Freedom is not free.

That message adorns one of the numerous memorials at Whanganui's Queen's Park. And its message was not lost on those gathered there yesterday for the 98th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

"The world seems a scary place right now," said one attendee who did not want to be named. "It's important we remember what war actually means."

About 30 people attended the 11am Armistice Day ceremony, woefully outnumbered by the sea of white crosses flanking them and representing the more than 500 lives sacrificed by the district.


It was especially poignant for 22-year-old German tourist Jeremias Haussecker. "I did not know New Zealand was involved in the war. It is so far away from Europe," he said. He spent time soaking in the names and memorials and was curious about how New Zealanders remembered their fallen. "In Germany people gather and remember the Second World War more than the First."

Resident Hugh McInnes said he was there to remember his grand-dads and to show support for his son, six months into his navy training.

This year's commemoration was promoted by the All Blacks. Players recorded special messages of support for all those who have served New Zealand in all conflict and operations over the past century to draw attention to the commemoration.

Whanganui RSA manager Kyle Dalton said he anticipated a much larger turnout in 2018 and the 100th anniversary commemoration.

St Andrews and former British Army padre Stephen van Os officiated yesterday while RSA president Graeme Paul reminded people of this country's contribution to the First World War - the largest per capita commitment of troops of any Allied nation.