Crowds turn out in force for Anzac Day services

Record numbers of people attended Anzac Day dawn services in St George and Sutherland Shire this morning, particularly many families with young children, showing the enduring power of the Anzac legend.

An estimated 5000 people attended Miranda RSL Sub-Branch’s Anzac dawn service at the war memorial in Seymour Shaw Park.

They watched about 200 veterans take part in the annual march led by St Patrick’s College Band.

Miranda RSL Sub-branch president Bruce Grimley said it was wonderful to see so many of the shire’s young people attend the service which marked the 97th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli.

‘‘As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin and the fall of Singapore, it is especially important to remember the Second World War veterans who carried on the Anzac legend,’’ he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Ray Brennan gave the commemoration address, speaking of the Anzac spirit that was born on battlefields around the world and that has become part of all Australians.

‘‘The spirit of Anzac lives on in the schools and sporting fields and the way we live our lives,’’ he said.

More than 200 people braved the cool temperature this morning for Club River’s Anzac Day dawn service.

Young and old donned rosemary branches and held electronic candles for the 5.30am service to remember those who fought and died for the country.

Riverwood Sub-branch president Dick Matthews, who was part of the Australian Defence Air Force from 1951 to 1960, led the service.

His opening address reflected on the people of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps fighting for freedom and justice.

‘‘We remember their comradeship, their steadfastness, and their desire to serve their fellow men,’’ Mr Matthews said.

‘‘It is fitting also that we remember those men and women who gave their lives in other conflicts, in the hope that their sacrifice might lead to lasting peace.’’

Australian Air League Riverwood cadet Jake Bailey, 8, was invited to lay a wreath at the memorial during the service.

This was the first time he attended a dawn service and the earliest he had ever woken up.

‘‘It’s all right but I don’t like the cold,’’ Jake said.

Corporal Alex Stevens, 16, wore his grandfather’s medals, including ones for service in Germany and France in WWII. It was his seventh dawn service.

‘‘I had a grandfather who flew Lancasters during the German campaign, I think he was an engineer,’’ Alex said.

‘‘He got a Distinguished Flying Cross, the highest RAF medal that you can get, and that was when his plane crashed and he and a mate had to walk pretty far to safety.’’

Kingsgrove RSL hosted hundreds of people at its Anzac Day ceremony this morning.

Organisers departed from tradition by singing God Defend New Zealand andAdvance Australia Fair.

Wreaths were also laid in honour of fallen soldiers from New Zealand.

Reverend Stuart Maze of St Bede’s Anglican Church reminded people of soldiers’ sacrifice, and that ‘‘with the freedom of privilege comes responsibility’’.

‘‘Let us honour them with our own lives,’’ he said.

April Payne, of Bexley, led a Catafalque Party from Rockdale’s 233 St George Cadet unit.

‘‘It was my first time as commander,’’ she said.

‘‘I find it to be an honour, [Anzac Day] something that is so important.’’

St George and Sutherland Shire Leader.