- Record numbers honour our heroes -
The first ANZAC Day with Australians at war in more than 30 years saw record crowds
at dawn services and marches across the nation and overseas.
A fresh approach in opening Melbourne`s ANZAC events more to children and descendants saw numbers swell to about 13,500 – despite the loss of ageing World War II veterans.
And the third record crowd in a row – more than 20,000 – packed the Shrine forecourt for the first dawn service to be opened to full public view.
At Gallipoli, numbers were down and there was a heavy Turkish police and military presence, but the stand-to, addressed by Treasurer Peter Costello was still moving.
In the Gulf, defence force chief General Peter Cosgrove and Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill led members of the army, navy and air force crowded on HMAS Kanimbla`s decks in a poignant dawn stand-to.
New RSL state president David McLachlan was thrilled at the Melbourne turnout and thanked Victorians.
He said they had been superb in honouring both the spirit of the ANZACs and young Australians now in danger in Iraq.
He believed concern for events in Iraq and encouragement of children had been decisive in bringing families out on a crisp Melbourne morning as fog descended.
"Those who had never been to a dawn service before said they had always thought about it, but this year was the year they should make the effort and come. Because of the world affairs and what`s been happening."
Before first light, children carrying Australian flags had streamed across the gardens to the Shrine, with traffic banked up and people still arriving halfway into the 15-minute service.
It was held on the Shrine`s northern terracing rather than within its chamber, with Melbourne High School student Chris Peck addressing the hushed masses on his impressions of visiting Gallipoli this year.
"I think it`s the first time a young person has ever spoken at a dawn service – they`re thinking about the future," Chris said later.
Premier Steve Bracks said young people were now curious about experiences that World War II men like his father, a bomber crewman, had rarely spoken of.
"I think younger generations, including my children, are seeing Anzac Day as a pretty significant part of recognising and acknowledging people who fought for the way of life we have," he said.
The focus on youth was also lauded by the state`s only surviving Victoria Cross winner Ted Kenna, 83, who led the march in warm sun, which tested the stamina of his World War II mates.
With Hamilton`s local hero in an open jeep was his son Robert and great grandson Liam McKay, 5.
"He already knows a bit," Mr Kenna said as the crowd along the route applauded. "The kids want to know what happened and we`ve got to tell them, we`ve started bringing them along now and that`s important."
Mr Kenna, or "Nedda" to his Digger mates, later took Liam to his 2/4th Battalion reunion lunch.
Crowds were not deterred by terrorism fears or possible demonstrations about Iraq, with the only Melbourne protest a silent vigil by 12 members of Women For Peace.
Police reported no trouble, although group member Reta Kaur said they received a mix of abuse and support from the crowd outside the arts centre.
It was the same group that disrupted the last Remembrance Day service at the Shrine.
A different group strung hundreds of paper doves between trees around the Shrine before dawn, each containing peace messages written by schoolchildren.
But organiser Virginia Beattie said people appreciated the gesture, which was not a protest.
St John Ambulance volunteers were busy, with 45 veterans treated mainly for exhaustion and dizziness.
At the dawn stand-to, 15 people were treated, with four taken to hospital with heart complaints.
World War II veteran Alan Gotterson, who was sweating profusely and distressed by the time he made it to the Shrine, thought the 1.7km route should be shortened.
But Mr Bracks said the march should not change.
General McLachlan said there would be questions asked of ex-servicemen seen drinking stubbies of beer as they marched along St Kilda Rd then again in the Shrine gardens.
General McLachlan said the act by a few members of the Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association had let down their mates.
"That`s just disrespectful, it`s a day of commemoration, they can have a drink afterwards," he said.
Association president Paul Copeland said he would find the culprits.
"It is sacrilegious and if they did that, they shouldn`t be marching," he said.
There were also huge turnouts in Sydney and Brisbane.
Brisbane`s Ted Smout, 105, said it was important his mates be remembered while Sydney`s Marcel Coux, 104, said war was useless.
"Nothing is gained by it. They`re killing more now."
by Herald Sun
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