Prince William (2nd L) and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (L) arrive at the Australian National War Memorial with Ken Doolan (2nd R), National President of Australia's Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) and Australia's Governor General Peter Cosgrove on ANZAC Day.
Prince William (2nd L) and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (L) arrive at the Australian National War Memorial with Ken Doolan (2nd R), National President of Australia's Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) and Australia's Governor General Peter Cosgrove on ANZAC Day. JASON REED

Royals attend War Memorial Dawn Service in Canberra

THE sun crept over the horizon, first reaching Brisbane, then Sydney before finally flooding into Canberra and by nation and empire, the fallen were not forgotten.

At Anzac Day dawn services in our major capital cities, bleary-eyed and sombre, tens of thousands stood in the darkness.

They waited for the morning light to contemplate not just the hundreds then thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who perished at the Gallipoli landings 99 years earlier, but those lost in every battlefield since.

In Canberra, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were unexpected guests - representatives of the British Empire that sent Australians into the First World War, and the soldiers we fought alongside.

The Royal Couple made the unannounced appearance at the Australian War Memorial dawn service, before laying a wreath during the official national ceremony later in the day.

More than 37,000 turned out for the day - 2000 more than last year.

The official march was led by Australia's four living Victoria Cross recipients, including Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG.

Sydney's dawn service at Martin Place attracted its biggest crowds in more than a decade, with the following march led by modern-day war widows and their children.

Alex Hopkins was just a baby when his father, Corporal Matt Hopkins, was killed in Afghanistan in 2009.

With his mother Victoria by his side, the five-year-old joined more than 300 serving men and women, at the front of the procession.

Crowd numbers at the march were believed to be slightly down - an estimated 20,000 lined the CBD streets - due to the constant rain.

In sunny Brisbane, RSL Queensland president Terry Meehan estimated about 20,000 heard Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley ask us to consider the war still waged by our returned soldiers who live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mr Meehan said younger Australians not only appreciated the sacrifices of their ancestors, social media was helping them better understand the sacrifices made by their peers.

"Because of modern technology and a thirst for knowledge, (young people) know what these people have done," he said.

"They know about the peacekeeping missions, they know we have 400-odd people still in Afghanistan."

He said there was a growing respect for those who have served for Australia since Vietnam, who attended Friday's dawn service, many for the first time.

Come 2015, Anzac Day will mark 100 years since Australia sacrificed so many of its young to war, vowing in its aftermath to always remember.



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