The Last Post is played during the Dawn Service on ANZAC day at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined a record crowd of 37,000 at the Australian War Memorial to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings and the enduring Anzac legacy.
On a day of tradition and remembrance, the Anzac Day dawn service began with a new tradition.
Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attend a dawn memorial service on ANZAC Day at the Australian National War Memorial in Canberra. Photo: REUTERS/Jason Reed
The diaries of Australian soldiers from the shores of Gallipoli to the mountainous trails of Kokoda were read aloud in the dark by Lieutenant Commander Desmond Woods.
The words of soldiers writing to their mothers, sisters and close friends echoed before the War Memorial from 4.30am.
The Lieutenant Commander read the diary of Private Victor Nicholson, who wrote of his mate Lofty killed at Quinn’s Post at Gallipoli, shot through the eye while peeping through a looking hole.
Anzac day dawn service at the Australian War Memorial
Australian War Memorial. Canberrans visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Photo: Karleen Minney
“I didn’t cry, unless Gallipoli was one long cry,” he said.
“If you cried once you would never have stopped. There were friends going every day, and sometimes every hour of every day. Wonderful friends. I cried inwardly – that’s all you could do.”
Once the correspondence was read, a memorial service was held for the 40 Australian soldiers who died during Australia's longest war in Afghanistan
Wing commander Sharon Bown, an RAAF nursing officer, recalled her experiences serving in an emergency medical room in Afghanistan, while the images and names of the 40 soldiers killed in Afghanistan were beamed onto the walls of the war memorial.
"I have worn their blood," she said.
"So many of us have worn their blood.
“I have seen the strongest and finest reduced to flesh, and witnessed the death of innocence and a once-supposed sense of immortality.
“I have held their widows and consoled their partners, their brothers, sisters and friends and gazed upon their children, some too young to understand the enormity of that which they have lost.”
In reference to the images of 40 fallen soldiers cast on the War Memorial, Ms Brown reflected on the hundreds of servicemen who are still battling with the mental and physical scars of battle.
“We do not see the 261 who were wounded; we do not see those who have wrestled with post-traumatic stress disorder, nor the other mental health issues which have resulted from their service.”
Recipient of the Victorian Cross, Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, delivered an address to the crowd on the endurance and stewardship of the Anzac spirit.
“I feel an overwhelming sense of pride,” he said. “Pride in what we have accomplished as a nation with great due to the sacrifice of so many.”
“While the ANZAC spirit may have first arisen in troops on the battlefield, it is indeed a life-force that resides in all Australians,” he said.
"It is our constant, and our preserve," he said.
Standing before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the winner of Australia's highest military award said "we are Australians; we are born of the Anzacs".
“We are the custodians and stewards of their spirit now and into the future,” he said. “We must take good care of it.”
Army Chaplain Peter Willis led the Anzac Dedication before reciting the Lords Prayer and leading the service in the hymn Abide With Me.
"We who are gathered here in this dawn vigil remember with gratitude the men and women who have given, and are still giving, in our Armed and Supporting Services, all that is theirs to give, in order that the world may be a nobler place in which to live," he said.
"And with them, we remember those left behind to bear the sorrow of their loss"
Children braving a frosty morning stood beneath veterans and older Australians with service medals pinned to their chests as they entered the memorial following the service.
Warrant Officer Mark Henderson, who has served in the Australian Navy for more than twenty years, brought his young daughter Olivier to the service like so many other servicemen and women.
"This is a time for reflection, a time to remember, both on my own service and those who have served before me," he said.
"To me the Anzac spirit is all about helping others - some call it teamwork and others call it leadership - but it's just about recognising what the right thing to do is and getting out there and doing it for others."
Director of the Australian War Memorial, Brendan Nelson said he was delighted with the number of people who attended the dawn service.
“It was also an unexpected pleasure to host their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Dawn Service," he said.
"Although their attendance was not on the official itinerary, they wanted to join with Australians in commemorating Anzac Day.”