Nelson ready for ‘biggest Anzac Day ever’

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This Saturday’s Anzac Day commemorations will be the biggest ever, says the local RSA president, with between 5000 and 10,000 people expected.

This year marks 100 years since the New Zealand and Australian soldiers landed on the beaches at Gallipoli during World War One. To commemorate the day the Nelson RSA, along with Nelson City Council, is hosting its dawn service at Trafalgar Park this year. Nelson RSA president Barry Pont says the traditional home of the service, Anzac Gardens, is simply too small to host it this year. “Every year it grows and grows, but this year will be huge, it will be the biggest Anzac service ever.”

At the dawn service there will be a reading from the Turkish ambassador to New Zealand, speeches from Nelson high school students and 590 white crosses that will mark each of the Nelson men who died during WWI.

RSA’s district president, Derek Nees, says this year’s dawn service will be particularly poignant.

“It’s the centennial of an event which marked the beginning of nationhood of both New Zealand and Australia. People will want to come to remember and commemorate those who didn’t return from Gallipoli and other battles of the war.”

The service will also include live music by brass and pipe bands, and the unveiling of a field of remembrance – nearly 600 white crosses, each individually named for someone from the Nelson province who died in or as a result of World War I service. The crosses will be laid out on Trafalgar Park behind a temporary cenotaph.

In other firsts, plans are underway to fly a Tiger Moth and replica Mustang over Trafalgar Park at the conclusion of the service, after which people are invited to stay on at the park to buy breakfast from food vendors. They will be able to wander through the Field of Remembrance and place their poppies on the cenotaph.

Trafalgar Park will open this Saturday at 5.15am for the service. The dawn parade will march down Trafalgar St from Millers Acre to Trafalgar Park at 5.45am with the dawn service to begin at 6am.

The Anzac Day commemorations will follow on from a successful Poppy Day last Friday.

Barry Pont says takings from the day were up on last year, although the final figure had yet to be calculated. Barry says the extra attention on Anzac Day has had a positive impact on Poppy Day collections. All money raised from Poppy Day goes to help returned service-men and women.