letter from NZDF's Heritage, Communication and Protocol Group Anzac support team, RSA branch presidents were told firing parties would not be provided at Anzac Day services from this year onwards.

"Firing parties are a legacy from post-First World War Anzac Day services when the occasions were funereal in nature allowing the public to come together to mourn for family members who would never have a funeral at home," the letter said.


"The New Zealand Defence Force will continue to conduct volley firing at entitled military funerals and at designated sunset ceremonies."

Since Anzac Day commemorations began in 1916, initially to mark the landing of the Australian New Zealand Army Corps [ANZAC] soldiers at Gallipoli in Turkey and later to remember the war dead, a guard or firing party has shot three volleys into the air as part of the service.

Christchurch RSA president Pete Dawson said cancellation of firing parties was disappointing.

"It's strange because we've always considered the Anzac dawn service to be based on a military funeral.

"And we've always had them in Christchurch in the past up until about two years ago. All of a sudden it stopped."

To counter the cancellation the Christchurch RSA formed its own firing party of recent former soldiers who were trained especially and fired volleys last year at Armistice Day commemorations.

However Dawson said police quashed plans to use the firing party of up to eight people this Anzac Day.

"The police here in Christchurch said that if you've got 15,000 people in a reasonably confined space and someone yells out 'gun', there's going to be a stampede but that seems a little bit over the top to me.


"It seems it's safe if a soldier is firing blanks, but it's not safe if an ex-soldier is firing blanks.

"The guys who have trained for it are disappointed. It's a shame really."

Hamilton RSA president Jan Luttrell said "there was some considerable disappointment" over the ending of firing parties because it was an integral part of the Hamilton dawn service.

"I guess we kind of hoped they might change their minds."

Luttrell said the RSA was working with Hamilton City Council to devise an alternative but it's unclear whether they will get permission for their own firing party.

She said the Hamilton RSA was also awaiting confirmation from NZDF for representatives at the dawn service.

"We were hoping for some to march in our dawn parade along with the veterans but we don't know whether that will happen yet, and it's kind of like, three weeks away.

"We were hoping for a platoon."

An NZDF spokesman said the decision to end firing parties was made by the Defence Force's headquarters.

He said there were only two requests for firing parties this year and both were declined.

Last year NZDF provided five firing parties after receiving 41 requests. NZDF could not provide a cost for firing parties.

In the letter to presidents it noted there was limited resources for buglers, chaplains, bands and large formed bodies of troops and requests for these would be considered on the basis of geographic availability and prior commitments.

Auckland RSA president Graham Gibson said Auckland had never had a firing party at its dawn service, the biggest in the country, and he accepted the reasons for them no longer being provided.

Meanwhile he said he would not write Anzac any other way than as an acronym and any direction by anybody to do otherwise was political correctness gone mad.

"The word ANZAC has a special meaning and it defines us as our nation and who we are as a people. It was about baptism of fire as a nation.

"Leave the bloody word alone. It's unique and special. Don't play with it."

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage recommends ANZAC only be used as an acronym when referring specifically to that army corps.