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Anzac Day's 'thanks and quiet reflection'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/04/2017

Anzac Day has offered the chance for "thanks and quiet reflection" for those who sacrificed their lives in war, as thousands attended dawn services.

Dozens of services were held around the country on Tuesday, the 102nd anniversary of New Zealand and Australian troops' ill-fated landing on Turkey's Gallipoli Peninsula during World War I.

At the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, in front of a sombre dawn crowd of thousands, thanked veterans for their service and commitment to the country.

Australian Secretary of Defence Dennis Richardson paid tribute to all former and current members of the defence force.

"This is a day of thanks and quiet reflection," he said.

"We are reminded of the debt of gratitude to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice."

The crowd was in the hundreds for a second ceremony at 11am, which included an RNZAF flypast by five T-6C Texans.

Prime Minister Bill English quoted an extract from war historian Ormond Burton, who served at Gallipoli but later became a pacifist.

"Men lived in comfortless iron huts, dry and clean, but ugly; in old gun pits that were as ancient as the everlasting war, in which the smoke blackened sandbags were rotting with age, and where the rats of a war generation knew little fear."

The ceremony was attended by representatives of many countries, including Turkey, and a large number of pupils in school uniforms.

In Auckland, about 5000 people gathered at the War Memorial Museum at dawn.

Also present was a casket containing the body of a Vietnam veteran who had died the night before.

Vietnam Veteran's Association spokesperson Eddie Nock said the family was determined that the man, who had been a member of 161 Battery, should be at the service and asked for help in getting the casket there.

"The family were very gracious," Mr Nock told Radio New Zealand.

"They explained what they were here for...and I said, well, let's try and organise it."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the Gallipoli campaign might have failed to achieve its objectives but nevertheless imbued New Zealanders with a new sense of statehood.

The service began with a Maori incantation from Vietnam veteran Robert Newson and was followed by prayers and hymns.

A slightly small crowd attended a mid-morning service at the same venue and Cook Islands Prime Minster Henry Puna were among those to lay wreath at the cenotaph.

During World War I, almost 100,000 New Zealanders, or just under 10 per cent of the country's population, served in units overseas.

More than 18,000 died, while 60,000 were wounded.

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