Queenstown’s popular Anzac Day dawn service last week is likely to be repeated annually.
Queenstown Returned and Services’ Association president Dave Geddes says it’ll be hard not to have a dawn service again after this year’s great turnout.
It’s estimated more than 800 turned up for the 6.45am ceremony to mark the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey of World War I and pay respects to the nation’s soldiers and those affected by war.
Geddes, speaking after last Thursday’s moving service at the Memorial Gates in Queenstown Bay, says: “I would say it’s almost certain we’ll repeat what we have done this year. We didn’t anticipate the numbers we got for the dawn service.”
Queenstown traditionally holds a service at the Memorial Centre after an Anzac parade through town after 9am – however, Geddes says they decided to host the dawn service as well after growing calls from locals and visitors.
“In the past few years, we’ve had people turn themselves away – and we figured we probably had the numbers to have a dawn service.”
Queenstowner Richard Stringer, who attended, says having a dawn service is long overdue.
“The turnout proves people are willing to come down and show their respects. It’s not making a sacrifice getting up early, is it, in contrast to what the soldiers went through for us.”
At last Thursday’s later service in the Queenstown Memorial Centre, Geddes noted how 275 Queenstown men left to serve in World War I – and 82 did not return.
“It does not take a mathematician to work out one in every three men who left this beautiful part of New Zealand did not make it home.
“It’s one of the highest casualty rates in the country – 82 men lost from a community numbering in its hundreds, not thousands, at that stage, is a huge price to pay.”
Geddes made special mention of Queenstown Lakes District councillor Cath Gilmour who drove the recent $3 million upgrade of the Queenstown Memorial Centre to completion.
Her determination to see it through, often in the face of big odds, wasn’t just something appreciated by the local thespians, but also those touched by war, he says.
“It’s a fitting memorial for those whose names grace the Roll of Honour in the foyer.”
At the earlier dawn service, he said: “We remember their courage, commitment and utter selflessness … and remember their sacrifice.”
Of the attendees, he said: “I’m just blown away by the support – they’ve done these guys proud.”