We gathered by the thousands on Anzac day to remember them.

The fallen soldiers and the ones who survived but lived a life of torment after witnessing the horrors of conflict were to the forefront of the minds of those who set out before dawn in communities of the east coast Coromandel.

Some 2000 people joined the dawn service at Whangamatā Beach - among the largest gathering yet.

Whangamatā RSA President Geoff March said while many veterans of World War II were "slipping away", there are many younger veterans from Afghanistan and other parts of the world that require and deserve the RSA's support.


He called on the community to join the local RSA.

"If you know of anybody who has served, let us know, as that is why the RSA was formed - to support them."

Royal New Zealand Navy Commander Paul Gray said there were four themes at the service in Anzac Day in 1919: Pride in the bravery and endurance New Zealanders had shown in Gallipoli, the need to heal, the duty the community had towards families who'd lost those who had not returned, and finally to make the world a better and brighter place and seek the good of others and not our own.

"The last one of those themes is especially relevant today as we think about the terror attack in Christchurch.

"As a nation, we are still grieving for those lost and the suffering of families, and also, the knowledge that this kind of crime can happen in our part of the world."

He said we have also seen a resolve and a strengthening of inclusive communities where such hate cannot take hold.

"In Australia today the theme to Anzac Day is 'respect the day' including remembering the sacrifice, honouring the traditions and looking after your mates. I think those are good themes for us too."

On Port Rd Whangamatā, Police officers Kurt Gillbrand, Kala Baker and Shane Doddrell stood in readiness for the Anzac Parade at mid morning - their presence in response to the Christchurch attack.


Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie joined the dawn ceremony and attended the Civic ceremony in Thames afterwards. She reflected in Whangamatā on how fortunate the Coromandel community was to stand and watch such a beautiful sunrise in such a beautiful and peaceful place.

"Take a moment to share this moment with those standing with you on this beach, and think of all those who have gone before. We will never be immune to the conflicts of war and we will always have to strive to defend our freedoms and democracies.

"We must stand shoulder to shoulder with all those that currently serve, and support them and their families."

The dawn event included a rendition of The Last Post and was followed by the song Ake Ake and the New Zealand folk song Tutira Mai Ngā Iwi, which was written for all people to stand as one.

After the service, a breakfast was shared at Blackies Cafe where Whangamatā bach owner Nanette Climo of Hamilton ate among friends and community.

"It seemed so fitting to be here in Whangamatā," she said. "I like going to the smaller community services for Anzac and this service today was amazing."

Nearby, pre-schoolers Aneska and Mikayla Kachelhoffer got to sit inside the Ōnemana Fire Brigade truck parked behind the Whangamatā Surf Club while their dad Jay - who served in the New Zealand Air Force for four years - watched.

"I liked the theme of the flag being returned home to shore," he said. "It was very special."

A full day of events included Scottish band performances and mix and mingle at the RSA, a parade through townships in Tairua and Whangamatā and a trip in the Beach Hop cars for veterans.