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Cannon fire, poppies and bagpipes add to candle-lit ANZAC Dawn Ceremony at Waikumete

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Cannon fire, the dramatic presence of old military vehicles and a garden of “poppies” will this year add to the Dawn ANZAC Ceremony at Waikumete Cemetery, which will also be honoured by the presence of Lt General (Rtd) Don McIver CMG, OBE. A Trustee of the Royal New Zealand RSA, and former Chief of General Staff of the NZ Army.

Last year, a rifle party was added to the Dawn Ceremony, to provide a gun salute. This year two vintage cannon will also be fired and two old military vehicles, a Jeep and a half-track will be on site at the Cenotaph. A half-track is a fighting truck that has wheels at the front and caterpillar tracks instead of wheels at the back. The RNZAF is considering a request for a flypast.

A garden of imitation poppies will also be created for the day. This is an “art installation” by artist Cristina Beth and volunteers including school children and members of the RSA Women’s Division who have spend the last few months making the “poppies” from felt, buttons and garden stakes. The public will be invited to take a poppy in exchange for a gold coin donation.

Another “garden” will be created at New Lynn and a third in the Titirangi Roundabout.

These additions, plus a significant “make-over” of the cenotaph area, are part of the build-up by the Glen Eden RSA and Auckland Council, towards this year’s centenary of the outbreak of World War I and next year, the 100 years since the ANZAC tradition was born on the beaches and battlefields of Gallipoli.

The poignant, candle-lit, Waikumete Dawn Parade is already the second largest in Auckland and this year will mark the 15th since the Glen Eden RSA first partnered with Waitakere City Council to develop an outstanding memorial service appropriate to the sacrifice made by the men and women of West Auckland. It is held at the cenotaph near the corner of Great North and Glen View Roads. The cenotaph is the focal point of this part of Waikumete that forms the largest War Graves cemetery in New Zealand.

Over the years steadily increasing crowds have been swollen by the attendance of many children and young people who gather in the pre-dawn darkness listening to the eerie keening of bagpipes nearby as they wait for Waitakere City Brass Band to strike up and lead the parade out of the darkness. As the marchers arrive at the entrance to the Court of Honour they are greeted by a haka, before parading before the official party that includes the Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, Lt Gen McIver, councillors, former Waitakere Mayor Sir Bob Harvey, local MPs, dignitaries from the Military and the Police and this year, a representative from the Australian High Commission.

While the parade of veterans diminishes year by year, the parade itself gets larger with the addition of contingents from such as the Police, schools and other organisations.

The half hour ceremony begins exactly at 6am and reaches its high point of drama as the flags of New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain and the USA are lowered to the sound of the Last Post, the ANZAC dedication is given and the roll of veterans who have passed away in the last year, is called and then honoured with the rifle salute. The flags then rise again into the now lightening sky to the sound of Reveille.

A second parade is held at 11am following a similar format, but at this parade upwards of 30 wreaths are laid from a wide variety of organisations. The public are invited to help with the wreath laying.

Photo Credit: SilverStack via Compfight cc