Thousands attended Whanganui's dawn service on Wednesday morning.

It is 103 years since New Zealand and Australian troops landed at Gallipoli and just months out from the 100th anniversary of armistice.

From 5.10am a parade marched from the top of Queen's Park winding down to the War Memorial Centre.

The crowd filled to forecourt back to Watt St while people found spots along the banks of the park and the steps of the museum.

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Wanganui Collegiate head boy Hayden O'Leary spoke at the service and said we should remember not just those who died in war but those who returned damaged.

"I feel it is too easy to forget," he said.

"They were so damaged by the injuries and experiences that they were never the same. They still gave their all to the cause."

O'Leary said he believed the New Zealand soldiers sacrificed in the name of love.

Reverend Rosemary Anderson said 100 years ago World War I was in "the final months of a conflict so bloody, terrible and extensive that it totally changed the concept of war".

Thousands attended the Anzac Day dawn service at the Whanganui War Memorial on Wednesday morning. Photo/ Lewis Gardner
Thousands attended the Anzac Day dawn service at the Whanganui War Memorial on Wednesday morning. Photo/ Lewis Gardner

She reflected on the past four years commemorating the anniversaries of various aspects of World War I from its commencement to Gallipoli, the Somme, Passchendaele and this year's Armistice Day centenary.

"Here in New Zealand we enjoy a freedom that is the envy of many. But freedom is not free. It has been purchased at a terrible price, the price of men's blood."

Anderson said while the Treaty of Versailles signed following the war aimed to secure lasting peace, its stripping of Germany "fanned into the flames of World War II".

"As the war weary and shell-shocked troops made their way home, little did they realise that in 20 years' time their own children would be in uniform as the world once again was spinning wildly into war."

Waitangi Potaka-Osborne Milner-Skudder, 5, tucks into a cracker after the dawn service. Photo/ Lewis Gardner
Waitangi Potaka-Osborne Milner-Skudder, 5, tucks into a cracker after the dawn service. Photo/ Lewis Gardner

She said lessons from that were learned at the end of World War II.

"The vanquished were not crushed underfoot but restored as vibrant and prosperous allies."

Wreaths were laid by dignitaries including Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall, MP Harete Hipango and Te Tai Hauauru MP Adrian Rurawhe.

A 6am flyover wrapped up the dawn service with the public invited into the War Memorial Centre forum rum and coffee or tea.

Rum and coffee was served at the War Memorial Centre following the dawn service in Whanganui. Photo/ Lewis Gardner
Rum and coffee was served at the War Memorial Centre following the dawn service in Whanganui. Photo/ Lewis Gardner

Services around the district are planned for later this morning at St Mary's Church (9am), All Saints Church (10am), Maxwell (10am) and Brunswick (10am).

A service for 28 Maori Battalion will be held at 11am at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre.